“Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commandments always.” (Deut 5:29, NIV)
“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole of man.” (Eccles 12:13, NIV)
A quick search will tell you that “fear” appears 1025-times in the Bible. The phrase “Fear of the Lord” occurs over 300-times. Growing up, I was told that the God of the Old Testament was a “God of Fear”. The God of the New Testament was the “God of Love”. How confusing … and wrong! God is not a capricious dictator, in the Old Testament, who gratifies himself by punishment. Neither is the God of the New Testament “my bro’” and “best buddy”. These depictions miss the point completely!
Biblical fear, especially the “Fear of God”, reflects the magnificent complexity of God’s holiness. In Proverbs, Solomon explains that the Fear of God is the root of wisdom and understanding (Prov 9:10). It produces humility (Prov 22:4). It instills obedience (Psalm 111:10). It supplies courage (Ps 27:1-3). It avoids sin (Prov 8:13). It inspires courage and confidence in godly leaders (2 Chron 19:5-9). It teaches us to love Him, honor His values and nurture other believers (1 Jn 4:16-19). Godly fear was a gift to the “Branch” (Jesus) that grew from the root of Jesse (Is 11:1-3). In that 11th chapter, Isaiah writes that the Spirit bestowed Jesus with wisdom, understanding, counsel, might and knowledge because He delighted in the Fear of the Lord. It can do the same for us!
As emotion, godly fear must be exercised and refined. Faith-based fear can be grounded, positive and affirming. Conversely, carnal fear can be misplaced, negative and paralyzing. Healthy fear keeps us from trouble and danger. God desires his creation to act with understanding, galvanized confidence and holy awe. Conversely, cowardly fear reflects uncertainty, unfaithful passivity and spiritual deadness. When Israel sent scouts to spy-out Canaan, ten men returned fear-filled and recommended retreat from what they saw. Two spies, Joshua and Caleb, championed faith-filled courage because they saw with understanding that the odds were no match for God’s might. Examples of both kinds of fear appear throughout God’s Word. In most cases, yirah (OT/Hebrew) or phobos (NT/Greek) refer to wisdom and understanding fortified by deep reverence for God’s power, knowledge and holiness.
Action Item #1: Discern and love what God loves.
My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
2 turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding—
3 indeed, if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
4 and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
6 For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
7 He holds success in store for the upright,
he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
8 for he guards the course of the just
and protects the way of his faithful ones. (Prov 2:1-8, NIV, emphasis added)
Action Item #2: Discern and hate what God hates.
To fear the Lord is to hate evil;
I hate pride and arrogance,
evil behavior and perverse speech. (Prov 8:13, NIV, emphasis added)
Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for;
through the fear of the Lord evil is avoided. (Prov 16:6, NIV, emphasis added)
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (Prov 9:10, NIV)
Action Item #3: Coach to reform, refine and restore men to godly fear. Live, daily, in awe of God’s uncompromised principles and unfathomable power. Never dismiss the unimaginable price of redemption. Pray for wisdom to remove my tolerance of evil.