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Chapter 5:22-33 (ESV)

Posted on February 08, 2024  - By Chris LaBelle  

Chapter 5:22-33 (ESV) - “These words the Lord spoke to all your assembly at the mountain out of the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice; and he added no more. And he wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me. And as soon as you heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire, you came near to me, all the heads of your tribes, and your elders. And you said, ‘Behold, the Lord our God has shown us his glory and greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire. This day we have seen God speak with man, and man still live. Now therefore why should we die? For this great fire will consume us. If we hear the voice of the Lord our God any more, we shall die. For who is there of all flesh, that has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of fire as we have, and has still lived? Go near and hear all that the Lord our God will say, and speak to us all that the Lord our God will speak to you, and we will hear and do it.’

“And the Lord heard your words, when you spoke to me. And the Lord said to me, ‘I have heard the words of this people, which they have spoken to you. They are right in all that they have spoken. Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever! Go and say to them, “Return to your tents.” But you, stand here by me, and I will tell you the whole commandment and the statutes and the rules that you shall teach them, that they may do them in the land that I am giving them to possess.’ You shall be careful therefore to do as the Lord your God has commanded you. You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. You shall walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess.

Question to consider: Why did the Lord wish that the people always feared Him in their hearts?

In the book of Jonah, when God sent a tempest on the ship carrying the prophet to keep him from fleeing to Tarshish, there was a stark contrast between the reaction of the sailors and that of Jonah. The sailors were beside themselves in fear, certain that they were about to die, and there was Jonah— sound asleep in the belly of the boat. Even though the sailors didn’t hear the voice of God, they cast lots and knew that the storm came from the god of Jonah. In their fear, they were willing to do anything to appease whatever god was angry. Jonah, however, had no fear of God because he would rather die than risk the repentance of the Ninevites after he was told to proclaim their time of judgment was coming. Even though Jonah would go on to repent of his hard heart, at that moment, the sailors were the ones who possessed the proper reverence toward God.

According to the book of Proverbs, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” (Proverbs 9:10) People read this proverb or today’s passage and speak out against God for it. “What kind of a god wants people to be afraid of Him?” Just as bad are those who try to diminish the idea of fearing God. “God loves us and doesn’t really mean for us to be afraid of Him. He only desires our reverence.”

However, Moses quotes God’s heart on the matter. If only the people of Israel would continue in their fear of God, they would keep His commandments, and it would go well for them in the land. God’s desire was for them to prosper in the land, and that only would happen if they remained faithful to His commands. God’s commands are not arbitrary. God’s plan and purpose is to bring people to everlasting life. Those things that are opposed to God promote only death and destruction.

The world will purposefully uplift celebrities and heroes who deny God or worship other gods to try and prove that you can have a fulfilling life without the fear of God. Of course, if that were the case, celebrities would not grow old and fade away. Media outlets avoid displaying the reality of the fleeting nature of fame and wealth, and those who try to defy their age usually end up looking like they’ve had a few too many cosmetic procedures in their attempt.

Even in society, we try to emulate the fear of God through man-made deterrents. People are naturally bent toward selfish behavior so if there is no fear of punishment, they will steal, kill and destroy. Think of how companies will take unhealthy shortcuts without regulations (or fear of a free-market response), or of how theft has skyrocketed in the last couple of years with the de-funding of police and the failure to punish crimes. Think of how disruptive educational environments are where the teachers are not given the authority to sanction bad behavior. Even in our own families, parents who love their children set up boundaries because children will make harmful decisions without them. If we understand our heart to rebel against God, it becomes clear why we need the Law to remind us to fear God and the Gospel to remind us that God is faithful to forgive us when we fail.


Dear heavenly Father, please give us hearts of flesh that understand Your holiness and have learned to fear You. Thank You for giving us boundaries that keep us from harming ourselves and others. We look forward to the day when our only desire will be to praise and glorify You. Amen.