Review of “Rejoice & Tremble” – Michael Reeves
(The Surprising Good News of the Fear of the Lord)
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding. Proverbs 1:7
We live at a time when many “think highly of themselves or have a high opinion of themselves”. It is also a time when many see themselves and God as almost on an equal level and a God who they will be able to come to an agreement with, when the time comes. It could be said that due to our narcissism, we have an arrogance towards God and his commandments.
Michael Reaves highlights and discusses the different types of “fear of God” and the blessings of Godly fear to the individual and society. There is a fear of God that is good and desirable and there is a fear of God that is not. There is the fear brought about by sin and failure to repent – servile fear, and there is a fear known as “filial fear” – a fear and trembling brought about by an awareness of all the good God does for the believer. In filial fear one fears offending God or being separated from him.
The fear of the Lord, frequently referred to in scripture “does not arise from a perception of God as dangerous but glorious – it is an awesome fear”. Scripture is clear that just as the fear of God defines true love for God, so it defines true joy in God. Where the Christian is afraid, the principal cause of our fear is not any evil which we are in danger of, but the excellent perfection of God. There is no tension between fear and joy. The right type of fear will result in the fruit of the spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Having a correct knowledge of God cannot be separated from having a right fear of God. A fear of God is the heartbeat of our new life in Christ and “the soul of godliness”. A chapter in the book is devoted to “How to grow in the fear of the Lord”. We can grow in this fear by keeping and delighting in God’s commandments. We should not be growing in fear through legalism but through a growing love of Christ; this love brings about the desire to greater obedience leading to holiness. The Holy Spirit through the gospel brings about the change in the disposition that we need. The gospel of Christ brings about transformation of the heart – heart change brings about behaviour change.
Where our fear is that of sinful fear, the cross by forgiveness, liberates us from that sinful fear.
Filial fear brings about many benefits which the book illustrates in the chapter “The Awesome Church”. In today’s culture where God has been demoted or abolished in lives, such action has not led to less fear in society but more fear. Modern man drifts through life on a vast raft of fears.
This book is not an easy read, but it is a book requiring mental effort. However, it is not just a book for the intellectually gifted. The content is such that most benefit and blessing is likely to be gained from reading a few pages each day. Within each chapter there are many nuggets of biblical reference, biblical truth and applications to today’s society. Those reading the book are also likely to find yourself reading the book several times to try to absorb the depth and breath of the outworking’s and blessings of the “Fear of the Lord”.