Bruce Collins, Evangelist

The personal website of Bruce Collins

The Wisdom of Fearing God

Genesis 42: 18 Then Joseph said to them the third day, “Do this and live, for I fear God: 

Joseph Fears God

Joseph’s dream had finally come true.  He had been sold into slavery in Egypt because of the hatred of his brothers.  As a result, he had become second in command to Pharaoh.  God had revealed to him years before that one day his brothers would bow down to him.  They had rebelled against that prophecy, but God always wins.  Now here they are, trying to buy food from Joseph, whom they do not recognize; but he has become the person in charge in Egypt.  Joseph wants to make sure that they come back after going back to their father.  Because of this, he treats them harshly and holds Simeon prisoner until they come back with his younger brother Benjamin.  At first he threatens to keep all of the brothers but one in prison.  He says he is going to send just one back for Benjamin.  However, after imprisoning them all for three days, he tells them that because “he fears God”, he will just hold Simeon while the rest go back to their father

The worship of God is often described in two ways in the Old Testament and even in the New.  Those who worship God “fear” Him.  Those who worship God also “call upon Him.” 

The Definition of Fear

Fearing God has been described as “reverential trust.”  But there are many places where fear is associated with terror , torment or dread.  Those who fear God, realize that one day they will give an account to Him.  The unsaved do not fear God.  When their works are judged, they will find out that their works proved that there was no fear of God before their eyes (Revelation 20:12). The saved may find out that much of what they did was not in any way useful to the Lord.  Their works may be burned up but the person who truly fears God and trusts the Lord will never perish.  (See 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 and 2nd Corinthians 5:10-11 where fear has been translated terror in the KJV).  The saved never need to fear the condemnation of God eternally.

A person who calls upon the Lord is a person who believes that God has taken a personal interest in them and answers their prayers.  This is in contrast to many people who call upon idols who simply have no power to answer. 

When Joseph says he fears God and that is why he is going to release everyone but Simeon, the brothers are being rebuked.  Most of them had no fear of God when they sold Joseph into slavery.  Now the brothers are beginning to realize that there were consequences to their decision.   While they may have felt quite self-confident when there was no famine and they thought they were in control, now when they stand before a man that they do not know and who has the power of life and death, they begin to “fear”  God just as they should have long ago.  Their consciences start bothering them as they consider that this is their punishment for what they did to Joseph.  Reuben seems to think Joseph is dead because he says that they are now being held accountable for Joseph’s blood (or death, see Genesis 42:22).

Those who Do Not Fear God

One of the charges that Paul makes against the Roman society in general is that there was no fear of God before their eyes (Romans 3:18).  This is also the condition of the wicked in Psalm 36:1.  It was obviously the problem of Judas when he betrayed the Lord and it had to be describing the religious rulers who convinced the crowd to ask for the release of Barabbas and for the crucifixion of the Lord.  This charge can obviously be made against our society here in the United States.  I believe that this charge can be made against “the many” in all societies of this world.  It is the few that truly fear God.  However, those who fear God have the privilege of coming into the presence of God without fear and trembling because God’s perfect love has cast out the fear that involves torment.  For them fear is simply reverential trust.  We can have boldness in the Day of Judgment.  I love the promise of 1 John 4:17-19,  “Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the Day of Judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.”


A healthy fear of God is wise.   I hope we are all making our decisions in the “fear of God.”

Bruce Collins

Meditation for the week of January 19, 2014

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