“Therefore, fear God” (Ecclesiastes 5:7b)
Surely, one of the great tragedies in the church is the number of people who have religion but no relationship. They think Christianity is all about rule keeping and appeasing an angry, holy God who carries a big stick in heaven ready to strike anyone down who slips up.
Is this what the Teacher meant, ‘Therefore, fear God’? Whatever it means, it is very important to God.
Just as the people of Israel were gearing themselves up to enter the Promised Land, Moses went through the Ten Commandments with them. In response they said to Moses, “We will listen and obey” (Deuteronomy 5:27c). God replied, “Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!” (Deuteronomy 5:29). It seems to me God is getting emotional here. He is expressing a deep longing of his heart for his people.
The word ‘fear’ is not what we think it means. In English, it means to be afraid or to be in terror but in the Old Testament, to fear God is actually a positive thing. It means to be in ‘reverential awe of God because of his overwhelming otherness but a delight because of His intimate relationship with us” (Ken Boa). Think of a piece of art, music, a historical artifact like the Rosetta Stone that leaves you mesmerized and in wonder. Now, multiply that by infinity. This brothers and sisters is a picture of the unspeakable glory and majesty of God. We desperately need this vision of God because our vision of God is too small!
Arturo Toscanini, one of the great maestros of the 20th century, had just given a masterful performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The audience rose to their feet and gave him a standing ovation. One encore followed after another. The orchestra bowed. He bowed.
He then turned toward the orchestra, rapped his baton and said to them in a quiet whisper, “Gentlemen, I am nothing”. Everyone was stunned by his words. He rapped the baton again and said, “You are nothing”. Then with a tone rich in deep warmth and affection, he said, “Ah, but Beethoven, he is everything…Everything! Everything!”. That was the key to Toscanini’s brilliance – his deep awe for Beethoven! Is God everything to us?
Everything is ‘hevel’ (vapour) but not God and our intimate relationship with him. Therefore, fear Him.