What does it mean to fear God or fear the Lord? What type of fear is it speaking about?
A little fear is a good thing because that makes us cautious when climbing ladders, using power tools, or driving a car. Fear is what keeps us alive and as long as it isn’t immobilizing, it’s not a problem. There are fears that can grow out of proportion, and tend to lead to a fear of heights, fear of water, and so on, but that’s not what I am referring too. Fear keeps us from hurting ourselves, at least in most cases. It makes us pay attention around a hot stove top, it makes us hesitate if we see brake lights ahead of us, and it might make us run if a neighborhood dog starts chasing us, so not all fear is bad. Fear of paying a speeding ticket makes people slow down (at least some!). Fear of law enforcement keeps robberies from happening more. Handing a gun with respect means we fear what it can do, and whatever we have that might cost us a lot, we tend to take care of it. We fear leaving our car out at night because someone might break into it. We lock our doors at night to keep the thieves out from stealing our possessions, so fear is productive and protective, but it also brings wisdom, and speaking for myself, I am always in need of that.
When we are younger, we seem to have no or at least, little fear of heights, but when we get older, we fear that more because an elderly person can get hurt and may never recuperate. Many such end up in nursing homes, so fear is good, but why does it say we should fear God? There is no wisdom without a fear of God. That fear is a holy, reverential fear and respect for God and His Word. To fear God and His Word is where true wisdom begins, and it’s not the earthly wisdom that mankind offers, but wisdom that comes from above (James 3:17). “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov 1:7), so there can be no godly wisdom without a godly fear of God. That’s why this world is so lost. As it was in Paul’s day, so it is today, that “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Rom 3:18), and without that fear of God, there is no wisdom of God. You don’t need me to tell you that the world needs to wise up and fear God like they did less than a century ago. Not only is it wise, “The fear of the Lord prolongs life” (Prov 10:27a). So what does this fear look like? Solomon says, “Whoever walks in uprightness fears the Lord” (Prov 14:2a), but also “In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge” (Prov 14:26). Are you beginning to see the wisdom of fearing God? It might prolong your life, it might provide you protection, and “fear of the Lord is a fountain of life” (Prov 14:27a). As you can see, there’s a lot of wisdom in fearing God.
What Godly Fear Looks Like
I touched on some of what godly fear looks like and that includes walking uprightly before God, which means keeping His Word, obeying His commands, and living a life that is pleasing to Him. Godly fear is obedience, not a fear of God striking someone dead because they disobeyed. That’s not the fear of the Lord the Bible teaches us about. Fearing God is obeying God, living for God, and witnessing for God. When you obey God and His Word, you are already wise, not just beginning to be. Wisdom is obedience to God’s Word and His Law. Walking in the good works that God has planned for us to do is also fearing God (Eph 2:10), because we know we are to do good to others. Jesus sees that as doing it unto Him (Matt 25:40). Fear seems to be closely associated with obedience, which to me explains the state of this world, because it is only by “the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil” (Prov 16:6). It is obvious the world in general does not fear God, so they don’t turn away from evil; in fact, they choose the evil over the good, so when the world does not obey God, the world cannot acquire godly wisdom. The result (or consequence); there is little or no godly wisdom. That hurts!
James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him,” so first of all ask God, but if there’s no obedience in the person’s life, then that shows they don’t really fear God, and when they don’t really fear God, they cannot have the wisdom of God because “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17). Here’s the worldly fruit or their version of wisdom, which is the exact opposite of what James describes; not pure but polluted; not peaceable but violent; not gentle but rough; not open to reason but close-minded; not full of mercy but merciless; not good fruit but wax fruit; and not impartial but prejudiced and insincere. Whatever wisdom we are talking about, if it’s not from God, it’s from the enemy. Solomon’s advice to us is to, “fear the Lord and the king, and do not join with those who do otherwise” (Prov 24:21). The fear of man is a stumbling block (Prov 29:25), but the fear of God is life because it imparts godly wisdom.
Even in the New Testament the fear of God is taught, and that’s because we all need the wisdom that’s from above, but it’s difficult to receive until we walk in obedience. I remember hearing one man say when God gives us light, and we walk in that light (obey), God will give us more light. By light, I think the man meant godly wisdom or clarity about something in the Bible. Maybe it’s something we found that we hadn’t seen in the Bible before, but I believe if we don’t walk in that light which God has already given us, then there’s little reason to expect more light, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1st John 1:7). It’s much easier to fear God when you’re walking in the light than it is walking in darkness.
Here are some great Bible verses on this topic: 7 Bible Verses for Overcoming Fear
Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible : English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.