7. The Fear of the Lord:
The fear of the Lord is very important, however, we seldom hear people preach about it. There are more than 300 references to the fear of the Lord in the Bible. The two most important themes that occur throughout the whole Bible is firstly, the grace of God and secondly, the fear of God. It is like a train running on two tracks, grace and the fear of God. When we think about grace, we also think about subjects relating to grace such as, the love of God, God’s favor and God’s goodness.
If we keep a good balance between the grace of God, and the fear of God we put ourselves in a position to experience the blessings of God. Jim Backer, a famous Christian television producer was thrown in jail because of financial compromise in his business. When someone asked him why he did these things he said, “my problem was not that I did not love God, but my problem was that I did not fear Him.
We have the example of King Davidwhen he tried to bring the Ark of the Lord back to Jerusalem. You know what happened, Uzzah touched the Ark, and God killed him. We read, “And David was afraid of the LORD that day, and said, How shall the ark of the LORD come to me?” (2 Samuel 6:9-10) David always loved the Lord, but he needed learn about the fear of the Lord before he could bring the ark back to Jerusalem. In the same way, in order to reach our spiritual goals, we must not only love God, but we must also fear Him. The ark also speaks of the glory and the presence of God. Therefore, this is also important if we want to experience God’s presence.
In the New Testament we read. “…and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.”(Acts 9:31) The comfort of the Holy Spirit is about experiencing the love and the grace of God. However, when they also feared the Lord, “the church was multiplied!” There was fruitfulness in their ministry and they could achieve their goals.
What is the Fear of the Lord?
In the New Testament, the Greek word in most cases is the word “phobos” which means fear, to be reverend, respectful, to show honor and respect etc. For example, in we read that we must serve the Lord “with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12) To the unbeliever or backslider, the fear of the Lord means: To fear, to be frightened, to be terrified and to be afraid that God will judge and punish him. Jesus said, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.(Matthew 10:28)
However, to the believer and those who want to follow Jesus, the fear of the Lord means, reverence, to show respect, to be careful and to stand in awe. It is not a fear of punishment or hell because Jesus carried our punishment on the cross and gave us the gift of eternal life. However, it is the fear that we can lose God’s favor, His blessing and calling. Furthermore, is also a fear that we can jeopardize our eternal rewards. Moses said in Exodus, “Do not fear (be frightened); for God has come to test you, and that His fear ( reverence, fear) may be before you, so that you may not sin.” (Exodus 20:20)
How do we know that we are living in the fear of the Lord?
Firstly we will be serious about holiness.The Bible says “Perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 7:1) To do this means that we will not hide our sins and failures, but we will be quick to repent and acknowledge our sins before God. We will also be careful never to grieve and quench the Holy Spirit.
Secondly, we will be serious about obedience: Obedience is a manifestation of the fear of the Lord. We have the example of Abraham when God appeared to him and told him to offer up his son Isaac. We know what happened! As he was about to kill his son, the angel stopped him and said, “for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” (Genesis 22:12) God knows that we fear Him when we obey Him. Those that fear the Lord will be quick to obey His word. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commands.” (John 14:15)
In Proverbs we read, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil, pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate.” (Proverbs 8:13) We love what God loves and we hate what He hates. He hates pride and He hates it when we speak evil words. He also hates conflict, bitterness, rebellion, etc. He loves obedience, forgiveness, generosity and when we tell others about Jesus. We read in Isaiah, “But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word.” (Isaiah 66:2) If we fear the Lord we will regard the Bible as the word of God, as if God Himself is speaking to us. We will take every word that we read seriously.
Thirdly, we will show respect to God when we are in His presence: It does not mean that we cannot enjoy His presence and make a noise, but in our hearts we show Him great respect. We will be focused on Him and not distracted with other things. In Psalms read, “Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.” (Psalm 2:11) Even when we praise and rejoice, we realize that we are standing before a mighty and holy God.
A very important verse says,“God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, And to be held in reverence by all those who are around Him.” We must not only love Him, but fear Him. If we read further, it says, “and to be held in reverence by all those who are around Him.”(Psalm 89:7) Those that want to be around Him, those that want to draw close to God must hold Him in reverence. God wants to draw near to us, but there is a condition, He will only do so if we show Him reverence!
In Leviticus we read how Nadab and Abihu died in the presence of God because they offered “profane fire”. The word profane means “lack of reverence.” Moses explains why this happened. “This is what the LORD spoke, saying: ‘By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified.’ “So Aaron held his peace.” (Leviticus 10:3) This not only happened in the Old Testament, but also in Acts chapter five to Ananias and Sapphira!
Solomon gave us this important advice “Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they do evil. Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; Therefore, let your words be few.” (Ecclesiastes 5:1-2) When we worship, pray or spend time with God, we must show Him the deepest respect.
There are two things that will motivate us, or help us live in the fear of the Lord.
Firstly, we must have a correct perspective of eternity: Although we are saved by faith in Jesus, we will be rewarded in eternity according to our works. What we do on earth will affect us for the whole of eternity. For the Born-again believer, the issue is not where he will spend eternity, but how he will spend eternity!
There are many scriptures that speak about the judgment seat of Christ and that we will be judged according to our works. We read in Romans, “We must all appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ … So then each of us shall give an account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:10,12) This will be the most important event in our lives. Notice it says “we all”! That includes you and me!
We also read in the Corinthians, “For we must allappear before the judgment seat of Christ, that eachone may receive the things donein the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terrorof the Lord, we persuade men...” (2 Corinthians 5:10-11) When we realize that our actions on earth will affect our eternal existence, we will be motivated to live in the fear of the Lord. Therefore, if we live in the fear of the Lord, we will live with purpose and use every opportunity to make an eternal investment. Peter gave us this serious warning when he wrote:“And as you call upon the Father, who without partiality judges each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout your time of sojourning here with fear;” (1 Peter 1:17)
Secondly, we must be aware that God knows everything and sees everything: The Bible says, “… there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things arenaked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must giveaccount.” (Hebrews 4:13) God knows all our thoughts, sees everything we do and hears everything that we say. For example, if we traveling on a road and we are aware that a traffic policeman is watching us, we will be careful how we drive! In the same way, God is watching everything we do. He sees us in public, in private and knows all the thoughts that we think! Someone is watching us!
When we are aware that everything we do and think is shown on a big screen in God’s heavenly office, we will be very careful how we live. We read about this in Psalms, “The Lord is in His holy temple, The Lord’s throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men.“(Psalms 11:4) If we know that God knows everything, and we cannot hide anything from Him, we will know that it is important that we confess our sins and repent. In the book of Acts, we read how Ananias and Sapphira thought that they could hide things from God. They tried to impress people and lied to the Holy Spirit and died. They did not realize that God was watching them! We read further that“… great fear came upon all the church…. and believers were increasingly added to the Lord.” (Acts 5:11&14) There was a revival because the Christians feared the Lord.
God listens to all the words that we speak, Jesus said, “… that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.” (Matthew 12:36) He not only hears our words, but He knows our thoughts and motives. The Bible says that, “… God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.” (Romans 2:16)Therefore God will not only judge our deeds, but also our thoughts and motives.
This also has a positive side, in Malachiwe read, “Then those who feared the Lord spoke (often) to one another, and the Lord listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who meditate (or think) on His name.” (Malachi 3:16) Every time we turn our hearts towards God in love and commitment, it will be remembered in eternity. If we live under the fear of the Lord, we will live with the awareness that God is watching us!
To finish off this study, we need to look at the results and benefits of the fear of the Lord. In Isaiah,we read that the “fear of the Lord is His treasure.” (Isaiah 33:6) When we live in the fear of the Lord we will discover that God has wonderful things prepared for us. It is like opening a treasure chest. The Bible says that “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)
Let us look at some amazing scriptures:
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”(Proverbs 1:7) Wisdom will give us the ability to make the right decisions and know the will of God. When we live under the fear of the Lord, we will make good choices and be successful in our lives.
“Who is the man that fears the LORD? Him shall He teach in the way He chooses. He himself shall dwell inprosperity, And his descendants shall inheritthe earth.” (Psalm 25:12 -13) God not only teaches and instructs those who live under the fear of the Lord, but their lives will be prosperous on the earth!
“The secret of the LORD is with those who fear Him, and He will show them His covenant.” We can also read this verse like this: “The secret (intimate, sweet satisfying companionship) is with those who fear (worship and show Him reverence). He will show him His covenant.”(Psalm 25:14) Our hunger for God and our fear of God takes us all the way into His presence.
“Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, And strength to your bones.” (Proverbs 3:7-8) The fear of the Lord will even affect our health.
“In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence.” (Proverbs 14:26)The fear of the Lord gives us boldness. It will deliver us from all other ungodly forms of fear. When we fear the Lord, we will have also boldness to tell others about Jesus.
“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) What a wonderful promise! Jesus said the He has come to give us life and life abundantly. “He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry and save them.”(Psalm 145:19) “The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, In those who hope in His mercy.” (Psalm 147:11) There are so many more wonderful promises to those who live under the fear of the Lord.
Finallywe can “chose the fear of the Lord.” (Proverbs 1:29) As Christians we can make a choice to fear the Lord, for”The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 1:7)