Fear the Lord


continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, (Philippians 2:12)

God the Father and the Sinner. Ladislav Záborský, 2007.

God the Father and the Sinner. Ladislav Záborský, 2007.

The Bible uses the word fear at least 300 times in reference to God. Today, fear usually refers to an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat. And it is used this way in the Bible as well.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)

But there are two sides of fear in the Bible. Yes, there is fear displayed as cowering in dread and terror in anticipation of displeasure. But there is also fear based on awe, reverence, and obedience.

Dr. David Jones in his audio lecture on Christian ethics describes fear of the Lord as reverent submission motivated by love. Love is key. It is love as it might be offered to a parent by a child because the little one knows that all needs will be met and life is safe from harm.

Eugene Merrill, a distinguished professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, assures us that “fear of God lies at the heart of successful living in the world. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, a fear equated with the ‘knowledge of the Holy One’”.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise. (Psalm 111:10)

“To fear God,” continues Professor Merrill, “is to know him and to know him is to fear him. Such healthy fear enables one to praise God.”

He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.” (Revelation 14:7)

Reverent submission that motivates us to obey him — fear of the Lord — allows us to enjoy his benefits and blessings.

But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children — with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts. (Psalm 103:17-18)

Steadfast obedience that is motivated by love — fear of the Lord — is to rest in peace and security.

They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.  Their hearts are secure; they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes. (Psalm 112:7-8)

Fear that allows us to warm ourselves in his peace and security, offers, in the long run, a satisfying life.

The fear of the Lord adds length to life, but the years of the wicked are cut short. (Proverbs 10:27).

Praise our Lord, and fear him as a child towards a loving parent.