The Fear of God
Genesis 42:18
And Joseph said to them the third day, This do, and live; for I fear God:

1. The first impression which the human mind receives from the conviction of an over-ruling Power, is that of fear. It is a moral impression. It is made upon the conscience. A feeling of awe at the thought of an invisible witness, who judges and will requite.

2. "For I fear God." The text begins with a word that connects it with something else; that supposes a reason for the assertion it makes. Why should we thus "fear" Him? Because He is present to every agreement that is made, to every promise that is spoken, to every purpose that is secretly devised, to every action, however silently done. Because He is holy, and "the righteous Lord hateth iniquity." Because He is mighty, and who can stand before His displeasure? Because He requires the duty by which we feel ourselves bound. Because He appoints every law, and chastises for its infraction. Because, if through that subduing veneration, that salutary dread, we hold fast our integrity and depart from evil, we are encouraged by His assurances, we are encompassed by His defence.

3. There are various ways in which these effects are produced upon the children of disobedience.

(1) They fear the powers of the visible world, as if they were ready to betray or smite their delinquencies; as if their sounds might publish something concerning them, or their "arrows upon the string" had an aim towards them. The stormy wind or the voice of the waters may have a word to fulfil for their condemnation. The rustling leaf has a warning. The bare bough points. "A bird of the air shall carry the matter." There is a Greek story of a poet who, falling under the daggers of robbers, called upon some cranes who was flying overhead to avenge his death. While his name and fate were yet upon the public tongue, in a great assembly of the people — when in the vast theatre of Corinth, open to the sky, the solemn chorus and personation of the Furies were exhibiting the truth, that "there is no shadow of death where the workers of iniquity can hide themselves" — a flock of those noisy birds darkened and shook the air. A cry escaped from the assassins, who were present at the spectacle. Their detection followed, and their just death was added as the terrible conclusion of the sacred song, and fulfilment of its prophecy. The story may be true, for doubtless such things have been. And they illustrate one part of the fact, that the creation, even in its innocent objects and pleasant forms, is the enemy of those who will not make the Author of it a friend.

(2) There are surprises of Providence, in disappointment, deprivation, pain. These are trials wherever they fall; but to persons sensible that they have given them the right to surprise, they are peculiarity full of dismay. Sudden accidents will occur. The usual order of our lives will be broken in upon by strange occurrences. Dangers springs up by the wayside. Sorrows invade the dearest neighbourhoods of our life. Many, like old Israel's son's, find a journey made to the south terminate into captivity, and have to bear "the burden of Egypt," while they were seeking for its corn. Wretched, indeed, if what they must suffer then admonishes them of their trespasses, and forces from them the confession, "We are verily guilty concerning our brother." But, without imagining any of these casualties and violent interruptions, and troubles that may come, there are others that must come. The God whom we "fear" deals with us in the slow course of His appointments, through the gradual changes of time and age. If He continues our days upon the earth, we must pay for the privilege by parting with many of their delights, feeling some unwelcome alterations, and witnessing more. The soul will have to retire further inward for its satisfactions or its repose, as remembrance out-measures expectation, and the veils of the flesh grow thin. When the world is declining, its weight greater and its pleasure less, will not everything appear departing from us, if the answer of a good conscience and a hope towards an immortal possession do not remain behind? To feel forsaken of God, or obnoxious to His judgments then! — is not that a dreary and terrible occasion of fear?

4. The several topics hitherto mentioned touch upon what is outside of us. They have been immediately connected with natural objects, or distressful incidents, or waning powers. But all these are only circumstances. The individual consciousness of every one dwells in the midst of them, and impresses them with a character of its own. Here is the true seat of the principle. Let each stand in awe of what is within him; of the judgments that are pronounced beyond mortal hearing, and executed through the habits, the fancies, the passions, the memories, of the mind itself. Are these habits depraved — these fancies disordered? Do these passions start away from holy motives? Do these memories condemn the past, that cannot be restored to be tried again and live better? The hostilities of nature the utmost rage of the air and sea, are nothing to this. Pain and misadventure are nothing. The wear and losses of encroaching years are nothing.

(N. L. Frothingham.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And Joseph said unto them the third day, This do, and live; for I fear God:

WEB: Joseph said to them the third day, "Do this, and live, for I fear God.

The Fear of God
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