Fear the Lord. No Other Word Will Do the Trick.


Even close relatives like “awe” and “reverence” don’t quite capture the passionate intensity of trembling in the presence of a holy God.

American culture is full of fear. Although our country is profoundly polarized, the fact of fear and its driving and entrenching power unites us. The objects of our fears differ: We may be most afraid of the proliferation of gross injustice or of the government infringing on our personal liberties. We may fear persecution or the loss of the church’s witness through compromising political allegiances. Many of us fear losing our income or, worse, losing a loved one to the pandemic or police brutality. Masks, unmasked people, the coronavirus, vaccines, becoming a hashtag, tornadoes, hurricanes, break-ins, elections—all these things spark fear for different people. We are afraid.

Into this fear, the Lord speaks a word of hope and peace again and again through Scripture: Do not be afraid! In Luke 1:74, Zechariah prophesied that Jesus’ coming meant that God’s people would be able to serve him “without fear.” And yet Scripture also commands and calls us to fear the Lord and casts that fear in a positive light, with Isaiah even calling it the Messiah’s “delight” (11:3). What are we to make of this?

Michael Reeves addresses this question with competence and clarity in his latest book, Rejoice and Tremble: The Surprising Good News of the Fear of the Lord. Reeves, who teaches at the UK’s Union School of Theology, is perhaps best known for his 2012 volume Delighting in the Trinity, which provides a much-needed introduction to the doctrine of the Trinity in accessible and even playful language. Rejoice and Tremble follows in that vein by reappropriating the wisdom of the historic church, grounded in Scripture, to explain the meaning and value of an oft-misunderstood or neglected …

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