Fall on Your Face in Fear
May 28, 2021
While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, "This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!" When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground and were terrified. And Jesus came to them and touched them and said, "Get up, and do not be afraid." And lifting up their eyes, they saw no one except Jesus Himself alone (Matthew 17:5-8).
Upon hearing the voice of God the Father affirming the authority of Jesus Christ as His beloved Son, and demanding the Apostles to hear and obey Him, Peter, James, and John fell on their faces in fear. It is sad but true that, for the most part, we have lost this attitude in modern day Christianity. We have ‘grown accustomed’ or comfortable with the presence of God in life.
The word ‘fear’ here is phobeo, from which we get our English word ‘phobia’. Now a phobia is not a casual, superficial, or cautionary attitude toward something that is disliked. People who have phobias are terrified by the cause or source of the phobia. For years I suffered acrophobia (the fear of heights) and claustrophobia (the fear of closed in spaces). Years ago Nancy, our grandsons, and I visited Carlsbad Caverns. We walked down steep, narrow, winding paths 750 feet to the floor of the Caverns, in the dark, underground, sometimes in very narrow passageways. The stalagmite and stalactite formations were astonishing, beautiful, wonderful to see. When we exited I was soaking wet with sweat and shaking like a leaf in the wind. I was truly terrified thinking I might fall off a narrow path to the floor hundreds of feet below. I was truly terrified of the narrow passageways thinking I might get stuck and not get out!
When Peter, James, and John heard the voice of God, they were terrified! God is holy and righteous. Man is not. Before Adam and Eve sinned against God in Eden they enjoyed a wondrous fellowship with Him in the Garden. After they had sinned, they hid themselves from Him in fear. When the prophet Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up in the heavenly Temple, he cried out (Isaiah 6:5), Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. The Hebrews were terrified at the presence and voice of God on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19:16). Daniel was terrified when the Lord spoke to him (Daniel 8:15-17). Such reverential fear is strangely absent in many Christians and Christian churches today.
“The combined awareness of the Lord’s grace and His majesty, His love and His justice, His friendship and His lordship should cause a kind of spiritual tension in every believer” (John MacArthur). That should never leave us, even when we walk in full fellowship with the Lord!
“Lord Jesus, forgive me of the attitude of taking Your lordship for granted. You call Your disciples Your friends, and so we are - You are the greatest Friend to me, but I should never let my fellowship with You overshadow or cause my holy reverence for Your lordship over me to diminish. Remind me daily that You are my loving Lord, and I am Your humble servant. Amen.”