For many people this word can be terrifying to think about since fear is something that occurs in every person’s life in one form or another. Fear does not care if you are rich or poor, man or woman, old or young. Wayne Mack says, “Fear will prevent you from doing things you normally would do, and cause you to do things you normally wouldn’t do.” Fear has been known to paralyze even the greatest of men.
It can be categorized into three main fears. There is a natural fear; this type of fear is not sinful. In fact, it can be a healthy fear; the kind that tells you to brace yourself when you’re about to be in a car accident, or stomp on the nasty spider that just crawled out from under your bed. Proverbs 22:3 describes this kind of fear when it says, “The prudent sees the evil and hides himself, but the naïve go on and are punished for it.”
The second kind of fear is sinful fear. Mack says in his book, The Fear Factor, “Fear can either stop you from doing the right thing, or it can cause you to do the wrong thing.” Sinful fear can not only keep you FROM obeying God, but it can also cause you to disobey God. It was this kind of paralyzing fear that crippled Moses from ever being fully used by God (Exodus 3; 4:14). Nehemiah faced this fear head on when presented with Sanballat’s ominous letter. (Nehemiah 6:11-13) This type of fear caused Abraham to lie about his wife, Sarah, and say that she was his sister for fear that his life would be in danger. (Genesis 12:10-20) When this type of fear creeps into our lives, we tend to lie, cheat, steal, hide, and make excuses. It is the kind of fear that flows out of an unbelief in who God is and what He has said, and it is sinful.
The third type of fear is a holy fear. It is the fear most talked about in Scripture. Peter admonishes this type of fear when he says, “If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth.” There are good and logical reasons why we should have this type of fear governing our lives. Scripture is loaded with passages that speak of this kind of holy fear, and I mean loaded!
1. The Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. (Proverbs 1:7, 2:5, 9:10, 15:33; Psalms 111:10)
Proverbs 2:5 says, “Then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”
Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”
Psalms 111:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!”
So what he’s saying is…The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Sensing a theme throughout Psalms and Proverbs…if you want to be wise, then fear God. If you want to be able to make wise choices and discern what the right thing to do is, you must begin to fear God. It’s pretty plain and simple, like any basic math equation: You + the fear of the Lord = Wisdom.
2. Fearing the Lord is a command of God. (Deut. 6:13, 24, 10:12-13, 20, 13:4; 1 Chron. 16:24-26; Eccl. 3:14, 5:7, 12:13; Ps. 33:8, 47:2; 1 Peter 2:17)
Deuteronomy 6:24 says, “And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day.”
Psalm 47:2 says, “For the Lord, the Most High, is to be feared, a great king over all the earth.”
Ecclesiastes 12:13 says, “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”
Over and over again, it is emphasized that fearing God is something that is required of us. I especially love King Solomon’s summation of life in Ecclesiastes 12:13 – We ARE to fear God; that is our only job, “the whole duty of man.” He is worthy of our fear. He is deserving of our fear. And He has every right to require our fear. In fact, sooner or later, we all WILL fear God. (Romans 14:11) Whether in this life or the next, the fact is all will fear God. Our choice is when. Will you fear God now while you can still enjoy the benefits he has for those who fear Him, or will you fear God later after it’s too late? When will you chose to fear God?
3. The Fear of God is linked to obedience. (Deut 10:12-13, 20, 13:4; Ps 112:1, 128:1)
Deuteronomy 10:12-13 says, “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good?”
Psalm 112:1 says, “Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments!”
Psalm 128:1 says, “Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways!”
When looking up all of the verses on fearing God, I noticed that very often fearing God was followed by obeying God. Obedience is an outpouring of the governing work that fearing God will have in your life. In other words, you will serve that which you fear. What you fear is what you will obey. Look at your life then and evaluate: What do you obey? What are you following? Whose commands are you keeping? Yours? God’s? The World’s? Or maybe Satan’s? Who are you serving with your fear?
4. The Fear of God keeps me from sin. (Lev. 25:17-18; 2 Chron. 19:7; Neh. 5:15; Job 1:1; Pr. 3:7, 8:13, 14:2, 16:6; 2 Cor. 7:1)
Proverbs 3:7 says, “Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil”
Proverbs 8:13 says, “The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil.”
Proverbs 16:6 says, “By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil.”
Fearing God and living in sin are polar opposites. You can’t do both at the same time, just like you can’t get on the northbound highway by turning onto the southbound lane. You can’t make a sugar-free dessert by adding a pound of sugar to the recipe. You can’t turn a light on if you want the room to be pitch-black. And you can’t fear God and continue in sin. It just doesn’t work that way. If you sin, it is because you did not fear God, and if you fear God, it will keep you from sin.
5. Fearing the Lord adds character and a reputation that is good. (Nehemiah 7:2; Job 1:1, 8, 2:3; Acts 10:2)
Looking at the lives of Nehemiah, Job, and Cornelius, all of these men were noted for having strong and noble characters and for their fear of God. Their reputations preceded them, and they were good because each of them chose to fear God. Fearing God affected their character. How about you? Are you known for fearing God? What is the reputation that is preceding you?
6. The Fear of God brings many blessings. (Pr. 3:7-8, 15:16, 22:4, 31:30; Ps. 19:8-10, 22:23, 25:12, 14, 34:9, 66:16, 67:6, 7, 103: 13, 17, 118:4, 128, 147:11; Eccl. 8:12; 2 Cor. 2:11)
It brings healing and refreshment to your body – Proverbs 3:8. Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it – Proverbs 15:16. It brings riches and honor and life – Proverbs 22:4. You have the guidance of God Himself – Psalm 25:12! You have a friendship with God Himself, and He reveals His Word to you – Psalm 25:14! You won’t lack anything – Psalm 34:9. You receive the compassion of a Father – Psalm 103:13, 17. The list goes on…over and over again, promises are received by those who fear the Lord. Blessings are poured out on those who govern their lives in the fear of God.
7. The Fear of God gives LIFE. (Pr. 10:27, 14:27, 19:23)
Proverbs 10:27 says, “The fear of the Lord prolongs life, but the years of the wicked will be short.”
Proverbs 14:27 says, “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.”
Proverbs 19:23 says, “The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm.”
Life. Actual LIFE is given to those who fear God. Not just a fuller life, or a happier, healthier life (although those are benefits to fearing God). No, here Proverbs is actually talking about a longer life. You will have more days added to your life when you live it fearing the Lord. If that’s not a motivation, I don’t know what is.
8. The Fear of God protects us. (2 Kings 17:39; Job 4:6; Ps. 27:1, 33:18, 34:7, 115:11; Pr. 14:26)
2 Kings 17:39 says, “But you shall fear the Lord your God, and he will deliver you out of the hand of all your enemies.”
Psalm 33:18 says, “Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love,”
Psalm 34:7 says, “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.”
Psalm 115:11 says, “You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield.”
Proverbs 14:26 says, “In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.”
There is confidence in the fear of the Lord. He is your shield. He delivers you. When you fear Him, He becomes your refuge and encamps around you like a hedge of protection. There is a peace that comes in knowing that you are protected by the very hand of God. When it comes to obedience, the consequences of your obedience to God are handled by God; you are under HIS protection, and there is no safer place to be.
9. There are also dire consequences for not fearing the Lord. (Deut. 28:58-59; Ps. 36:1-3, 55:18-20; Rom 3)
Lest you think fearing God is just a suggestion or a good idea you should merely consider, read about the consequences that await the person who chooses not to fear God:
Deuteronomy 28:58-59 says, “If you are not careful to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that you may fear this glorious and awesome name, the Lord your God, then the Lord will bring on you and your offspring extraordinary afflictions, afflictions severe and lasting, and sicknesses grievous and lasting.”
Psalm 36:1-3 says, “Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated. The words of his mouth are trouble and deceit; he has ceased to act wisely and do good.”
10. The Fear of God is learned. (Deut 8:5, 6, 14:23, 31:12, 13; Ps. 34:11, 86:11; Pr. 1:29)
Deuteronomy 8:5, 6 says, “Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you. So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him.”
Deuteronomy 31:12 says, “Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law,”
Psalm 34:11 says, “Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.”
These truths bring great comfort to me because they emphasize the hope I have to learn the fear of God. I am not perfect, and I haven’t arrived. But this one thing I know: I press on. I learn. I choose. I grow in the fear of God and He changes me day by day. And may Psalm 86:11 be the prayer of your heart and mine: “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.”
It’s a phenomenal thing. Applied to the right focus, it brings life, health, happiness, and wisdom. But what if it’s applied to the wrong focus? What happens then?