What Does It Mean to Fear the Lord?

Posted by on 05/14/2018 in:

What Does It Mean to Fear the Lord?

“These are the commands, the decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life.” — Deuteronomy 6:1-2 

A frequent command given to God’s people in the OT is to “fear God” or “fear the Lord.” It is important that we understand what this command means for Christ’s followers today. Only as we truly fear the Lord will we be freed from all destructive and satanic fears. By fearing God, we can avoid being trapped by the natural pull toward going our own way, defying God and giving in to the inviting ways of immoral behavior.

What does it MEAN to FEAR God? The broad command to “fear the Lord” involves understanding several things about a believer’s relationship with God.

ONE: GOD IS LOVING & JUST

First of all, we must recognize that God is loving, merciful and forgiving; but he also is holy, just and righteous. Knowing God and understanding his character (cf. Pr 2:5) means accepting the fact that his justice and holiness (i.e., purity, perfection, completeness of character and separation from evil) cause him to judge sin.

TWO: FEAR CAN PRODUCE AWE

Fearing the Lord means to be in awe of his holiness, to give him complete reverence and to honor him as the God of great glory, majesty, purity and power. For example, when God revealed himself to the Israelites at Mount Sinai through “thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast,” they all “trembled” in fear (Ex 19:16) because of his great power. They even begged Moses to deliver God’s message to them so they would not have to encounter God himself (Ex 20:18-19; Dt 5:22-27). Also, when the psalm writer reflects on God as Creator, he says: “Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere him. For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm” (Ps 33:8-9).

THREE: FEAR CAN PRODUCE FAITH

True fear of the Lord causes believers to place their faith and trust in him alone for salvation. For example, after the Israelites crossed through the Red Sea on dry ground and saw how God destroyed the Egyptian army who came after them, they “feared the Lord and put their trust in him” (see Ex 14:31, note). The psalm writer encourages all who fear the Lord to “trust in the Lord–he is their help and shield” (Ps 115:11). In other words, fearing God produces confidence, hope and trust in him, which are necessary when we are looking to God for mercy, forgiveness (Lk 1:50; cf. Ps 103:11; 130:4) and spiritual salvation (Ps 85:9).

FOUR: GOD IS ANGRY ABOUT SIN

Finally, to fear God involves recognizing that he is angry about sin and has the power to punish those who stand arrogantly against him and break his laws (cf. Ps 76:7-8). When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, they were afraid and tried to hide from God’s presence (Ge 3:8-10). Moses experienced this aspect of the fear of God when he spent forty days and nights praying for the sinful Israelites: “I feared the anger and wrath of the Lord, for he was angry enough with you to destroy you” (Dt 9:19). In the NT, the author of the letter to the Hebrews acknowledges God’s coming vengeance and judgment, and then writes: “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10:31).

WHY FEAR GOD?

The reasons for fearing God are found in the meaning of the “fear of the Lord,” as described above.

  • We should fear him because of his matchless power as the Creator of all things and all people (Ps 33:6-9; 96:4-5; Jnh 1:9).
  • In addition, the amazing power that he continues to exercise over his creation–including humankind–is cause for fearing God (Ex 20:18-20; Ecc 3:14; Jnh 1:11-16; Mk 4:39-41).
  • When we truly realize God’s holiness (i.e., his purity, perfection and separation from evil), the normal response of the human spirit is to fear him (Rev 15:4).
  • Anyone who sees or experiences a manifestation (i.e., a visible or physical sign or demonstration) of God’s glory cannot help but become afraid (Mt 17:1-8).
  • The continual blessings we receive from God, especially the forgiveness of our sins (Ps 130:4), should lead us to fear and love him (1Sa 12:24; Ps 34:9; 67:7).
  • Above all, the fact that the Lord is a God of justice who will judge the entire human race should be reason enough to produce a godly fear (Dt 17:12-13; Isa 59:18-19; Mal 3:5; Heb 10:26-31). It is a sobering and absolute truth that God is constantly aware of our actions and motives, both good and bad, and that we will be held accountable for those actions, both now and on the day of our personal judgment.

How will fearing God affect our lives? The fear of the Lord is far more than a Biblical teaching, principle or idea. It is relevant to our daily lives in many ways. Here are 6 to get started:

1. WE BECOME OBEDIENT

First, if we truly fear the Lord, we will obey his commands, live according to his Word and say “No” to sin. One reason why God inspired fear in the Israelites at Mount Sinai was so that they might learn to avoid and reject sin and to obey his law (Ex 20:20). In his final address to the Israelites, Moses repeatedly connected fearing God to serving and obeying him (e.g., Dt 5:29; 6:2, 24; 8:6; 10:12; 13:4; 17:19; 31:12).

According to the psalm writer, fearing God is equal to delighting in his commands (Ps 112:1) and following the principles of his law (Ps 119:63).

Solomon taught that “through the fear of the Lord a man avoids evil” (Pr 16:6; cf. 8:13). In Ecclesiastes, the whole duty of the human race is summarized by two simple requirements: “Fear God and keep his commandments” (Ecc 12:13). On the contrary, anyone who is content to live wickedly or defy God does so because “there is no fear of God before his eyes” (Ps 36:1-4).

2. WE TEACH OUR CHILDREN

Not only should the fear of the Lord affect individual lives, but it should also affect families. God instructs his followers to teach their children to fear him by training them to hate sin and to love God’s commands (Dt 4:10; 6:1-2, 6-9). The Bible often states that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps 111:10; Pr 9:10; cf. Job 28:28; Pr 1:7). A Christian’s basic goal for his or her children should be that they learn to live by God’s principles of wisdom (Pr 1:1-6). Teaching them to fear the Lord is a critical first step.

3. WE GROW IN SANCTIFICATION

The fear of the Lord has a sanctifying (i.e., purifying, separating from sin, spiritually maturing) effect on God’s people, just as applying the truth of God’s Word does (Jn 17:17). It compels us to hate sin and avoid evil (Pr 3:7; 8:13; 16:6). It causes us to be careful in what we say (Pr 10:19; Ecc 5:2, 6-7). It protects us from weakening our consciences and our moral sensitivity toward what is right. The fear of the Lord has a spiritually cleansing, purifying and restoring effect that can last forever (Ps 19:9).

4. WE WORSHIP WHOLE-HEARTEDLY

The holy and reverent fear of the Lord motivates God’s people to worship him with their whole being. People who truly fear God will praise and honor him as Lord of all (Ps 22:23). David said that a worshiping congregation is the same as “those who fear” God (Ps 22:25). At the end of history, when the angel who proclaims the eternal gospel–the “good news” about Jesus Christ–calls everyone on earth to fear God, he immediately adds, “and give him glory … Worship him who made the heavens, and earth, the sea and the springs of water” (Rev 14:6-7).

5. THERE IS A PROMISED REWARD

God has promised to reward all those who fear him. “Humility and the fear of the Lord bring wealth and honor and life” (Pr 22:4). Other promised rewards include security and protection from death (Pr 14:26-27), provisions for daily needs (Ps 34:9; 111:5) and a long life (Pr 10:27). Those who live in reverent awe of God know that “it will go better with God-fearing men,” regardless of what happens in the world around them (Ecc 8:12-13).

6. WE GAIN A HUMBLE CONFIDENCE

Finally, fearing God brings a humble confidence and overwhelming spiritual comfort. The NT directly links the fear of the Lord with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit (Ac 9:31). Those who do not fear God will have little or no sense of his presence and protection (see Dt 1:26, note). However, those who fear God and obey his Word will experience a deep sense of spiritual security and the anointing (i.e., empowering) of the Holy Spirit. They can be sure that God ultimately will “deliver them from death” (Ps 33:18-19).

FIRE BIBLE STUDY NOTES

This blog is adapted from the Fire Bible Study Notes. Learn more about this resource and watch how it works in the Olive Tree Bible App by visiting our website.

25 Comments

  • Can someone please make sure that when you refer to God, the letter “G” is capitalized? See the 1st sentence in paragraph before #1.WE BECOME OBEDIENT.”

    • Brian B says:

      HE should be capitalized also. It is written many times here as he. Emphasis needs to be added that the writer is talking about GOD (HE) not he!

  • REV.LARRY D. VILLA says:

    I am so much blessed and increasing my faith every time I read the blog of OLIVE TREE.
    Pls.continue doing it,for sure,by the grace of God plenty/all will be tremendously bless by God.

  • Emil says:

    Thank you, more of us need to sincerely fear God

  • sharon says:

    We the body of Christ has lost the fear of the LORD and have missed all of the promises given to us when we fear the LORD. We are reminded to repent and change and allow God to reveal His ways to us.

  • Rachel says:

    Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. I have always cherished that statement, and I truly believe this to be fact. Fear of the Lord is always misinterpreted by individuals with limited understanding of its value. I’m glad Olive Tree break it down and give a very disscriptive meaning on what Fear of the Lord truly mean; and it gives a complete understanding in the Bible as well😸

  • Tui says:

    Thank you! This definitely makes me understand what it means to fear God. Love it. Blessings to you all

  • Paul V says:

    Wonderful article! I think this also clears some misunderstanding the on Hebrew movement as it is about obedience and fear of the Lord. Knowing Christ died for us and we can and should want to be obedient to Him fully. Knowing we are not perfect , failing at times and His grace covering us through our walk with Him.

  • Glen says:

    Cierra: It seems the the word FEAR is always changed or interpreted to mean Awe, Reverence, or Honor; when, in fact, the word is FEAR. It always seems that the interpretive iteration of the world FEAR is watered down instead of interesting the word FEAR as plain old FEAR.

  • Jimbo says:

    Very immature view of our relationship with God. We should be growing from fear to love and when we develop a love relationship with God then maybe we will experience that:

    . . . perfect love cast out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. (1 John 1:18).

    The church will never grow up if it stays stuck in such a perspective of God and life.

  • lee garrett says:

    There are a couple problems with this lesson: fear is not properly defined as reverence and respect, leaving the sense of fear as terror and being afraid. 1 John 4:18 Tree of Life Version (TLV) says “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and the one who fears has not been made perfect in love. ” The goal of God is to perfect us in love through His Son. In such a state, fear has no part except in the sense of awe, reverence, and respect. Under the New Covenant, Romans 8:1-2 makes these points: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Messiah Yeshua. For the law of the Spirit of life in Messiah Yeshua has set you free from the law of sin and death.” Since we are already free of condemnation, we do not need to fear judgement. “Fear” as used in Old Testament verses, was part of honoring God under the Old Covenant (and maybe being a little afraid not to). Such verses no longer apply to those under the Covenant of Grace, outside the Law.

  • Ted says:

    Good afternoon,

    With love and all due respect, I have to disagree with this teaching on fear. You are mixing Law and Grace. I would suggest finding a mentor that is well versed in how to take what you have learned and present your findings through the lens of Jesus Christ. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you apply His Grace to what you have gleaned, and I believe you will win many souls for Christ by doing so.

    Blessings,
    Ted

  • Mary says:

    One of the definitions of “fear” as found on Dictionary.com is this: “reverential awe, especially toward God: the fear of God.
    Synonyms: awe, respect, reverence, veneration.” To stand in fear of God is to stand in the presence of One we know to be perfectly holy, perfect in every way. When I compare myself to Him I see that I fall far short of His perfection and am, therefore, in awe of His holiness and perfection. That one so perfect would choose me to love staggers me. It is clearly a Selah moment to me. Those who do not personally have a knowledge of or relationship with God have reason to fear God (as in terror) because He alone has the power to send to the lake of fire those who have refused to receive his salvation. Does he condemn them? No, they have condemned themselves by their refusal of his salvation, and when they meet Him face to face, this is the fear they will experience.

  • Khelthung jasha says:

    I am blessed with the words, and increasing my faith. Please do continue to send a blessed words of God.

  • Jemima Mo. says:

    Amen and Amen! Couldn’t have said it better myself. The Father has given you understanding through HIS Holy Spirit. Continue to seek, heed and obey and HE in turn will draw to you. Bless you Mary.

  • M says:

    Good point that . . . perfect love cast out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. (1 John 1:18).

    But we shouldn’t discount the article as pointers are still based according to His Words.

  • Christine says:

    Thank you so much for the inciteful article. I do think that often we look to God’s love and mercy and forgiveness but lose sight that His holiness and righteousness are also an integral part of “Him”.

  • Richard says:

    The word hope has similar issues as the word fear. Fortunetly bible context sheds light on the correct meaning even if the common meanings have changed over time.

  • Denise says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this teaching. It taught BOTH sides of the “FEAR” of the Lord. To stand in awe, reverence, and honor of God (His love, mercy and grace) but also to not take Him for granted (His wrath and judgment). If we are careful to remember and apply these two sides, we’ll be well-balanced Christians who are able also to teach others. Blessings and Shalom!

  • MS P says:

    THANK YOU…,AMEN

  • Lisa says:

    I know that as I grew to understand the love of God~ understanding the fear and awe of God grew also. It makes me Love my Savior / my God all the more ♡ because the Gospel of the Son of His love reveals the righteousness of God! You cannot seperate the two. God is all that and more 🙂 God bless! Thank you

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