In Awe but not Afraid
In the Old Testament, the term “sanctuary” referred to the tabernacle of Moses and later to the temple of Solomon. A sanctuary was the place where God manifested His presence to His people. It was a holy place of communion with the Almighty. No matter what might happen to the nation, the city of Jerusalem, or even to its temple, God was assuring Isaiah that his presence would always be a sanctuary for His people.
The fear of the Lord was the door that opened that sanctuary, which is not a physical location or building. It is the presence of God. We find our sanctuary “in Christ,” which is a spiritual position, not a physical location. The writer of Hebrews provides a powerful picture of our relationship with God under grace as opposed to the terror-stricken aversion of God that the Israelites experienced when introduced to the Mosaic covenant of law in Exodus19: “For you have not come to a mountain that may not be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word should be spoken to them. For they could not bear the command, ‘If even a beast touches the mountain, it will be stoned.’ And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, ‘I am full of fear and trembling.’ But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant” (Heb. 12:18-24).
“God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him . . . There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love” (1 Jn. 4:6,18). God’s love for us and our love for Him does not negate the fear of God. Perfect love casts out the fear of punishment for our sins. Too many live in fear of punishment; they live as though the hammer of God will fall upon them if they make the slightest mistake. Dear Christian, the hammer fell! It fell on Christ. The punishment we deserved has already fallen on Christ. In what way then should we still fear God?
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