Rarely does one hear about the fear of the Lord nowadays. Even in most churches one will not hear of it much, let alone hear it taught about. Many view “fear” simply in a negative context; however, the fear of the Lord is actually a positive thing, if understood properly. I hope this article may shed some light on this neglected teaching, and that you will come to appreciate the fear of the Lord in a deeper way.
- It is more than mere reverence. It is a shame so many preachers and Bible commentators explain the fear of the Lord as simply as reverence for God. This might soften the word fear, but does it truly do the meaning of the phrase, as a whole, justice? If the fear of the Lord simply means reverence, then why wouldn’t the biblical writers plainly state, the reverence of the Lord? Jesus doesn’t mince words when He tells His disciples to not fear men but to fear God. “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). God is not one to simply tip one’s hat to and call it good. The writer of Hebrews warns, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (10:31). This dreadfulness is a reality, and the writers of Scripture don’t pussyfoot around it the way we do today. Certainly, reverence does play a part in the fear of the Lord, but so does, well, a healthy fear of a good, righteous, and sovereign King who will one day punish evil.
- It is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom. Our world has many intelligent people, but the truly wiseare hard to find. There are scientists who are smart enough to design weapons of mass destruction, but not wise enough to create peace. There are crafty politicians who know how to sway and manipulate, but they are not wise in how to bring about authentic hope. And we have educators holding doctorate degrees and writing papers with all kinds of big words, but they’re void of the wisdom as to how to promote genuine love and equity. Wisdom has a starting place and a specific foundation: the fear of the Lord. Mockers will mock, scoffers will scoff, and fools will hate correction, so folly will continue to be the norm. But it doesn’t have to be this way. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Pro. 1:7). “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Pro. 9:10).
- It is to depart from evil. This is one of the major aspects of the fear of the Lord—to depart from evil and to draw near to God. It is to depart from deception, violence, and all the dangers which would pull persons away from the safety of God’s presence. People could be spared of a lot of heartache and regret if they understood this. “By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil” (Pro. 16:6).
- It gives confidence. There are so many who lack confidence in who they are and of the future. In the fear of the Lord persons can begin to understand who they are—and Whose they are—and the security of the sovereignty of God, the Maker of the heavens and the earth. “In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge” (Pro. 14:26).
- It is a fountain of life. Our world is filled with poisoned waters, seemingly satisfying to the taste but destructive to the spirit. Immorality, unjust gain, debauchery, and the like are sweet to the taste, but sucks the life of those who partake of them. “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death” (Pro. 14:27).
- It is better than great treasure. Ours is a world that has an unhealthy love for money, wealth, and treasures. People steal, kill, and destroy for these, not understanding that eventually this very love for money is a cord that will one day strangle them. Jesus warns, what profit is it to gain the world while forfeiting one’s soul in the process (see Matt. 16:26). The value of the fear of the Lord far surpasses that of all the treasures of the world. “Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it” (Pro. 15:16).
- It comes with reward. The fear of the Lord is not simply a duty, of which you comply or else. To the ungodly, it seems as such; however, God promises reward for those who will walk in it. “The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life. Thorns and snares are in the way of the crooked; whoever guards his soul will keep far from them” (Pro. 22:4-5). The satisfaction of wealth and fame is an illusion. The fear of the Lord, although not easy, will prove to be satisfying to those who accept it.
- It is to gain the knowledge of the Holy. The greatest reward of the fear of the Lord is the knowledge of God. Not simply head knowledge, but true experiential knowledge of Him. The fear of the Lord begins to open the spiritual eyes of persons to begin seeing His activities in the world and an understanding of His ways. God ceases to be questioned as a religious abstract, but understood as a concrete reality of those who are redeemed. The Bible ceases to be an archaic book of words, but is understood to be alive and life-transforming, because of the God who breathed them out (see Heb. 4:12; 2 Tim. 3:16). Ultimately, in God, through Christ, one finds true life. “Then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God” (Pro. 2:5).
For the one who is willing to receive it, the fear of the Lord is truly a wonderful blessing intended to richly bless those who will accept it and walk in it. Indeed, it does have the aspect of showing reverence to the Lord, but it is far more than this. Hopefully the Scripture passages on the subject has helped you understand the fear of the Lord better, and that you can see it in its positive light.