Modern American church-goers believe that God is the God of comfort, beauty, and goodness. But they don’t believe God is terrifying.
The problem is, God is terrifying.
I can already hear imagined skeptics whispering, “Where does the Bible say that God is terrifying?”
We’re constantly inundated with information in this modern age. Most of the time, my brain isn’t sophisticated enough to tease out where all that information came from. I just know that it came from somewhere, and that I’m pretty sure it’s correct.
Until I look it up.
So, let’s look up what the Bible has to say about God being terrifying.
Because our belief in God’s person determines our behavior toward God and others.
The Bible is clear that some of us, at the end, will hear the words, “Depart from me. . . I never knew you.”
Or, perhaps, “Depart from me. . . you never knew me.”
With that in mind, here are some Scriptures that illuminate this aspect of God’s character:
“He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen.” -Deuteronomy 10:21
“Behold, the Lord God of hosts will lop the boughs with terrifying power; the great in height will be hewn down, and the lofty will be brought low.” -Isaiah 10:33
“For the arrows of the Almighty are in me; my spirit drinks their poison; the terrors of God are arrayed against me.” -Job 6:4
“I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end.” -Daniel 6:26
“And he said to them, ‘I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.’” -Jonah 1:9
“they shall lick the dust like a serpent, like the crawling things of the earth; they shall come trembling out of their strongholds; they shall turn in dread to the Lord our God, and they shall be in fear of you.” -Micah 7:17
“Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.” -2 Corinthians 5:11
“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” -Hebrews 10:31
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” -Matthew 10:28
When Moses encountered God in the burning bush, he hid his face in terror.
When Paul encountered Christ on the road to Damascus, he fell, literally blinded by Jesus’ presence.
The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). It’s not difficult to conclude, then, that without a healthy fear of God, we cannot call ourselves mature Christians who know God.
Why should we fear God?
Because God is holy, and we are not. Because God is infinitely powerful, and we are weak. Because God created us, and so he has the power, authority, and right to un-create us.
If we do not respect God by fearing him, we stand in danger of wrath. The Bible makes this ultimately clear (Romans 9:19-24).
And yet, nearly every sermon I hear preached from the pulpit these days, and nearly every platitude offered in modern Christian books, is one of comfort devoid of fear.
The Scriptures offer us the complete opposite.
The Bible offers comfort through fear.
We fear God, and so we obey him, and he brings comfort to our souls with his promise to be faithful to us, and to regenerate us, and to take us home with him when we die.
Our faith is made real through our behavior, and so we walk by faith (not the law) when we fear God.
God’s desire is primarily not to make us comfortable, but to make us holy.
God will inflict pain to push us toward holiness, away from comfort.
If all we consume as Christians is comforting platitudes, we numb ourselves to God’s call for repentance and sanctification.
This is important.
This changed my life.
When we look at creation, we see that God created things that are terrifying.
God created volcanos. God created massive, hideous spiders. God created many things we find uncomfortable and disturbing.
If we limit ourselves to what makes us comfortable or encouraged, we will ultimately reject God’s goodness.
My first novel, Cain, has received six, consecutive 1-star reviews in a row. Why?
It’s not because the writing is sub-par. One look at the book’s endorsements will remove any doubt about that.
No, the book has received those poor reviews because it makes readers uncomfortable.
Why does it make readers uncomfortable? Because the point of the book was to shine the microscope on man’s depravity, and to show God’s mercy being applied amidst that depravity.
We don’t like being shown that we’re depraved.
But that’s the point of the story of Cain and Able being included in the Bible to begin with.
Cain explored these themes through fantasy fiction inspired by the original historical narrative.
Firstly, so that no one would be tempted to believe that it happened the way I describe it in the book.
Secondly, to do away with errant preconceptions about the story that have been inserted by Jewish myths and popular theories in the American church.
Thirdly, because fantasy gave me the license to make the symbolism and themes in the original story concrete. In other words, it allowed me to illustrate more explicitly the meaning behind the text.
And so I get beat up in the reviews for being a heretic. For disrespecting the Bible.
What they don’t understand is. . . I’m not a heretic, and I didn’t disrespect the Bible. My intent just wasn’t to make them comfortable, and they don’t like that.
But I believe I wrote Cain largely the way I was supposed to.
Of course, I would do it a bit differently if I had to do it again.
But not by much.
Because Cain is an honest book.