Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Fear of the Lord (Proverbs 10:27; 14:26; 15:16)

"The fear of the LORD prolongs days but the years of the wicked will be shortened" (Prov. 10:27).

The fear of the Lord is a recurring theme not only in the book of Proverbs but throughout the Bible, Old and New Testaments alike. While no one can deny the repeated commands to fear the Lord in Scripture, people in the church generally do not like to talk about them. Many Christians speak of such passages with embarrassment or apology, if they speak of them at all.

In earlier times, it was not uncommon to hear a Christian described as one who is a God-fearing man or woman. Such a description is rarely heard today. Let it come as a sober warning when a particular word or phrase that has graced humanity for centuries is suddenly erased or twisted by modern culture. The passing or twisting of a word often denotes a passing of the attitude or behavior that goes with it.

What, then, does fearing the Lord mean? Some say it simply means reverence or respect of God. Others say it only means to be afraid or frightened of Him. Actually, the word means both of these things. Let us look at the proverb before us. The word used here is the Hebrew word yir’ah. This is the same word used in Deuteronomy 2 when God made Israel victorious over their enemies—He said, “This very day I will begin to put the terror and fear of you on all the nations under heaven” (v. 25). Yir’ah used here has a sense of both dread and reverence. The same word is used in describing the fear possessed by the Messiah in Isaiah 11:2: “He will delight in the fear of the LORD.” Jesus Christ feared God. If we are to be conformed to His image, we too must fear God.

For those who would leave this in the Old Testament and think that New Testament believers do not need to fear the Lord, turn to 1 Peter 2:17. Here Christians are commanded to “fear God.” The Greek word here is phobeo, which, like yir’ah, denotes dread and reverence, true fear and awesome respect. Our God is a mighty God, He is the “Fear of Isaac” (Gen. 31:42, 53b). We are not to live under a crippling fear that is not accompanied by love, but we are to delight in and fear the Lord. The two are not in contradiction. Proper fear of God is attended by humility before Him, submission to Him, and love for Him.

Read Psalm 103 and the verses below. What promises does God make to those who fear Him? What is the difference between a crippling fear and a proper fear of the Lord? Do you err by not fearing God at all or by fearing Him in a way that paralyzes you? Ask God to give you a proper fear of Him that you may be wise.