People fear a great variety of things. Some have a fear of cats, while others have a deathly fear of dogs. Then there are those who have a fear of spiders or snakes, small spaces, large crowds, heights, the number thirteen, flying, driving and so on. It seems as though if something exists, someone, somewhere, has a fear of it. People almost universally fear what they should not and yet do not fear what they should.
Still, any fear that a person may have is not something he is born with. It does not come naturally. A person’s “DNA” has nothing to do with it. Fear of something—anything—is learned. It is acquired.
This may happen very slowly over a period of many years. Or it can happen quite suddenly as the result of a traumatic event. For example, a person previously unafraid of the water can instantly become gravely fearful of it as the result of a near drowning.
Regardless of what people fear, one thing is common: The deeper the fear is ingrained, the more it is a part of them. And as a result, the harder it is to lose.
It is the same with the fear of God—the respect, reverence and deep awe we should have and feel toward our Creator and His laws and the fixed refusal we should have to disobey Him. No one is born with this. Like any other fear, it too must be LEARNED! And the deeper this fear is instilled, the more difficult it will be to lose.
The World Fears Satan
Consider for a moment. Of all the fears that mankind has, none involves the true fear of God. Satan, through lies and deceptions (John 8:44; Rev. 12:9), along with the help of his ministers portraying themselves as ministers of righteousness (II Cor. 11:13-15), has conned all humanity into fearing him. How so? Through the false teachings of false religion. The world adheres to and obeys the doctrines of the devil. Humanity is afraid not to keep Christmas, New Year’s, Easter, and Sunday. People fear being looked at as odd, strange or out of step. They fear death and the false concept of being condemned to, and forever tormented in, an ever-burning hell, or missing out on the “only” day of salvation.
As the master counterfeiter, Satan has even “palmed off” on man a false fear of God. Notice Isaiah 29:13: “Wherefore the LORD said, Forasmuch as this people draw near Me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor Me, but have removed their heart far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught BY THE PRECEPT OF MEN.” This fear of God, sometimes a “fire and brimstone” kind of fear, is all wrong. It is taught by the commands of men—the false ministers of the devil.
It is God’s purpose to free the whole world from such kinds of wrong fear: “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2:14-15).
God is fully aware of Satan’s efforts to maintain control over the lives of men, keeping them in bondage. Multiple thousands of professing Christians are in a Satan-inspired fear of what the future holds. Through Paul, God tells us, “For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but you have received the Spirit of adoption [sonship]” (Rom. 8:15).
Fear is good if it is the RIGHT KIND of fear and exercised for the right reasons. As true Christians, we need not fear the devil, the future, death or any of the other things mankind commonly fears. Rather, we are to learn and practice the fear of God—with God stating that the Feast is the best place to do this:
“You shall truly tithe all the increase of your seed, that the field brings forth year by year. And you shall eat before the LORD your God, in the place which He shall choose to place His name there, the tithe of your corn, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstlings of your herds and of your flocks; that you may LEARN to fear the LORD your God always” (Deut. 14:22-23). God commands that His people learn to fear Him always.
One Way to Learn the Fear of God
There are two types of fear that can motivate people—fear of the RIGHT things and fear of the WRONG things. Again, people in the world fear what they should not fear and do not fear what they should fear. Yet none fear God (Psa. 36:1; Rom. 3:18)! The fear of God is not naturally in human beings. In that respect, we were no different than people in the world prior to our calling. Coming into the Church meant that we needed to learn to properly fear God.
There are several ways to learn this fear. In Acts 5, we read of Ananias and Sapphira, who owned a piece of property. They sold it for a certain amount of money and brought some of the proceeds to the apostles. The problem: They lied. Ananias and his wife misrepresented the amount they gave as the full amount from the sale of the land. They did not understand that they were not lying to men but rather to God. Lacking the fear of God resulted in their untimely deaths.
This was a tragic, traumatic event for them and the Church. What was the end result of this event? “And great fear came upon all the Church, and upon as many as heard these things” (Acts 5:11).
An event such as this is one way to learn the fear of God. For some, it may be the only way, but it is not the way that God prefers.
A Three-Step Process
Recall that we are commanded in Deuteronomy 14:22-23 to observe the Feast that we “may learn to fear the Lord your God always.” The Feast of Tabernacles is truly the perfect time and place to learn and to practice the proper fear of God.
Why does He pick this annual event for this purpose? How does the Feast teach us the fear of the Lord? When do we start to learn the fear of God?
The book of Proverbs sheds light on this: “For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD” (Prov. 1:29). Men do not automatically come to fear God. And no one is born with it. In fact, just the opposite is true. Our carnal, fleshly minds are God’s enemy and are even hostile to the knowledge of God (Rom. 8:7). There is a choice involved. Having the fear of God is something we must choose.
It is also a gift from God as the result of true repentance (II Cor. 7:9-11). We must choose to repent of sinning against God—violating His commandments—and choose to begin obeying Him. When we do this, we are also making the choice to begin to fear our Creator.
Jesus Christ “[left] us an example that [we] should follow his steps” (I Pet. 2:21). Christ had the fear of God (Isa. 11:2-3) because He chose to exercise it “in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared; though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered; and being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him” (Heb. 5:7-9).
Yet there is more to this process. We must also seek the fear of God. How is this done?—How does one set out to obtain the fear of the Lord? Notice Proverbs 2, which admonishes us to “incline your ear unto wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; [cry out] after knowledge, and lift up your voice for understanding; [to] seek her as silver, and search for her as for hid treasures” (vs. 2-4). If we do this, “then shall [we] understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom: out of His mouth comes knowledge and understanding” (vs. 5-6).
Seeking God’s wisdom, knowledge and understanding, listening to and inclining our minds toward these things, along with keeping the commandments (obedience) are all tied to—are actually inseparable from—learning the fear of God (Psa. 111:10; Prov. 1:7), assuming that we first begin this process by CHOOSING it.
And finally, we must gather together. But what does this mean? Whenever God wanted to teach His people, He always had them gather together. Ancient Israel was told to “hearken [listen], O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you...Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people” (Deut. 4:1, 6). Israel was to “take heed to [themselves], and keep [their] soul diligently, lest [they] forget the things which [their] eyes have seen, and lest they depart from [their] heart all the days of [their] life: but teach them [to] your sons, and your sons’ sons; especially the day that you stood [were gathered together] before the LORD your God in Horeb, when the LORD said...Gather Me the people together, and I will make them hear My words, that they may learn to fear Me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children” (vs. 9-10).
The children of Israel were to never forget all that God had done for them—all that they had experienced, heard, been taught and learned—and were to teach all these things to their children and grandchildren. To insure that they never forgot, this process of gathering the people together was to be repeated at “the Feast of Tabernacles, when all Israel is come to appear before the LORD your God in the place which He shall choose, [and] you shall read this law [wisdom, knowledge and understanding] before all Israel in their hearing.” Notice. The priests were to “gather the people together, men, and women, and children...that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the LORD your God, and observe to do all the words of this law: and that their children, which have not known any thing, may hear, and learn to fear the LORD your God” (Deut. 31:10-13).
The same is true for us today. Whether it is the Sabbath or an annual Holy Day, we are commanded to assemble together to hear instruction from our Maker. Of all the commanded assemblies, the Feast is a unique and wonderful vehicle to accomplish this. It is the process of gathering together and listening to and receiving wisdom, knowledge and understanding from the Word of God—through sermons and sermonettes—CONCENTRATED into eight days. It is an intense course of study in learning God’s Way—and coming to fear Him as a result.
The process begins by choosing to obey the command to “truly tithe all the increase...year by year” so that we may “eat before the LORD your God, in the place which He shall choose to place His name there...that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always” (Deut. 14:22-23). If we do not choose to fear God, do not have it in our minds, then we will not even obey this command, which enables us to be at the Feast. We would miss out on an opportunity to learn and practice fearing God in a fuller way.
When deeply learned, this fear will motivate us in a positive way. It will drive us to hate evil and depart from it (Prov. 8:13; 16:6). This is what God wants—for us to learn to hate and depart from evil—and why He commands that we keep His Feast.
The Feast is also a type of the world to come. It pictures the time when a victorious Jesus Christ will have returned to establish the kingdom of God—a time when Satan will have been bound and the people of earth will be released from all their fears. No longer will mankind be destroyed because of a lack of right knowledge (Hos. 4:6). When we keep this festival, we are picturing a time when the entire earth will be full of the knowledge of God and His ways (Isa. 11:9; Hab. 2:14). In that day, everyone will keep the Feast and learn the fear of the Lord and depart from evil (Zech. 14:16-17).
Let us keep this Feast of Tabernacles with all of these things in mind. It truly is the best way.