Last night we were asking the kids that come to one of our youth groups what they were afraid of. The answers were interesting: spiders (obviously), darkness, dying, adults shouting and so on and so forth. Interestingly when we got home our reading in Isaiah 33 had two verses that talked about fear but spoke about it in two very different ways.
5 The LORD is exalted, for he dwells on high;
he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness.
6 He will be the sure foundation for your times,
a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge;
the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure.
Fear in that context means reverence, awe, it means understanding God is bigger and stronger and more holy and more amazing than we ever thought. It also in context means living like that rather than just saying it.
But then on just a few verses and we get another word:
14 The sinners in Zion are terrified;
trembling grips the godless:
“Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire?
Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?”
The fear there is not reverence but rather it is terror, pure terror that God is coming to hand out justice. I guess all of us know deep down that if God were perfectly fair with us then we would be in deep trouble but the key to knowing Him not as terrifying judge but loving Father is not putting on a front and pretending everything is alright, rather it is honest confession. The people who Jesus seems to be most angry with in the gospels are those who play the religious card and yet are a million miles away from him in their hearts. They do not fear him but they will one day be in terror of him.