Bible Answer

To fear or love God?

Reading through the Law of Israel, I see commands to "love thy God" and statements that God loves Israel, but then so much more of the Law speaks of fearing the Lord your God. Was Israel's relationship with God based on fear or love?

A relationship with the living God has always been based on faith in the promises of God. God makes promises because of His love for the world and His willingness to extend His mercy, as Paul says:

Rom. 9:16 So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 

Our relationship with the Lord is based in His love, and while it will also provoke in us love and appreciation for what He has done for us, we are called by scripture to fear the Lord:

Heb. 10:22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 
Heb. 10:23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 
Heb. 10:24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 
Heb. 10:25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. 
Heb. 10:26  For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 
Heb. 10:27 but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. 
Heb. 10:28 Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 
Heb. 10:29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? 
Heb. 10:30 For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” 
Heb. 10:31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

The fear of the Lord is a biblical principle for all God’s children, whether in the Old Testament times or today. Whenever we see a person enter into the presence of the glory of God in the Bible, that person always exhibits fear. Even the apostle John had this experience with the risen, glorified Jesus appeared to Him:

Rev. 1:12  Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands; 
Rev. 1:13 and in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash. 
Rev. 1:14 His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire. 
Rev. 1:15 His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters. 
Rev. 1:16 In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength. 
Rev. 1:17  When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last,
Rev. 1:18 and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.

Notice John’s reaction was one of fear. This is not something of the past. This is and always will be the response of the creation in the presence of the awesome power of the Creator. 

Fear is not contradictory to love. The two go hand in hand, Just as we both loved yet at times feared our earthly fathers, so it is with God. Fear and respect of God should be our attitude as well since it reflects an understanding that we will stand for judgment before the Lord after our death. As the writer of Hebrews emphasizes, we will all be judged by God. In the case of believers, our judgment is for the assignment of rewards, but nevertheless, we must live our lives with a healthy fear of God if we are to be properly motivated to serve Him well.

For a more detailed explanation of the fear of God, please listen to Lesson 11-12 of our 1Samuel study.