“For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.” Isaiah 66:2
“Hear the word of the Lord, ye that tremble at his word: Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my name’s sake, said, Let the Lord be glorified: but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed.” Isaiah 66:5
What is this fear and trembling at the Word of the Lord?
This fear and trembling at the Word of the Lord is very similar to the fear of the Lord. This similarity is because both have the same cause: God, in His infinite glory, majesty, and honor, as well as His infinite mercy, grace, and lovingkindness. Both have the same root in us: faith. And both have the same direction: to the honor and glory of God. When we think of these similarities we can say that the fear and trembling at the Word of God is really because of our fear of God. Our fear of God is a mixture in our hearts of overwhelming awe and deep affection. God is infinitely great, but we love Him and desire His covenant fellowship and friendship. And since we know of that greatness of God and of His friendship from His Word, that Word is also great and our affection for it must be great.
But this fear and trembling at the Word of the Lord is also different from the fear of the Lord. The Word is near to you. It is near as you hold your Bible Word
in your hands. It is near when you hear it explained to you by one of the Lord’s servants in His church. It is near when you speak of it to each other. Because the Word is near, it is easier to lose respect for it. Your Bible is a book with certain, specific words in it. Those words are printed with ink on paper, bound together in a book that you can hold, open, and read. You might begin to think of your Bible as just another book among so many books. Why fear, why tremble before it?
These similarities and differences between God and His Word allow you to test yourself. Do you truly fear the Lord? What do you think when you turn to His Word, the Scriptures? Take a look at your Bible. Look on its cover, its binding, and inside the cover where the printing begins. You do not find the word “Bible” by itself. You find another word with it, the word “Holy.” When you open up and begin to read those Scriptures, do you come to understand that you are before God’s holy presence? Do you get the sense that the living, almighty God is showing you Himself? And does that affect you? How deeply? How powerfully?
As you fear the Lord, so will you fear His Word. As you tremble before the God who speaks that Word, so will you tremble at His Word. That fear is also a fear of faith, because one must believe that he does truly stand in the presence of the living and true God, even though he cannot see that by any evidence before him. The fear of the Lord at His Word means that one approaches His Word with care, reverence, and respect.
To understand this kind of fear better, think about the opposite, the lack of fear. This lack is evident in an approach to God’s Word that is casual and flippant, offensive to the holiness of God’s Word. It is a silliness that can even joke about the Word of God. This lack of fear you can see in a discussion with an unbeliever if you mention the Word of God. Say, “The Bible says…” and observe the reaction. The words you speak will be met with contempt, scorn, or open hostility. Consider the attitude shown by Jehoiakim, a king of Judah, in Jeremiah 37:20-26. This lack of fear at God’s Word also lies at the root of many heresies. Without this fear heretics old and new feel free to twist God’s Word to their own ends.
May this lack of fear and trembling at God’s Word be far from you and those in your social circles! May it be far from our hearts, and far from our Bible-study societies and our churches!
Yet, you must recognize that this lack of fear is also in you. It is part of the depravity of your nature that you received from your first father, Adam. That depravity is the sinister spiritual energy that courses through your nature.
How is that lack manifested in you? Do you find in yourself a lack of fear and trembling at God’s Word? Does that Word bring out of you skepticism, doubt, or mistrust? Do you ever find yourself thinking, “That can’t be true!”? Or, “This doesn’t make sense!” Or, “This is contradictory!” This lack can be manifested in your attitude toward the Word. Do you always approach from below, placing the Scriptures above you? Does that sometimes change as you read? Do you move from the place where you should be, below, and rise up to a place above, where you begin to pass judgment on God’s Word?
Does this lack of fear ever show itself in your discussions? Does it show when you talk about the Word? Does it ever become evident in your discussions in Sunday School or in Young People’s? What flippant remarks might some make? Do you see a haughty, condescending attitude on display? Is there a bad attitude shown, that one would rather be anywhere else than among God’s people studying His Word?
May God grant us grace to warn one another! May God grant us grace to be warned by one another! Are you ready to warn? Are you ready to be warned? May we do all we can to tremble and fear at the Word of the Lord!
How must you tremble before the Word of the Lord? There are four actions you must take.
First, keep yourself before the chief aim and goal: the fear of God Himself. Are you weak or strong here? If you are strong, well and good. If you are weak here, then you need to spend time considering and exploring two truths. The first truth is the greatness of God (infinity—that great!) in His holiness, justice, truth, wisdom, majesty, and glory, as well as how those perfections make His mercy and lovingkindness so wonderful. Give yourself time simply to read those Scriptures that most powerfully and clearly show those attributes, such as the passages that display Jesus’ death on the cross. The second truth you must consider is your sinfulness. To understand your sinfulness properly, read the law. Read the application of the law to man that God’s Word makes in Romans 3. Know that that Word is talking about you! As you contemplate His Word, pray that God will teach those truths to your heart. The result will be that God will become greater and greater, and that you will become smaller and smaller. Then you will know God’s great power, wisdom, glory, and truth as your salvation, all from His Word.
Second, remember whose book it is that you are holding and reading. It is given to you by the fearful work of the Holy Spirit. He so filled and controlled those men who wrote the words of that book you hold that those words are not at all the words of men, but the words of God Himself (II Pet. 1:20, 21). Those words belong to Him; they are from Him. Then the very fear that you have of God must certainly belong to His Word as well. Remember when you read: this Word is from God!
Third, think of how Scripture shows this kind of fear at God’s Word. Read Exodus 19 and Hebrews 12:18-21, 29. Think of Israel purifying themselves in order to appear before the presence of God on Mt. Sinai. Think of seeing that mountain on fire, surrounded by thick clouds and terrible darkness. Think of feeling the ground shaking under your feet and hearing the call of the trumpet sounding loud and long. Then think of hearing the voice of God speaking from that mountain, giving His ten commandments. How Israel trembled with fear! How Moses feared!
Fourth, think also about those holy Scriptures that display the wonder of God’s Word. The account of creation shows the power of the Word of God. By His Word, God brought the whole universe into existence out of nothing. Think of the voice of the Lord as it is exalted in Psalm 29 according to its power to shake the earth. Then follow that Psalm as it brings you into the temple of the Lord, where everyone speaks of God’s glory, as He blesses His people with peace. That is the same Word that you have in the Scriptures, a Word to cause great fear and trembling!
Feel that fear and trembling! Feel it according to all the glory of God shown in His Word! Feel that fear as you read, hear, contemplate, and discuss it! Let it make your knees knock and your heart faint! That is your strength, the strength of your youth! For that weakness will make the Word of God strong in you, mighty to conquer every foe and to persevere through all troubles.