Ecclesia Ordinis Caelestis Templum Olympicus/Celestial Order and Temple of Olympus

The God of Fear

by Dawn Blacksun

The three passages, Exodus 20:1-21, Matthew 5:17-48, and Galatians 3:1-29, describe a progression of the Law and people's understanding of it. This progression uses fear as a primary motivator to keep people following Yahweh. In Exodus 20, God gives the Hebrews a series of Ten Commandments to always abide by. They are given to test his followers, "in order that the fear of Him may remain with [them], so that [they] may not sin" (Ex 20:20). This sense of fear is a method that Yahweh uses throughout the three passages to keep his followers with him.

The first of the Ten Commandments in Exodus is that "You shall have no other gods before Me." (Ex 20:3). Why does Yahweh give this commandment first? He says about other gods, "You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing loving kindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments." (Ex 20:5-6). He shows that he is a jealous and vengeful god, so make sure his followers follow his rules. He also divides people between those who hate him and those who love him. To love him is to keep his commandments. Therefore, if one does not keep his commandments, one hates him, and he will wreck his vengeance against him and his family to the fourth generation.

These commandments continue with not taking the Lord's name in vain (Ex 20:7), not working and not allowing one's family or anyone else around to work on the Sabbath (Ex 20:8-10), honoring one's parents (Ex 20:12), not to kill (Ex 20:13), not to commit adultery (Ex 20:14), not to steal (Ex 20:15), not to bear false witness (Ex 20:16), and not to covet one's neighbors' property, including his wife (Ex 20:17).

The role of the mediator between people and Yahweh is established in Exodus 20:19 when the people said to Moses, "Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die." This places the priests, like Moses, in a very powerful position over the people as the ones who get to talk to God directly. All the other people must talk to the priest to get to God. This separation between God and his common followers enhances the fear with the people because they are prevented from becoming too familiar with the divine. It's like if they could talk to God directly, they would lose their fear of him and he would lose his power over them, like the wizard in the Wizard of Oz. At the end of delivering the commandments, "the people stood at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was" (Ex 20:21).

Jesus increases the pressure to do Yahweh's bidding in Matthew 5: 17-48, otherwise known as a portion of the Sermon on the Mount. He says that "Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 5:19). This combines the use of fear with the use of reward, which enhances its power over people. The Sermon on the Mount, though, emphasizes the fear and punishment more than the enticement of reward.

Jesus says that it is not enough to not kill, but he says, " everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court " (Mt 5:22). Now followers can't feel the emotion of anger without sinning. Exodus 20:14 says, "You shall not commit adultery." Jesus goes on to say, " everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Mt 5:28). People can't admire each other's physiques anymore without committing a sin.

Followers of Jesus are also to aspire to be like God, but still know that they will fail at that. Matthew 5:34 says to "make no oath at all" but instead " let your statement be, 'Yes' or 'No'; anything beyond these is of evil" (Mt 5:37). People are not able to exact any change with their own power, so they should not promise to do anything. They are only to say Yes' or No' without connecting it with a higher power through an oath. This statement also divides between good and evil, or love and hate. If one says Yes' or No,' then one is good and therefore loves God. If one makes an oath, then one is acting in evil and therefore hates God (Cf. Ex 20:5-6).

Suffering is also necessary to be like God, because of human iniquities. Jesus says, "do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also" (Mt 5:39). He also says to "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Mt 5:44). Followers are to suffer against other peoples' wronging them, as they are deserving of what they receive and are to love the people who wrong them, because "He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous" (Mt 5:45). People are commanded by Jesus to " be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt 5:48). This helps to ensure that people follow Jesus, as they are expected to be like God, but are unable to. Therefore, they must rely on the great atonement of Jesus' death and resurrection. This is a subtle and very powerful use of fear to drive people to do one's bidding.

Paul took a different approach to the Law in Galatians 3:1-29. His approach was that after becoming proficient at following the Law, people would be able to have adequate faith in Jesus in order to receive the Spirit. It is through faith, he says, that one can be saved.

The progression starts with Abraham. Galatians 3:6 states, "Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness," demonstrating that Abraham received righteousness by faith in God. Paul also says, "Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, The righteous man shall live by faith.'" (Gal 3:11).

This could be interpreted as people can now ignore the Law if they have faith, but that would be an interpretation not intended by the author. He states, "Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith" (Gal 3:24). This shows that one must follow the Law in order to have faith. True faith cannot be obtained without being fluent in the Law in both knowledge and practice. After one becomes One with the Law, one transcends it by faith and then is eligible to receive the Spirit. This transcending of the Law takes place because of the great atonement of Christ's death and resurrection. One must believe completely in one's redemption from iniquity and shortcoming in following the Law in order to be saved.

The use of fear in Galatians is even subtler than in Matthew. Paul doesn't use any direct curses as Exodus and Matthew do, but instead uses enticement and charisma to control the people. He puts out the carrot of receiving the Spirit out and then illustrates how easy it is to attain it. He almost hides the difficulty by not talking much about how much to follow the Law and how to attain faith to transcend it. This can be dangerous, in that it leads people to believe that if they think happy thoughts about Jesus, up there with the clouds and the angels, that they will be saved. They don't remember that following the Law in spirit is an essential part of the deal. If it wasn't, then the Old Testament and Matthew's Sermon on the Mount would not be included in canonical scripture.

Exodus 20:1-21, Matthew 5:17-48, and Galatians 3:1-29 all illustrate a progression in how to act in order to become righteous, or one with Yahweh. Exodus commands people to not do certain things, as one tells children not to do things. Then Matthew tells the people that what they did as spiritual children is not enough now. It's time to grow up and follow the Law in their heart instead of only with their actions. Galatians finishes off the progression by demonstrating that after one has followed the commandments in Exodus and lived with love in their hearts as stated in Matthew, that they can receive the Spirit by having complete faith in their heart in Jesus. The thread that holds all this together, though, is fear. The use of fear is obvious in the beginning and becomes more subtle in each passage, as people would lose their fear as they grew used to each stage. The more subtle the fear, the more powerful it becomes and Yahweh must use the power of fear to hold onto his people because he is a jealous god.