If you just had a few moments to call out a warning to people you love, what would you say and how would you say it? What would you be willing to risk? If you knew that the warning would be scoffed at and ignored, would you still give it? I ask you to consider these questions and more in a series called, “The Three.”
In the last letter of the Bible, there’s a lot of symbolism; a story being told with vivid imagery. In that letter we find an urgent message in Revelation 14:6-11.
Last post, I asked you to consider the first angel shouting at those who dwell on the earth: “Fear God!”
The problem is, John also wrote that, “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.” 1John 4:18 Those who dwell on the earth already fear God.
Without getting too technical, in Revelation 14:7 the Greek word behind fear is phobeo. Phobeo comes up a handful of times in the Bible. Here’s an example from Ephesians 5:33: “However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she phobeo her husband.”
When I noticed this, I went to my wife, pointed to the text and said: “Fear me, woman!” The rest of the conversation did not go well. Fear is not a good building block in marriage. This is a good thing to keep in mind because marriage is the deepest and most intimate pictures of our relationship with God. God is frequently pictured as a husband and his people are the bride. Fear seems very out of place in such a relationship, doesn’t it?
Maybe this helps. The English word for phobeo in Ephesians 5:33 is respect; in this case respect based on deep, unconditional, love – God’s love.
So how do we put this altogether? As I wrestled with this, a thought came to me from back in my lifeguarding days at the public swimming pool. When a person is drowning, he or she is out of their mind. Because of everything going on they can’t hear, they’re panicked, they don’t know what to do.
When you go into the water – which is a last resort because it’s a huge risk likely to get you killed – the lifeguard must approach the person and assume a defensive position. Then you shout in a loud voice – “Calm down, I’m here to help you, I going to grab on to you and take you to safety, and so on.” You have to risk coming across forceful because it’s urgent and you have to try and get through to the person so you can save them.
To me, this is another picture of our amazing God. He’s reaching out to people who have a terrible picture of who he is and yet he’s willing to take risks, even put his reputation on the line, do whatever it takes to rescue the perishing. Have you ever heard of a God so good? Have you ever seen such love?
Can you respect a God like that?