“What is this fear of God? I answer, first, it is a sense of awe of His greatness. Have you never felt this sacred awe stealing insensibly over your spirit, hushing, and calming you, and bowing you down before the Lord?
It will come, sometimes, in the consideration of the great works of nature. Gazing upon the vast expanse of waters,—looking up to the innumerable stars, examining the wing of an insect, and seeing there the matchless skill of God displayed in the minute; or standing in a thunderstorm, watching, as best you can, the flashes of lightning, and listening to the thunder of Jehovah’s voice, have you not often shrunk into yourself, and said, “Great God, how terrible art Thou!”—not afraid, but full of delight, like a child who rejoices to see his father’s wealth, his father’s wisdom, his father’s power,—happy, and at home, but feeling oh, so little!
When we realize this, we are filled with a holy awe as we think of God’s greatness, and the result of that is that we are moved to fall before Him in reverent adoration.
We turn to the Word of God, and there we see further proofs of His greatness in all His merciful arrangements for the salvation of sinners,—and especially in the matchless redemption wrought out by His well-beloved Son, every part of which is full of the divine glory; and as we gaze upon that glory with exceeding joy, we shrink to nothing before the Eternal, and the result again is lowly adoration.
We bow down, and adore and worship the living God, with a joyful, tender fear, which both lays us low, and lifts us very high, for never do we seem to be nearer to heaven’s golden throne than when our spirit gives itself up to worship Him whom it does not see, but in whose realized presence it trembles with sacred delight.
The fear of God also takes another form, that is, the fear of His Fatherhood which leads us to reverence Him. When divine grace has given us the new birth, we recognize that we have entered into a fresh relationship towards God; namely, that we have become His sons and daughters.
Then we realize that we have received “the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15) Now, we cannot truly cry unto God, “Abba, Father,” without at the same time feeling, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.” (1 John 3:1)
When we recognize that we are “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ,” (Romans 8:17) children of the Highest, adopted into the family of the Eternal Himself, we feel at once, as the spirit of childhood works within us, that we both love and fear our great Father in heaven, who has loved us with an everlasting love, and has “begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away.” (1 Peter 1:3-5)
In this childlike fear, there is not an atom of that fear which signifies being afraid. We, who believe in Jesus, are not afraid of our Father; God forbid that we ever should be.
The nearer we can get to Him, the happier we are. Our highest wish is to be forever with Him, and to be lost in Him; but, still, we pray that we may not grieve Him; we beseech Him to keep us from turning aside from Him; we ask for His tender pity towards our infirmities, and plead with Him to forgive us and to deal graciously with us for His dear Son’s sake.
As loving children, we feel a holy awe and reverence as we realize our relationship to Him who is our Father in heaven,—a dear, loving, tender, pitiful Father, yet our Heavenly Father, who ‘is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about Him.’ (Psalm 89:7)”
–Charles H. Spurgeon, “A Fear to Be Desired,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons (vol. 48; London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1902), 48: 496, 497-498.