Some people think that having no fear is the height of character or enlightenment. But is it really? Or is that more of a tool of the devil that is elevating fearlessness as a pride-filled idol? Yes, we read of times that a heavenly messenger comes to humans and tells them to “fear not”. But we also read frequently in Scripture of this thing called “the fear of the LORD”. How are we to understand that and hold the two in tension? If the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him (Psalm 33:18-19) then I want to fear Him! If the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom then I want to fear Him! There is also plenty of New Testament directive to fear the Lord to (i.e. 1 Peter 2:17-Fear God).
How should we define the Fear of the Lord? The best definition that I recently came across is: “a right understanding of God, a right attitude toward God, followed by right actions to match“. In order to fear God, we must first gain a proper understanding of who He is. The only place to find that is through His revelation of Himself-the Bible. If we try and build a portrait of God based on general spirituality or popular opinion, then we will create a God made in our own image. God will look and act like us. Instead, if we learn who God is through the whole counsel of Scripture then we will end up with a fear of the Lord. In the Bible we are taught not only that God is our Father, but that He is also King and Judge, among other things.
Possessing a right understanding of God will lead to a right attitude towards God. A right attitude towards God means approaching our relationship with him in an appropriate way. It means I will come to him with love because God is my Father. It means I will live in a posture of reliance upon Him because God is my Provider. It means I will relate to God in humility because God is holy and I am unworthy. It means I will relate to God with healthy fear/dread because God is Judge. All of those angles working together would mean I am respecting God for who He is, thus “fearing” God.
And finally, the fear of God includes right actions that flow out of our right attitude and right understanding. An illustration of this can come from the life of Abraham. After his willingness to sacrifice his child of promise, Isaac, the angel of the LORD calls to Abraham and says, “now I know that you fear God”(Gen.22:12). Do your actions, choices, and behaviour reveal that you fear God? We can claim to fear the Lord, but if our actions aren’t an outflow of obedience in response to his commands, than we are lying. May you grow in the knowledge and fear of the LORD as you navigate 2016. Amen.