The following story is an excerpt from “Before His Throne: Discovering the Wonder of Intimacy with a Holy God.” Find out more about this 9-week, in-depth Bible study through the book of Malachi. Newly available: 10-Session DVD teaching set for the study!
It was Thanksgiving weekend. I was flying from my home in Calgary, Alberta, to visit my brother and his family in Idaho. As usual, I was running a little late for my flight. Check-in and security check went fairly quickly, so I was feeling good about making my plane until I rounded the last corner and entered the area for US Customs and Immigration. All six lines were backed up past the doorway. There was no way I would make my flight, having to wait in lines like those.
After standing in line for a few minutes, I had moved ahead just enough to notice this glorious little sign way off to the right. It read, “US citizens only,” and a big, bold arrow pointed to a wonderfully short line. “US citizen – that’s me!” I thought. While I happily hurried to the short line, I was careful not to gloat. I made it through customs in about five minutes, leaving behind several hundred frustrated Canadians. I made my flight and had a wonderful holiday.
I can imagine that every Canadian going through US Customs that morning felt that the special treatment given to US citizens was unfair. I even felt that way, though it did stop me from waving my US passport. I guess the bottom line is this: The United States Department of Homeland Security has established guidelines for entering the Unites States. If you want to get in, you have to do it the prescribed way. If that department wants to distinguish between US citizens and non-citizens, it has the right.
In the book of Malachi, God also made a distinction between two groups of people – those who had committed to fear Him and those who did not fear Him. God has the ultimate right to make distinctions. After all, He is God.
Those who feared the LORD talked with each other and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in His presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored His name. “They will be mine,” says the LORD Almighty, “in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.”
The Bible teaches that “fear” is a positive attitude and the proper response to our holy God. The lives of people who truly fear God are characterized by repentance, submission, obedience, and worship.
The Bible also consistently teaches that God recognizes those who fear Him and chooses to bless them. Here are just a few of God’s promises from the Psalms to those who fear Him:
- He confides in them (Ps 25:14)
- He bestows His goodness on them (Ps 31:19)
- His eyes are on them to delver them from death (Ps 333:18-19)
- He is their help and shield (Ps 115:11)
- He fulfills their desires, hears their cries, and saves them (Ps 145:19)
This promise from Psalm 147 is my personal favorite:
The LORD delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love.
What has been your impression about “fearing” God? Positive? Negative? Why?
Note: If you’d like to know more about what it means to fear God and what it looks like in daily life, check out the 9-week, in-depth Bible study, “Before His Throne.”