God’s people are commanded to “fear God” or “fear the Lord” several times throughout the Scripture. For Christians, it is important to grasp the implications of this mandate.
Godly fear is the only path to freedom from Satan’s deceitful work. The temptation to go our own way, reject God, and give in to the allure of immoral action is strong, but by fearing God, we may avoid falling into its clutches.
The Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines the word “fear” as “a painful emotion or passion excited by an expectation of evil or the apprehension of impending danger.” Another definition is “to reverence; to have a holy awe; to venerate.”
Is it reasonable to fear God? What does the fear of the Lord entail? For a believer to obey the general command to “fear the Lord,” they must come to terms with many aspects of their faith and God himself.
- 1 What Does The Fear Of The Lord Mean?
- 2 What Does The Bible Say About Fear?
- 3 Why Is It Important To Have A Healthy Fear Of The Lord?
- 4 What Are The Benefits Of Having The Fear Of The Lord?
- 5 How The Fear Of The Lord Impacts Our Lives
- 6 Cultivating A Deep Fear Of The Lord
- 7 Conclusion
What Does The Fear Of The Lord Mean?
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.— Proverbs 1:7
What does it mean to fear God? The Hebrew and Greek words most often translated as “fear” contain a range of connotations, but when applied to God’s holiness, they emphasize healthy respect.
Both the Hebrew verb yare and the noun yirah may be translated as “to dread,” “to respect,” and “to revere,” with the latter word typically referring to a healthy regard for the divine character. Fear like this recognizes God’s goodness (Exodus 20:20). A healthy fear of the Lord is caused by genuine faith and opens one up to understanding and knowledge (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10).
In Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (1985), “Terror, Fearful, Fearfulness” explains that the Greek word phobos can signify “reverential fear” of God, “not a simple ‘fear’ of his might and rightful vengeance, but a salutary dread of displeasing him.” Luke portrays this kind of healthy, fruitful dread among the believers.
At that time, the churches in all of Judea, Galilee, and Samaria were united in Christ and strengthened by the Holy Spirit. They multiplied as they feared God and walked in peace with him (Acts 9:31).
To fear the Lord means to recognize the greatness, holiness, and majesty of God. The fear of the Lord is therefore a powerful concept that encompasses awe, reverence, obedience, and trust in a higher power. It brings wisdom, protection, and peace into our lives. By cultivating this fear through knowledge, prayer, and virtuous living, we can experience its transformative effects.
What Does The Bible Say About Fear?
Both the Old and New Testaments mention the importance of fearing God. There are numerous passages that demonstrate this concept as well as various explanations for it.
Deuteronomy 10:20 instructs, “Thou shalt fear the LORD, thy God; him shalt thou serve, and to him shalt thou cleave, and swear by his name.”
The “fear of God” (or Yahweh, “the fear of the Lord”) is essentially identical to religion in the Old Testament (Proverbs 1:7; Psalms 34:11; Isaiah 11:2, 3; Ecclesiastes 12:13; Jeremiah 2:19).
It is more of a feeling of reverent regard for their God, mixed with awe and fear of the punishment for disobedience (1 Samuel 11:7; Exodus 23:27; 2 Chronicles 20:29; Isaiah 2:10; Psalms 119:120; 19, 21). However, dread or “fear” in its lower sense is not always absent and is sometimes prominent in the earlier stages. Isaiah 33:14 further says that “fearfulness hath surprised” hypocrites.
This is a mandated and very meaningful way to feel about Yahweh (Exodus 20:20; Joshua 4:24; Deuteronomy 6:13; 1 Samuel 12:24; Psalms 33:8; 34:9; Proverbs 23:17; Job 6:14; Ecclesiastes 5:7, etc.). It is a fundamental part of Yahweh’s devotion and worship; it is a divine need for the Messiah (Isaiah 11:2, 3).
Evidence of this “fear of Yahweh” includes a commitment to following God’s word, his will, and other moral imperatives such as abstaining from sin (Exodus 20:20; 2 Samuel 23:3; Deuteronomy 6:13, 14; Proverbs 8:13; 16:6; Psalms 34:4, 9). It is also written that only fools despise wisdom.
It is genuine wisdom (Job 28:28; Psalms 25:14; Proverbs 1:7; 15:33); it brings life (Proverbs 10:27, etc.), blessedness (Psalms 128:1, 4), divine friendship (Psalms 25:14), sufficiency (Psalms 34:9), protection (Psalms 34:7), forgiveness (Psalms 130:4), and deliverance (Psalms 85:9). Psalms 90:11 reads, “According to your fear, so is your wrath.”
The concept of “fear of the Lord” is emphasized throughout the Apocrypha, for example, in Ecclesiasticus 1:11–30. Such fear is linked to love for God in Ecclesiastes 2:15–16.
Sin brings forth “fear” (Genesis 3:10; 4:13, 14; Proverbs 28:1) as a penalty, and it is a natural result of sin (Deuteronomy 28:25, 28). When we are afraid of God, we can avoid the perils posed by human fear and wickedness (Numbers 14:9; 21:34; Psalms 23:4; 31:14, etc.).
In the New Testament, God is shown to be a loving and forgiving Father who gives men the spirit of sonship (Romans 8:15; 2 Timothy 1:7; 1 John 4:18), and we are even invited to come “with boldness unto the throne of grace” with confidence and assurance (parrhesia), which may have its literal meaning of free “utterance” (Hebrews 4:16; 10:19).
Jesus spoke about fearing God in various parables and teachings. He highlighted the significance of showing reverence to God and following his ways. Jesus encouraged his disciples to approach God with humility, recognizing his authority and seeking his guidance in all aspects of life.
Despite this, there is still a healthy respect for authority, as well as filial fear and dread due to the magnitude of the problems at hand. In Matthew 10:28 and Luke 12:5, the word “fear” is used to mean “stand in awe of,” which may also apply to Luke 23:40. The concept of fearing God is sometimes used throughout the New Testament as if it were synonymous with religion.
If Jesus Christ is deliberately rejected, then there is nothing left but “a fearful looking for” (or “expectation” in the Revised Version; British and American) of judgment (Hebrews 10:27); and in verse 31, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).
Additionally, Romans 8:15 says that slavish fear is a direct result of their guilt—the agonizing anticipation of just retribution. Both of these occurrences of “fearful” mean “terrible,” something to be feared greatly. Many times, the words translated as “fear” are more literally rendered in the Revised Version (British and American).
Why Is It Important To Have A Healthy Fear Of The Lord?
We can effectively gain wisdom by developing a deep reverence for the Lord God. It is the beginning of true enlightenment (Psalm 111:10), as only fools despise wisdom and self-control (Proverbs 1:7). A genuine understanding of God’s grace and mercy should never lead us to ignore his holiness, righteousness, or justice.
1. We Become More Like Christ
Like the practical application of the truth of God’s Holy Word, the fear of the Holy One sanctifies God’s people (i.e., purifies, separates from the sins of the world, and encourages spiritual maturation). Therefore, it compels us to despise sin and avoid evil, and we are more likely to feel God’s presence.
As a result, we’re going to have to consider this before we speak from now on. It prevents our moral compass from becoming numb and our capacity to tell right from wrong from deteriorating. A person’s faith in God has the potential to rejuvenate and refresh their spirit in a way that endures through time.
2. God Grants Us A Reward
Those who have faith in God will be rewarded. Those who have a fear of the Lord and conduct themselves modestly enjoy the gifts of salvation, prosperity, respect, and long life. We also gain wisdom, are protected from harm, provided for every day, given a long life, and ensured that we will not perish before our time.
Those who fear God and hold him in awe and reverence are unwavering in their belief that “things will go better with God-fearing persons,” regardless of the external circumstances.
3. A Modest Sense Of Confidence Shines Upon Us
Lastly, awe for God brings calm, confidence, and inner peace through the Holy Spirit. It is apparent in the New Testament that the Holy Spirit’s presence brings both fear and consolation from God and his son, Jesus Christ.
It’s impossible for those who don’t take God seriously to trust in his protection. On the contrary, people who have a deep, reverential fear of the Lord and obey his Word will be anointed (i.e., empowered) and at peace. That God will “save them from death” is something they take for granted.
What Are The Benefits Of Having The Fear Of The Lord?
I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me. And this city shall be to me a name of joy, praise, and glory before all the nations of the earth, who shall hear of all the good that I do for them. They shall fear and tremble because of all the good and prosperity I provide for them.— Jeremiah 33:8–9
The fear of the Lord that is preached in the Bible is a source of transformation rather than paralyzing fear. Time and time again, we are reminded that we have a loving heavenly father. More than just gaining wisdom, this fear encourages us to grow more like our compassionate Creator—our awesome God—and helps us maintain a good understanding of ourselves in relation to God’s greatness.
Having reverence for God motivates us to act in ways that honor the Holy One, which has lasting benefits for us as God-fearing men and women and allows us to gain wisdom in life.
1. Hope And Wisdom
Do not let your heart envy sinners, but be zealous for the fear of the LORD all the day; for surely there is a hereafter, and your hope will not be cut off.— Proverbs 23:17–18
Embracing a healthy fear of the Lord opens the door to true wisdom and knowledge. As we honor God and submit to his ways, he grants us insights and understanding beyond our human capacity. The fear of the Lord provides clarity and discernment in decision-making, leading to a life of purpose and fulfillment.
2. Favor And Blessings
The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life; it turns one away from the snares of death.— Proverbs 14:27
The fear of the Lord attracts divine favor and blessings. When we align ourselves with God’s will, he pours out his goodness upon us. The fear of the Lord positions us to receive his abundant provision, guidance, and favor in every area of life.
3. Protection And Deliverance
The fear of the LORD leads to life, and he who has it will abide in satisfaction; he will not be visited with evil.— Proverbs 19:23
Those who fear the Lord find refuge in his presence. God’s protection extends to those who walk in reverence before him, shielding them from harm and delivering them from the snares of the enemy. The fear of the Lord is a shield against the attacks of evil and a source of divine intervention.
How The Fear Of The Lord Impacts Our Lives
The fear of the Lord has a profound impact on various aspects of our lives. It allows us to embrace wisdom and experience God’s goodness. As this fear is grounded in love, trust, and a desire to maintain a close relationship with the divine, it influences our:
- Relationships. By fearing the Lord, we learn to treat others with love, respect, and kindness. It strengthens our bonds and encourages us to forgive and reconcile.
- Character and Behavior. The fear of the Lord shapes our character and behavior, leading us to strive for moral excellence, honesty, and humility.
- Decision-Making. When we fear the Lord, our decision-making process is guided by moral principles and a desire to please God rather than seeking personal gain or worldly approval.
In Psalm 111:10, we are reminded that “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!”
We should also remember that disobeying God goes against his divine principles. When we disobey his commands, we disregard God’s power. God, being the ultimate authority and creator of the universe, has established certain guidelines and moral values for humanity to follow.
When individuals choose to disobey God’s principles, they not only distance themselves from God’s intended path but also undermine the significance of his power. Yet, it is crucial to distinguish between a negative fear of God and a positive fear of God.
A negative fear stems from the consequences of disobedience, while a positive fear arises from reverence and awe for his divine majesty. Embracing this positive fear not only deepens our connection with God but also allows us to align our lives with his will, experiencing the abundance of blessings that come from living in harmony with his principles.
Cultivating A Deep Fear Of The Lord
Cultivating the fear of the Lord is a lifelong journey. It requires conscious effort, introspection, and a desire to deepen our relationship with the divine. Some ways to cultivate this fear include:
- Seeking Knowledge And Understanding. Studying religious texts, teachings, and spiritual literature helps us obtain wisdom and understanding of the divine, fostering a deeper sense of reverence.
- Prayer And Meditation. Regular prayer and meditation create space for connecting with the divine and experiencing his presence. It allows us to reflect on his greatness and align our hearts with his will.
- Living A Virtuous Life. Acting with integrity, compassion, and kindness reflects our fear of the Lord. By living virtuously, we demonstrate our commitment to honoring and obeying the divine.
Through God’s love, he persuades us to serve and worship him. His perfect love protects and delights in his faithful followers, but he also confides in them. To those who fear and love God, such a holy being reveals his thoughts and purposes.
Fearing God is not an impediment to an intimate connection with him, but the opposite. To have a healthy fear of the Lord is to hate evil, as it says in Proverbs 8:13. It is evil that God despises so much. Aligning oneself with God happens when we decide to abhor evil and obey God’s laws. This way, you allow yourself to receive his glory and blessings.