The Fear of the Lord | December 12th, 2022
A few years ago, I was introduced to an elderly woman with a beautiful smile. I’ll never forget the way her caretaker described her to me as a talented pianist, always joyful, and someone who has the fear of the Lord.
“God-fearing” used to be a common expression, but the fear of the Lord is rarely spoken of today. We hear plenty about the love of God but not about His judgment. We hear about the splendor of heaven but never the warnings of hell. And we hear much about how forgiving God is, but seldom do we hear about our need for repentance. This knowledge is necessary for us to have a proper fear of the Lord.
It is important to understand its meaning as the Bible uses the word fear in reference to God over 300 times. It cannot be ignored! To be “God-fearing” is to have a profound and reverent respect for an Almighty God who causes us to be very aware of our own inadequacy and dependence on Him.
In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word meaning “awe” is yirah which often translates into fear as in “the fear of the Lord.” Its other meanings include “respect,” “reverence,” and “worship.”
Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. Psalm 33:8
Our world is so full of God’s goodness and magnificence, but we have lost our awe in the One who created it all.
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Romans 1:21
The Foundation for Wisdom
The fear of the Lord is foundational to wisdom. It is the primary indication that we even have any wisdom at all. Proverbs 9:10 tells us: The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. When we have a reverence for God, we desire to grow in the knowledge found in His Word. Our decisions are based upon God’s approval because we know we must answer to Him for every decision we make. When we live righteously, we are on the path of wisdom.
Without a reverence for God, His instruction is despised. A fool cannot be told how to live their life. They have no foundation for wisdom and lean arrogantly on their own understanding of things.
To develop the fear of the Lord, we must acknowledge that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and completely sovereign over all things. Those who fear God have a continual awareness of Him.
What does a God-fearing person look like? The Bible gives us a clear and accurate description:
They are filled with wisdom and knowledge
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise. Psalm 111:10
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7
They do what is right in God’s eyes
Whoever fears the Lord walks uprightly, but those who despise him are devious in their ways. Proverbs 14:2
They hate evil
The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; pride, arrogance, the evil way, and the perverted mouth, I hate. Proverbs 8:13
They receive God’s blessing, compassion, mercy, and favor
Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him. Psalm 128:1
Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. Psalm 103:13
And His mercy is upon generation after generation toward those who fear Him. Luke 1:50
The Lord favors those who fear Him, those who wait for His faithfulness. Psalm 147:11
They are loved and forgiven
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:11-12
Growing in the fear of the Lord has a purifying effect on the way we live. As we read His Word, we grow in wisdom and discernment. We learn His commandments to help us become obedient so we can walk in righteousness. We have an increased moral sensitivity toward what is right and holy. We desire to live in a way that honors Him, separating ourselves from sin and evil. We experience to the fullest, God’s blessing, compassion, mercy, and favor when we live wholeheartedly for Him. And we are deeply loved and completely forgiven.
Fear of Man vs. Fear of God
The early church had a reverent fear of the Lord and were blessed because of it:
Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied. Acts 9:31
In our culture of glorifying self, we have lost our sense of the highest majesty and glory of God. When we elevate ourselves, God’s importance diminishes. We can clearly see this in churches today as the fear of the Lord is rarely preached. There is a greater fear of man than a fear of God. This should never be. Man’s approval is fleeting and meaningless whereas God’s approval is what truly matters and has eternal rewards.
Only God’s Word can give us an accurate view of God and other people. Fear of puny man demonstrates an inadequate understanding of who God is. He is the One who holds all things together under His supreme authority. We cannot even take our next breath without Him! How important it is to be in the Word which has the power to correct our flawed way of thinking.
Pastors often underestimate the power of the written Word of God and believe straightforward Bible teaching could cause division and discomfort. So, they find more agreeable ways to reach their audience by staying quiet about God’s judgment, repentance, and denouncing specific sins that are rampant in our culture and in the church. They focus on sharing positive messages about how to live your best life now with perfect health and lots of wealth. It’s what everyone wants to hear but not what they need to hear!
The Apostle Paul never changed his message so he could be more popular with the current crowd. He knew full well that the message of the cross brought the fragrance of life to some and the fragrance of death to others.
Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? 2 Corinthians 2:14-16
Paul knew there would come a time when people would not put up with sound doctrine but would only listen to those who would say what their itching ears wanted to hear. He warned about altering the preaching of God’s Word. The need for being grounded in sound doctrine was essential in the first century when Paul ministered to a polytheistic society and is just as essential for us in these postmodern times.
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! Galatians 1:8
Every Knee will Bow
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom which is all found in the purity of God’s infallible Word, not some altered, softened version to keep people from being offended. We can only realize how sinful we are when we understand how holy and righteous God is. And in that moment, we know that we deserve His wrath because He is just. But because of His mercy, Jesus Christ paid the highest price with His shed blood in our place to make us clean and forgiven for every sin we’ve ever committed, past, present, and future, through the gift of His grace so we may be saved. With that gift of salvation, we also receive the gift of godly fear so we will turn from our sin and begin to walk in holiness with the power of the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. 2 Corinthians 7:1
It grieves God’s heart deeply to see his beloved creation living as if there is no God, without any reverence for Him whatsoever. They blaspheme His holy name, are ungrateful for His good gifts, and shake their fist at Him in rebellion toward His perfect laws that have been given to us out of love for our protection.
I look forward to the biblical prophesied day of Jesus’ Second Coming when EVERY knee will bow before Him and EVERY tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11). Those who have hardened their heart against Him will fall on their knees in fear and great trembling, knowing their sin will be judged by the wrath of God because they have rejected Christ. But those who have the fear of the Lord – an overwhelming reverence and awe for the One who took the wrath of God for them on the cross – will fall on their knees in worship with joy and gratitude, knowing they are fully forgiven and saved for all eternity.
May we live in such a way to be described by others as “God-fearing” so we can bring glory and honor to the only One who is worthy of our awe.
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