“And he said to man, 'Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding” (Job 28:28).
What if I were to tell you a child should fear his parents, what would you think? Some of you might agree, while others might say “I don’t want my child to be afraid of me.” But that is to misunderstand the difference between fearing something or someone and being afraid of something or someone. To be afraid is to be filled with an apprehension or a foreboding sense, born of a fear of future evil. The antagonist in such a scenario is not someone we normally respect or love or trust with our well-being because we perceive them as an imminent threat to our safety or that of someone else we love. On the other hand, while to fear someone may contain a small measure of apprehension, it is born of an understanding of the power and authority one holds over us, not the threat of evil. The sort of fear we are talking about, as used in the Bible to describe man’s relationship to God is born of respect and reverence for another, coupled with the knowledge that that person loves us and has our best interests at heart, that they are worthy of our trust and are fair in their judgments. So, I ask again, shouldn’t a child fear his parents? And, shouldn’t we fear the Lord?
Solomon once said, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Proverbs 9:10). Such fear leads to a life of satisfaction and safety (Proverbs 19:23). However, the wise king also observed that the foolish man abhors the instruction that leads to such understanding, despising himself by his own actions, while the humble man who accepts God’s instruction dwells among the wise (Proverbs 1:7, Proverbs 15:31-33). Instead of being a weakness, fear of the Lord becomes a strength to those who seek it even as it leads to the destruction of evildoers (Proverbs 10:27-29). According to Malachi, God takes notice of those who fear Him and treasures them as a son, distinguishing between those who obey Him and those who do not (Malachi 3:16-18).
A photograph of some protestors recently appeared on line; in the photo one of them was carrying a sign that read, “If Jesus comes back, kill Him again.” I felt sad when looking at that picture, and a bit afraid knowing that so many in our society today hate the very idea of God and are so arrogant in the display of their hatred. It is certainly their right to feel that way, but I am reminded of the proverb: “Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the LORD; be assured, he will not go unpunished. By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the LORD one turns away from evil” (Proverbs 16:5-6). At my age I realize that all such people cannot be reached, in fact most will fall by the wayside. But we keep trying, right? Our consolation is in knowing that when one does call on the name of the Lord, God hears them and draws near (Psalm 145:17-19).
It is not the strength of a man that God delights in; but the one who fears Him, who seeks Him, who places his hope in Him is the one that pleases the Lord (Psalm 147:10-11; Proverbs 2:4-5). The man that respects God and honors His commands finds his greatest strength in life (Proverbs 14:26-27). When we study God’s word and fear its meaning the Lord guides us through its instruction, establishing His covenant within us, becoming not only our Lord, but our friend. A relationship that benefits not only us but future generations that we influence by it (Psalm 25:12-14). According to King David, “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward” (Psalm 19:7-11).
David often wrote of the benefits of knowing God. In this psalm he spoke of how we are blessed by God’s law, His testimony, His precepts, His commands and rules, His righteousness, and our fear of the Lord. God’s greatness David tells us, along with the other writers of the scriptures, is worthy of our love and honor, our respect and admiration, and our fear and obedience. He does for each of us what we cannot do for ourselves— He absolves us of our sins, freeing us from eternal condemnation. Yes, we should be afraid of His judgment, but such apprehension is overcome by the hope of His promises, and the loving care He has shown for us by sending His Only Son to earth to die for us. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom— the wisdom that leads us to salvation and a home in heaven.
In this life a well-raised child fears her parents, the very ones who are responsible for her existence, her upbringing, and her safety. She dreads the punishment she receives by their hands when she does something wrong, but it is into their arms that she runs for protection and comfort from the bad things in life. She runs to them because she knows they love her and will do all they can for her well-being. As beings created in the image of God, we get that from our Heavenly Father, Who opens His arms wide when one of us runs to Him. He will punish those who have done wrong and refuse to repent and come to Him, but He has done, and will continue to do all that He can for us to protect us not only from the world, but from our own weaknesses and failures. However, He expects us to stand and follow Him, even as He prepares and strengthens us for all of life’s battles.
The greatest benefit in knowing and fearing the Lord is gaining the knowledge we need to overcome the world and finding strength and power in that knowledge when we act in obedience to His commands. It is a benefit that comes from acknowledging that He is the one true God. In I Chronicles we read, “For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before Him; strength and joy are in His place” (I Chronicles 16:25-27). There is only one God, one Creator, one Judge and Savior of the world. It is Him that we should fear (Matthew 10:28), and it is He that we should love above all others for Who He is, and what He has done (John 3:16; Matthew 10:37).
After testing the world and himself, and after much study and contemplation King Solomon came to this conclusion: “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). In the end we should fear God because He is God, and it is our duty. However, if we are His obedient children, we can do so with joy in our hearts knowing that our Father in Heaven has our best interests at heart.
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.