Fear and Safety

4m | Mar 4, 2024

“The mountains quake before him and the hills melt away. The earth trembles at his presence, the world and all who live in it. Who can withstand his indignation? Who can endure his fierce anger? His wrath is poured out like fire; the rocks are shattered before him. The LORD is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him” (Nahum 1: 5 – 7)

This is such a thing as a healthy fear of God. Moses commanded the Israelites to “Fear the LORD your God, serve him only” in Deuteronomy 6: 13. God reveals His fierce anger and is not reticent in letting us know that He is a God of wrath.

Yet the Lord is also kind and patient. God has shown us another side to His heart. We are told that “The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love”, (Psalms 145: 8).

How might we hold these apparently opposing truths together? How might we dwell in the peace and security of the Father’s love at the same time as acknowledging His right to unleash His anger?

I think part of the answer may lie in this reading from the prophet, Nahum. One of the minor prophets in the Old Testament, he recorded God’s words against the Assyrian Empire before its downfall in 612 BCE, particularly its capital city, Nineveh. To those in opposition to God, “The LORD is a jealous and avenging God” (Nahum 1: 2); but to those who trust Him, He is a refuge, a good and caring God”.

Can God be both? Absolutely! For many though, a question can still hang unresolved: how might I live in both fear of God and safety in His refuge? Can we be both scared of God and secure in His love at the same time?

A deeper study is needed to unearth everything that Scripture says about the question, but, for the purposes of a short devotion, Nahum offers some help.

First of all, the Lord is good (Nah 1: 7). This is a fundamental truth as we consider the many facets of God’s character. He is good. He has always been good. He may deal with sin and rebellion, but that never contradicts the goodness that defines the core of His being. God is a good God, and we can build our lives on that simple truth.

Second, he is a refuge in times of trouble. This also speaks, I believe, albeit indirectly, of His mercy. Whether we have sinned or are a victim of attack, he offers safe shelter. The Lord loves to both forgive and protect. But to those who willingly oppose Him, to those whose hearts are closed to repentance, He will act according to His wise judgement.

Third, He cares for those who trust Him. We don’t fear evil from someone who lovingly takes care of us. God doesn’t pour out His wrath on those who put their trust in Him. He may lovingly discipline us. We may sin at times and continue to fall short of his best for us, but He is always committed to responding as a good, loving Father to every penitent and trusting heart.

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