Throughout the Old Testament we find a frequent command given to the people of God; “fear God” or “fear the Lord.” As followers of Jesus it is important for us to know what “the fear of the Lord” means to us. As we truly fear the Lord we will find that we will be delivered from every other kind of fear.
These are the commands, decrees, and regulations that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you. You must obey them in the land you are about to enter and occupy, and you and your children and grandchildren must fear the Lord your God as long as you live. If you obey all his decrees and commands, you will enjoy a long life. (Deuteronomy 6:1-2)
What does it mean to “fear the Lord”?
The biblical command to “fear the Lord” will enter into many different areas of our lives. Foundational to our “fear of the Lord” is our sincere realization that God is absolutely holy, absolutely just and absolutely righteous in the same way that “God is love” (1 John 4:8) and that His mercy is from everlasting to everlasting (Psalm 103:17). When we know Him and understand who He is we understand that because He is holy it is His very nature that causes Him to judge sin.
We fear the Lord when we feel holy awe and reverence because of His glory, greatness, power and majesty. As believers in Christ it is both the love of God and the fear of the Lord that causes us to place our faith in Him alone for salvation. It is this fear of the Lord that produces in our hearts a confident hope and trust in Jesus. It is our realization of the greatness of God that causes us to humble ourselves, repent of our sins and receive the forgiveness, love and mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ.
As we fear the Lord we understand that the holiness of God demands judgment for sin. Throughout the Old and New Testaments we read of the penalties for sin for those who do not repent. The blood of Jesus Christ was payment for all of our sins. Our condemnation will be found if we refuse to believe.
There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. (John 3:18-19)
It was the holiness of God that demanded a sacrifice for sins. It was the love of God that caused Jesus Christ to offer Himself as that sacrifice so that He may take away the sins of the world. It is a fearful thing to consider ourselves before the throne of God without the blood of Jesus Christ. The New Testament drives this point home very clearly.
It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:31)
I am a believer in Christ. Why should I fear the Lord?
The fear of the Lord goes beyond doctrine; it directly applies to our daily lives in many different ways.
If we truly fear the Lord, we will live a life of obedience to His commands and say “No” to sin. One of the reasons that God inspired fear among the Israelites at Mount Sinai was so that they would turn away from sin and obey His law.
“Don’t be afraid,” Moses answered them, “for God has come in this way to test you, and so that your fear of him will keep you from sinning!” (Exodus 20:20)
The overwhelming awesomeness of the presence of God was revealed to the nation of Israel at Mount Sinai. God had not come to make them afraid but to reveal His greatness and His holiness. Our understanding of how awesome and powerful the God we serve is should inspire a holy fear. His willingness to adopt us into His family, forgive us of our sins and fill us with His Spirit should provide a fear in our lives that keeps us in our relationship with God.
This fear of the Lord is not a fear of judgment, nor is it a fear of His anger. The believers’ fear of the Lord is founded upon the awesomeness of grace. God, who formed the universe, hung on a cross for our sins; when my brain tries to comprehend the greatness of this act I am filled with holy fear. The enormity of God’s love for us is so far beyond our ability to comprehend it that it produces in us the fear of the Lord.
For those of you who have not read it, please pick up a copy of John Bevere’s “The Fear of the Lord: Discover the Key to Intimately Knowing God”. John spends over 200 pages on this subject and the revelation of the fear of the Lord will cause your love for God and relationship with Him to grow. I recommend it highly.
Here are some famous Old Testament scriptures on the fear of the Lord:
Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment. (Proverbs 9:10)
And this is what he says to all humanity: ‘The fear of the Lord is true wisdom; to forsake evil is real understanding.’ (Job 28:28)
Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. (Proverbs 1:7)
Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom. (Psalm 111:10)
Here are some famous New Testament scriptures on the fear of the Lord:
Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. (Philippians 2:12-13)
That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:8-12)
But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” The disciples were terrified and fell face down on the ground. Then Jesus came over and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” (Matthew 17:5-7)
The King James Version of Philippians 2:12 states, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”. The Apostle Paul, whose message of grace and faith still has room for fear and trembling. This holy fear and awe is not a destructive fear, but a redeeming fear that leads us to God and not away from Him. This fear of the Lord is not based on terror but on the awesomeness of God. It is the fear of the Lord that leads us to a morally pure life. It is the fear of the Lord that causes us to draw close to Him and as we draw close to Him we are overwhelmed by His nearness, His blessing and His salvation.
God is so much greater than our imaginations and so much greater than our physical faculties can comprehend. The perfection of God, the holiness of God, the nature of God, the love of God and the grace of God when considered should produce in us a reverential fear that causes us to truly bow in humility at what we are offered when scripture says, “And anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment.” (John 3:36)
Jesus is our connection to the Father and we have no other way of getting to Him. It is this gift of salvation; it is this gift of grace that causes us to fear the Lord.
Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)