Exodus 20:18-21 Those who fear God will rise above all calamities to bring others to Him
Exodus 20:18-21 Those who fear God will rise above all calamities to bring others to Him
All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. Then they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.” So the people stood at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was. Because Moses’s goal is not to preserve himself but to do God’s will, he became the mediator to bring others to God.
The display of thunder and lightning caused the people to flee from the base of the mountain while Moses approached and entered in. Because Moses feared God and understood His purposes, he became steadfast amid the looming danger. Today’s devotion teaches us: Those who fear God will rise above all calamities to bring others to Him.
Then they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.”
Upon receiving the ten commandments and seeing the thunder and lightning flashes, the people became terrified. They fled from the base of the mountain and stood at a distance. This contrasted with their initial responses when they eagerly said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do!” (see Exodus 19:8). At Moses’s initial meeting with the Lord, some even tried to break through to come up to the Lord (see Exodus 19:24).
When they saw the display of thunder and lightning, Moses immediately told the people not to fear but to look past the ominous sight. God’s intention is not to crush the people with the commands but to instil the fear of God within them. The people were convinced that the great fire and glory of God would consume them. Even Moses was fearful that God’s anger would suddenly come upon them. Hence, the people drew back and look to Moses as their mediator who alone can hear God’s voice and live (see Deuteronomy 5:24-27).
The fear of God is the foundation of our covenant with God.
The fear of God encompasses more than simple fear
The fear of God encompasses more than simple fear; it is the convergence of awe, adoration, honour, reverence, worship, confidence, thankfulness, love and fear towards God. But, it also means fear of God’s judgment because we understand what it means to disobey His word and be judged by God. That said, the fear of God does not cause us to despair; rather it is coupled with trust and love. Indeed, there is divine love and forgiveness in the fear of God. And forgiveness promotes the fear of God. The psalmist said,
If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared. – Psalm 130:3-4
The fear of the Lord is the instruction for wisdom
Proverbs speaks of the fear of God, not as a subjective emotion of terror but obedience or instruction of wisdom. Proverbs 15:33 says, “The fear of the Lord is the instruction for wisdom”. One who fears the Lord will at the same time love wisdom. The fear of God and delight in the law are two sides of the same coin.
The fear of God is the foundation of God’s covenant with us
During the time of Jeremiah, God spoke to His people who are in a covenantal relationship with Him,
They shall be My people, and I will be their God; and I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me always, for their own good and for the good of their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; and I will put the fear of Me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from Me. – Jeremiah 32:38-40
Indeed, it is for our own good and for the good of our children that we fear Him. If we don’t fear Him, it will certainly spell trouble, crisis and calamity for our nation.
How do we acquire the fear of God?
By taking heed to God’s instructions and by experiencing His tangible love and power. When Moses received God’s instructions at the burning bush and having experienced His anger, the fear of God entered him. Later on, the people learned to fear God when they received the ten commandments while experiencing the ominous display of thunder and lightning. And the fear of God will be passed down to later generations. Moses recounted,
Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when the Lord said to me, ‘Assemble the people to Me, that I may let them hear My words so they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children.’ – Deuteronomy 4:10
Time and time again, God allows us to experience more of His miracles, His forgiveness, His revelations and calamities so that we may grow in the fear of God.
Those who fear God will rise above all calamities to bring others to Him.
We must not focus on the calamity but God’s purposes
The people’s responses at the sound of thunder and lightning contrasted with that of Moses. While the people ran and stood afar, Moses approached the thick cloud where God was. While the people focused on the looming danger and feared for their lives, Moses sought to understand God’s purpose and was strengthened. Moses was able to see beyond the ominous sight because he walked with God and knew Him intimately. Moses knew that God is love, and as long as he fears God and does what is right, there is safety.
Similarly, Jesus saw the cruelty of the cross but did not shrink from it. While the disciples turned away, Jesus persevered towards it. The brutality and violence of the Roman execution did not cause Him to run away. Like Moses, Jesus did not run from the crisis because He understood God’s purposes. And He trusts that God will not allow His soul to be abandoned in hell, nor will His body suffer decay (see Acts 2:30). Both Moses and Jesus could rise above crisis and calamities because they knew God’s purposes and feared Him. In rising up, they served as mediators to bring others to God.
The pandemic of the year 2020
In the year 2020, the world was struck by a virus pandemic that adversely affected every human being. The crisis threw the global economy into recession, stock markets plummeted and thousands died. Nations and cities were locked down, and there was much fear among the people. Churches, restaurants, cinemas, sports halls and even schools were shut to contain the virus. However, the way people lived amid the pandemic reveals their faith. It showed the posture of their hearts and the degree they fear God. Those who fear God became stronger. They went about living life and serving others while taking proper precautions. They continued to make home and hospital visits to minister to those who needed help. Yet, there are those whose caution is taken to excess. They hoarded food, masks, sanitisers and toilet paper. They locked themselves in their homes and wondered why they have begun talking to their plants. Beneath their over the top caution and diligence lies an uncontrollable fear.
Believers must not be led by fear but by the will of God
Because we are in the last days, we must understand what the will of God is and walk wisely (see Ephesians 5:15-17). Our primary goal is not to protect our wellbeing or to run from looming danger. But to know the will of God daily and do it. The Apostle Paul said,
Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. – Ephesians 5:15-17
The purpose of crisis and calamities
The crisis and calamities in the last days are the results of God shaking the heavens and the earth. The purpose of the shaking is to reveal the faith of each person. Those who are shaken will run and stand a distance from the looming danger. But those who fear God will approach the thick cloud, they will remain steadfast in doing God’s will. Hebrews 12:26-29 says,
And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.” This expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire. – Hebrews 12:26-29
The shaking will continue until those who remain can no longer be shaken. Then they will enter God’s kingdom and rule with Christ. Therefore, having understood the purpose of crisis and calamities, let us stay faithful and resolute to enter God’s kingdom. Indeed, how we live in the last days will determine our place in the kingdom of God.
To fear God is:
- To revere Him, to do what is required of us to serve Him.
- To live for God and God alone and not to be influenced by the opinions of family and people.
- To fear acting against His will.
- To fear to misrepresent Him or His word.
- To not take His directives and ministries lightly.
- To offer our tithes to God and what is due to Him.
- To hate the things He hates.
- To put the agenda of the kingdom above our own.
Which is your higher instinct amid life-threatening calamities: To keep protecting yourself, or to know God’s will and do it? If these two instincts conflict, which would you choose?
Dear Lord, in the times of great calamities and pandemics, cause me to fear you and fulfil your purposes. I will live as Moses lived. And I will enter in as Jesus entered in. Use me as a mediator to bring others to you. In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.