When the people looked upon the mountain and saw the lightning and smoke and heard the thunder and the sound of the trumpet, they reacted as we probably would have: they trembled in fear and moved back from it. But notice Moses’ response. Don’t be afraid of God, but fear God. While this may seem contradictory, it is not, and within it we see the beauty of the gospel.
Moses used “fear” in two senses. The first is to be afraid as we often think of it, as the people were demonstrating by recoiling from God. This is a fear that we can cast aside in Christ because for those of us in Him, there is no condemnation (Rom. 8:1). Moses’ second use of “fear” speaks of reverence, of ascribing weightiness to God. God is holy. He is just. So God’s punishment of sin did not just go away—it was poured out on Jesus. And for this reason, we fear Him; we never forget who He is and what it took for us to be declared right with Him. We never forget the cross. We never forget the gospel.
Do you have the proper fear of God? When are you afraid of Him, forgetting about His grace? When do you take Him lightly, forgetting about His holiness?