Fear & Love
Joshua’s story of God drying up the Jordan River so Israel could pass into the promised land is one of my favorite pictures of God’s role in our lives. It speaks to His power to make a way, and it leaves behind a message that He will carry us in the same way forever. There is a God-type transformation that happens when we picture God in the eternal sense. It’s knowledge that leads to love and power. I pray this short devotion will bless you in seeing the beauty and power of God available for you right now, as well as what it looks like to have forever joy.
Let’s pick up Joshua’s story in chapter four after God has already made their way through the river:
Then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever.”
We will fear God forever. I think this passage is showing us that how we fear God forever will look similar to this. Putting yourself in their shoes, God has finally come through after forty years in the wilderness. “Blessed are those who wait on the lord” (Is. 30:18). The promised land that God offered is finally in front of them. Forty years is a long time to wander, and God is here reminding them that He was the one who made their way successful. It’s so important that they know this, that he says to make an altar so they can tell the generations to come. So they can learn to fear God too. So we can fear him, recounting the many rivers He made dry to clear our way. This passage isn’t even about the beauty of the promised land to come, but the beauty of God’s strength to carry us there. This teaches us to also look forward to the many rivers He will clear. We are forever beings. I’m looking forward to watching God do this forever. Even better, once Jesus gives me my sinless form, I’ll be able to better appreciate his glory without that veil of sin. I think of John’s letter about how we who hope in this way “purify” ourselves (1 John 3:3); we will one day hope even better than we can now because our hearts are not yet wholly pure.
What would perfect fear of God look like? Complete confidence—i.e. faith—because even in Heaven we don’t become gods who can see the future. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Deut. 6:4). We don’t fear the LORD as those who expect to become His equal, but those who love Him because we are not, and yet He loves us faithfully forever. “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor.13:13). For the sake of love, we will forever fear God.
What does that look like?
“…God is love” 1 John 4:8 says, so as we fear Him we receive His love. That’s who He is. It’s what He does. That verse starts, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” Fear is knowing God. By reverse order, we must know God in order to know how to love.
I have been on the receiving end of statements like, “Know God. Trust Jesus, etc” and thought, okay… how? Beholding Him as we are encouraged to in 2 Cor. 13:8, we remember who He was as well as beholding new details to His character. Every time I see my wife I’m seeing something new. She’s not a non-changing inanimate object. She’s growing, or hurting, or excited, or disappointed. The more I see her the more new ways I see her. God is like that to, and often the way we see Him is in His word. So He tells us in this passage how to fear him without sin: “9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.” We see here that God has already shown us what His love is like. Pay attention. Love in the same way, for while we are not destined to become gods we are destined to love like Him. John gives us new details on how to fear God: “10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” God’s love is initiatory to us so we can initiate it with others. “11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
I see our future in Heaven a lot like I see our mission here. God loves us so we can love others. That’s fullness of joy right there. I think forever is going to look a lot like that. Since that’s the permanent pair of shoes I plan to put on, I long to see what they feel like now. Even if what we get now is a foretaste of glory, it’s still better than anything else. “The greatest of these is love.” God says that’s a pretty big deal, so it should be to me. So much that it makes me want to tell others and live in a way that they grow in the knowledge of love and the fear of God. We haven’t entered the promised land but God is making ways across many deep rivers so we can pass on the dry ground He’s made specifically for our feet. This is our God. We get to live in this knowledge. It’s a beautiful life, even when that dry ground is clearly not as good as the promised one to come. It’s beautiful because God is there.