Teaching Kids the Fear of the Lord—Wisely.

It didn’t go as I had envisioned.

Haddie was in tears.

Kate clearly did not understand.

I had botched what I had intended to teach them about God’s transcendent nature and the “fear of the Lord.”

As many of you know, as part of a University-Model School, I teach my grandkids their school lessons at home one day each week. This year I decided to begin each Tuesday with lessons on the attributes of God. For the most part, it has been delightful. We’ve discussed how God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. It’s been fun to break down the words into their Latin roots. We have pondered His sovereignty and His immutable nature. We’ve had great discussions, which I believe have reached their hearts.

Last week, by teaching about God’s transcendent nature, I wanted them to view God through a lens of awe and respect. I told them how Moses responded when he saw God in the burning bush and how Daniel responded when he saw God in a vision. I explained to them how both had grown profoundly afraid when they encountered God and then, out of deep reverence, they chose to obey Him.

As a follow up, I asked them to respond in their journals to this question: “How does a healthy fear of the Lord make you want to obey?

Joey was close. “If you have a fear of God you will really want to trust Him and believe in Him.”

Haddie sat there, with tears in her eyes and fearfully cried out, “I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.”  She was clearly stressed by the question.

Kate quietly wrote, “I obey God so that I won’t get punished.”

There it was – the all too common notion that we obey merely to avoid bad consequences. 

This type of obedience does not change the heart.  Nor does it hold up over time.  And it builds a diminished view of our loving, gracious, God. Later, in talking to Haddie, I discovered that her confusion grew out of not understanding what the word “fear” actually meant here. She knew of “fear” as how she felt when she saw a snake. Because of our discussion , she now felt afraid of God.

This week I tried a different approach.  Here’s a few points I tried to make:

  • That there is an enormous gap between the Creator and man. For who in the skies can be compared to the LORD? Who among the heavenly beings is like the LORD, a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones, and awesome above all who are around Him. Psalm 89:6-7
  • That true obedience flows out of a desire to not violate or disrupt our relationship with God. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. Proverbs 3:7
  • That fear of the Lord is a holy inclination of the heart, generated by God himself. Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. Psalm 86:11
  • That a mature fear of the Lord rises out of awe and devotion. As a result His glory is irresistible. Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm. Psalm 33:8-9

I want my grandchildren to be in awe of God, yet I want them to run freely into His arms!

Any ideas you have would be greatly appreciated!  Please share them in your comments.

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

  1. I like thinking about the quote from Narnia… “Is He safe?” “No, He is not safe but He is good.” This helps bring it into focus. Also I explain to my kids how it is with a large animal like a horse… we fear them because they are so powerful and we could reallly get hurt if we don’t respect them, but we love them and know they won’t intentionally hurt us because we have a relationship built on respect. Also I like to remember the verse about true love casting out fear. When we go back to the Hebrew, are these the same words for fear? Thanks for discussing a hard topic for even adults to comprehend.

    Reply
    • I really like your analogy Anne!

      Reply

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