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Holy Awe

Holy Awe

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. — Proverbs 1:7

The remarkable thing about fearing God is that when you fear God you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God, you fear everything else. ~ Oswald Chambers1

Fear, when rightly employed, is the very brightest state of Christianity… “The fear of God” is the constant description which the Scripture gives of true religion. ~ Charles Spurgeon2

WELCOME | Read on Your Own

Many of us today believe that certain emotions are always wrong, always destructive, and always inappropriate. Like hatred, for example. We’re often told followers of Jesus should be creatures of love, not hate. After all, the Bible says God is love, and because hatred is the opposite of love, hatred must be inherently immoral. It’s common to hear similar sentiments about other feelings — jealousy, rage, despair, and so on.

But wait a minute. Let’s take a moment to assess those assumptions. In Proverbs, we read “there are six things the Lord hates” (Proverbs 6:16–19). So, God experiences hatred. Scripture also says God is jealous (see Exodus 20:5), that God’s fierce anger “raged against the towns of Judah” (Jeremiah 44:6), and that Jesus, “being in anguish,” prayed so intensely His sweat was like drops of blood (see Luke 22:44).

In short, God experiences hatred, jealousy, rage, and despair. Now, this is not to say that God’s people should act in a hateful, jealous, or enraged manner. It is simply to say that we need to recalibrate our thoughts when it comes to negative emotions, because it’s not necessarily the emotions themselves that are dangerous. What is dangerous is choosing to think, feel, or act in ways that conflict with how God thinks, feels, and acts.

As we will see in this session, fear is another emotion that can use some recalibration in the church. Many of us have been taught that fear is always negative — always something to be avoided. In reality, fear is an essential element of life. This is especially true when we consider what the Bible says about the fear of the Lord.

CONNECT | 15 Minutes

If any of your group members don’t know each other, take a few minutes to introduce yourselves. Then, to get things started, discuss one of the following questions:

  • Why did you decide to join this study? What do you hope to learn?

— or —

  • On a scale of 1 (rarely) to 10 (regularly), how often do you experience the emotion of fear?

WATCH | 20 Minutes

Now watch the video for this session. Below is an outline of the key points covered during the teaching. Record any key concepts that stand out to you on the following page.


I.There is a hidden virtue that, in essence, is the key to all of life.

A.This secret virtue offers the essential ingredient for being close with God.

B.This virtue can help safeguard your faith and the faith of your loved ones.

C.This virtue can help you remove behaviors that harm you spiritually

II.This secret virtue is the fear of God.

A.King Solomon, one of the wisest men to ever live, wrote about this virtue.

B.Solomon was trained in the fear of God and his success as king was largely based on that virtue.


III. There is a difference between the fear of the Lord and being scared of God.

A.There are harmful fears . . . but there are also healthy fears.

B.The person who is scared of God has something to hide.

C.The fear of God is not being afraid of God but being afraid of being away from Him.

IV. The fear of the Lord includes more than just reverence.

A.The fear of God does include esteem, respect, honor, and veneration.

B.To fear God also means to give Him all that belongs to Him.

V. The key benefits to fearing God.

A.The fear of God increases our intimacy with Him.

B.The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding.

C.The fear of God provides the pathway for us to mature in our salvation.

D.The fear of God produces authentic holiness.

E.The fear of God swallows up all other fears, including the fear of man.

DISCUSS | 35 Minutes

Take time to discuss what you just watched by answering the following questions.

  1. The “fear of God” is one of those terms that gets used a lot in church settings but is rarely defined. In your own words, how would you summarize what you’ve been taught about “the fear of God”? What does it mean? What does it not mean?
  2. At the end of the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon sums up the wisdom of his experience by saying, “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind” (12:13). How would you describe the connection between fearing God and obeying God?
  3. Look again at Hebrews 12:28–29: “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’ ” How does the fear of God lead to worship, and vice versa?
  4. The key idea in this study is that holy fear—what we might call the awe of God—is an incredibly powerful force for good in our lives. When have you experienced benefit or blessing because you chose to fear God?
  5. Think back to your first encounters with God and your earliest memories of meeting Him. What emotions were most prominent in those encounters? What thoughts or feelings were most prevalent in those experiences?

RESPOND | 10 Minutes

When God rescued His people from slavery in Egypt, He did not immediately lead them into the promised land. Instead, He led them to Mount Sinai so they could experience Him. Take a few minutes on your own to read about this encounter and then answer the questions that follow.

16 On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. 17 Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord de- scended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. 19 As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him. — Exodus 19:16–19

18 When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance 19 and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” 21 The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was. — Exodus 20:18–21

How do these passages add to your understanding of what it means to fear God?

What are some ways that the fear of God will keep us from sinning?

PRAY | 10 Minutes

Praying for one another is one of the most important things you can do as a community. So use this time wisely and make it more than just a “closing prayer” to end your group experience. Be intentional about sharing your prayers, reviewing how God is answering your prayers, and actually praying for each other as a group. When you come to a close, express your desire to better understand the fear of God. Ask God to bless you not only with knowledge about that fear, but also with experience. Ask Him to fill every person in your group with holy fear. Afterward, use the space below to write down any requests mentioned so that you and your group members can continue to pray about them in the week ahead.

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Your Turn

Does fear feel negative to you? What understanding have you gained about holy fear of God? Come share your thoughts with us. We want to hear from you.