People in this world fear many things. Some fear water; some fear fire; others fear flying; and some others fear certain creatures and insects. These are different phobias (from the Greek word phobos means fear) in life. However, there is one fear that is essential for every person on this planet earth, that is, the fear of God. King Solomon, the author of Ecclesiastes writes, Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).
What is the Fear of God?
On the negative, the fear of God is not a horrifying feeling or experience of God. (There are religions today portraying their gods in this fashion.) On the positive, the fear of God is described as awesome and reverential. The fear of the Lord is to recognize God for who He is holy, almighty, righteous, pure, all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-wise. This majesty and holiness of God cannot but incite fear in man. Elihu, one of the friends of Job, describes the awesomeness of God, With God is terrible (ie awesome) majesty. Touching the Almighty, we cannot find him out: he is excellent in power, and in judgment, and in plenty of justice: he will not afflict. Men do therefore fear him (Job 37:22-24). The author of Hebrews asks, Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? (Hebrews 12:9). Hence he reminds believers, Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear (Hebrews 12:28). Therefore, it is to be understood that the fear of the Lord does not mean being afraid of God. Rather, it is a reverential trust in God that makes us want to please and obey Him. Moses told to the Israelites, Fear not: for God is come to prove (ie test) you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not (Exodus 20:20).
How Does One Have the Fear of God?
Firstly, by completely surrendering his life to God. One major theme in the Wisdom Literature (especially in Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes) is the fear of the Lord. In Proverbs 1:7 Solomon says, The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction (cf 2:5; 8:13; 9:10; 10:27; 14:26-27; 15:16, 33; 19:23; Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). What is the true knowledge? According to Solomon, it begins with the fear of the Lord. When one fears God, he will get a clear picture of himself, namely, sinful, frail, and needy. When one recognizes who God is and who he is, he will fall at His feet in humble respect and surrender his life to Him. The true knowledge is not actually accumulating the wisdom of this world, and getting puffed up, but rather, understanding one’s own sinful wretchedness and coming to the Lord Jesus Christ with repentance for the salvation of his soul and finding rest in Him. He then lives a life that is pleasing to the Lord Jesus Christ by reading and obeying God’s Holy Word. A man of this understanding will be able to forsake this world and follow Christ. With this knowledge, a person no longer lives for his own passions and desires, but for God with a heavenly perspective. The Apostle Paul realized this truth in his life as he wrote, For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). In another place he wrote, I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20).
Secondly, by keeping close to God in holiness. Holiness is one of the marks of the fear of the Lord. In 2 Corinthians 7:1, the Apostle Paul calls believers, Dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. Solomon says, by the fear of the Lord, one hates evil: pride and arrogance (Proverbs 8:13). One who truly fears God will say no to sin (Exodus 20:20) because he is committed to keep His commandments. Moses instructed Israel, 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 it is at this day. And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the LORD our God, as he hath commanded us (Deuteronomy 6:24-25).
Thirdly, by worshiping and serving God. One who fears God will worship Him with total devotion and serve Him with full consecration. The psalmist says, But as for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy, and in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple (Psalm 5:7). Again the psalmist says, God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him (Psalm 89:7). We are also told to serve the Lord with fear (Psalm 2:11; Hebrews 12:28).
What Are the Benefits of the Fear of God?
The Bible says God’s blessings on those who fear Him are numerous. Satan asked the Lord, Doth Job fear God for naught, and in answering his own question, Satan declared that God had made a hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side (Job 1:9-10). The psalmist says, Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy; To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine (Psalm 33:18-19). Solomon mentions in Proverbs: The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge (1:7); The fear of the LORD prolongeth days (10:27); and In the fear of the LORD is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge. The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death (14:26-27). The psalmist David summarizes the benefits of fearing God in two statements: He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them. The LORD preserveth all them that love him: but all the wicked will he destroy (Psalm 145:19-20), and Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men! (Psalm 31:19).
For a man on earth, there is nothing blessed as fearing the almighty God and surrendering his life to Him to follow and serve Him. The psalmist says, Blessed is the man that feareth the LORD, that delighteth greatly in his commandments. His seed shall be mighty upon earth: the generation of the upright shall be blessed (Psalm 112:1-2). Psalmist again says, But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children; To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them. (Psalm 103:17-18). With the fear of the Lord comes strong confidence, confidence of God’s abiding presence and help in times of dire distress and need. His life will be under the care and guidance of the sovereign God, the Creator of the heaven and earth. Hence the psalmist calls, Ye that fear the LORD, trust in the LORD: he is their help and their shield. The LORD hath been mindful of us: he will bless us; he will bless the house of Israel; he will bless the house of Aaron. He will bless them that fear the LORD, both small and great (Psalm 115:11-13). God has a desire for His dear children, and He has communicated it through His faithful servant Moses, O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever! (Deuteronomy 5:29). Will we be able to say “Amen!” to this divine call? May the LORD help us!
We Have Not Known Thee as We Ought
We have not known thee as we ought,
Not learned thy wisdom, grace, and power;
The things of earth have filled our thought,
And trifles of the passing hour.
Lord, give us light thy truth to see,
And make us wise in knowing thee.
We have not feared thee as we ought,
Not bowed beneath thine awful eye,
Not guarded deed, and word, and thought,
Remembering that God was nigh.
Lord, give us faith to know thee near,
And grant the grace of holy fear.
We have not loved thee as we ought,
Nor cared that we are loved by thee;
Thy presence we have coldly sought,
And feebly longed thy face to see.
Lord, give a pure and loving heart,
To feel and own the love thou art.
When shall we know thee as we ought,
And fear, and love, and serve aright!
When shall we, out of trial brought,
Be perfect in the land of light!
Lord, may we day by day prepare,
To see thy face, and serve thee there. Amen.