The Fear of the Lord-What is it? And How to Get it?

The fear of the Lord has brought promises of God’s blessings to the sky and beyond in the Old Testament especially in Psalm and Proverbs. It almost sounds too simplistic and question goes how? How does ‘fear’ of God bring so many blessings? The problem is our understanding of the word ‘fear’.

Where does the fear of the Lord come from ? And in what context? Why does God emphasize so much of being fearful of him is what he desires from us? I mean an earthly father will not want his children to fear him per se, perhaps in older Eastern culture of Asia or Middle Eastern, fathers are to be feared, meaning deeply respected for fear of offending, it means obedience without many questions.

Blessings of the Fear of the Lord

Psalm 112:  Praise the Lord.  Blessed are those who fear the Lord,
    who find great delight in his commands.

Their children will be mighty in the land;
    the generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches are in their houses,
    and their righteousness endures forever.

Those who fear the Lord are those who find great delight in his commands. Does it sound like fearing God is a negative thing which would have been impossible to use the word ‘delight’ in God’s commands? If you fear God, then you obey him only because you fear punishment or retribution from him for disobedience, which is what our legal system does. But no! Psalm 112 clearly says those who fear the Lord are those who find great delight in God’s word or commands or law. Why? How? God’s way is counterintuitive. His way is delight. So fear God here in the bible cannot mean ‘fearing’ as in the context of negative way, meaning afraid.

What is the Fear of the Lord?

Properly recognizing the Lord’s nature and character

The words “Fear of the Lord” in Psalm 112 means : “Properly recognizing the Lord’s nature and character.” [1]  This is so apt, fear of the Lord means recognizing God’s nature and character, essentially meaning who God is, his character and nature. That means none of the blessings of God’s promises in fearing God will never materialize if we don’t know who he is! What’s he like? His nature, his character.

But in Psalm 19: The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous.

Fear of the Lord refers to holding God in proper reverence and awe

The word fear here as per Carson: “This rarely refers to actual fright or terror; Ps 76:7,8,11,12; 2 Chr 17:10 are instances of the meaning. Usually, the fear of the Lord refers to holding God in proper reverence and awe.”[2]

Fear God because He is angry

Psalm 76:7–12  It is you alone who are to be feared. Who can stand before you when you are angry? From heaven you pronounced judgment, and the land feared and was quiet— 11 … let all the neighboring lands bring gifts to the One to be feared. 12 He breaks the spirit of rulers; he is feared by the kings of the earth.

This is fear. Who can stand before you when you are angry? He breaks the spirits of rulers.

2 Chronicles 17:10 The fear of the Lord fell on all the kingdoms of the lands surrounding Judah, so that they did not go to war against Jehoshaphat.

That’s another instance of real fear in the sense we commonly understand. And there are instances like that for sure.

Fear of the Lord is a Source of life for God’s People

It is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge (111:10, Prov 1:7, 9:10) and a source of life for God’s people (Prov 10:27, 14:27; 19:23) to be treasured (Prov 15:16, is 33:6), something to delight in (Is 11:3), and a source of rejoicing (Ps 40:3) . Humility is at its core. (Prov 22:4)[3]

Proverbs 10: 27 The fear of the Lord adds length to life, but the years of the wicked are cut short. Fear of the Lord adds length of life! Proverbs 14: 27 The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death. 

Fear of the Lord is a fountain of life! Fountain of life! You receive life itself from God by walking in the fear of the Lord. Powerful stuff that transforms. If you don’t have the fear of the Lord, your life dries up basically. It can only be experienced more intimately when one is going through some dry patch in life, going through some trials in life, and crying out to the Lord. And because we fear God, we reverence and hold him in great awe, He becomes a fountain of life to us.

That’s how important it is. We must examine and understand and learn the fear of the Lord.

Fear of the Lord is a Source of Rejoicing

Psalm 40: 1 I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. 2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.

Many will see how the Lord delivers David  from the slimy pit, mud and mire, and how He set his feet on a rock and gave him a firm place to stand. God puts a new song in his mouth, a hymn of praise, many will see and there fear the Lord and put their trust in him. People fear God because they see how God delivers people who trust in him and cry out to him. That’s fear as a sense of awe, not afraid.

The Reason to Fear God comes from what God has done for us and continue to do

There is a basis or reason to fear God. God didn’t just call us to fer him from nowhere. No one can fear the Lord without a reason. Yu can’t preach at the congregation and tell everyone to fear the Lord because He is mighty and powerful and he will judge everyone that does not obey him. In some ways that’s correct, but that must be far more nuanced. You see God didn’t give a cheap order.

God brought Israel from the slavery and persecution by Egypt by plaguing Egypt hard

Joshua 24:2–15  2 And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Long ago, your fathers lived beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and they served other gods. 3 Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan, and made his offspring many. I gave him Isaac. 4 And to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. And I gave Esau the hill country of Seir to possess, but Jacob and his children went down to Egypt. 5 And I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt with what I did in the midst of it, and afterward I brought you out.

6 “ ‘Then I brought your fathers out of Egypt, and you came to the sea. And the Egyptians pursued your fathers with chariots and horsemen to the Red Sea. 7 And when they cried to the Lord, he put darkness between you and the Egyptians and made the sea come upon them and cover them; and your eyes saw what I did in Egypt. And you lived in the wilderness a long time. ……… 13 I gave you a land on which you had not labored and cities that you had not built, and you dwell in them. You eat the fruit of vineyards and olive orchards that you did not plant.’

He worked powerful signs and wonders to convince Israel that he’s the Lord overall. He turned the Nile into blood, He sent locusts to devour the harvest of Egypt; He sent frogs into every household of Egypt. He sent darkness into Egypt like they never seen ever, for to walk around in pitch darkness for days. And finally God sent an angel that killed all the first born of Egypt from the salve to Pharoah. The outcry from Egypt was full of fear, desperation, and despair so much that they gave Israel gold and silver and pleaded with them to leave. But Pharoah couldn’t give up on them, as God hardened his heart actually, and he brought chariots to chase after Israel and pressed them till in front of the Read Sea. And that’s when God sent a mighty east wind to cause the Red Sea to be dry for the 3 million Jews to walk across on dry land, and Egyptian army followed suit into the Red Sea only to be divided by the cloud of God, and as soon as Israel all came through out of Red Sea, God sent the mighty currents of Red Sea right back and drowned them all. This is the MIGHTY awesome God. AN dafter Israel seen the dead bodies of Egyptian army on seashore including Pharoah’s, they bowed down and worshipped Yahweh and said the Lord He is God. This fear of the Lord, reverence and awe, totally awed by the God of Israel.

Exodus 14: 29 But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. 30 That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. 31 And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.

When Israel saw the dead Egyptian on the shore, and the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against Egypt, they feared the Lord and put their trust in him. Fear of the Lord goes together with trust ion the Lord. We don’t fear the Lord for being afraid of punished by Him, but rather we fear him in the sense of being awed by him, and putting our trust in someone who is so mighty and will protect and cover us. That’s the basis of fearing the Lord. You will never fear the Lord if you never experienced the mighty strength of the Lord. God set up the situation of Israel being pushed to some desperation facing the Red Sea, and using the most miraculous sign and wonder, God opened up the Red Sea for them to cross over, only to drown every one of their enemy. That’s set up by God. If they never had a crisis, they would never experience the power and glory of God like they never seen before, and hence will never be awed by God to such high level, and hence fear the Lord.

This is how we develop our fear and awe towards the Lord

No one will ever not fear the Lord after what they experienced! That’s how it should happen with us, being awed by God by the display of God’s power and deliverance. How many times have you struggled in your distress, hardship, trials in life, and you prayed and prayed a final God delivered you and put you on a large rick while sinking? How many times God has been tour rock and refuge? All these are precious memories and testimonials in your life, you should never forget. And that’s how we develop our fear , awe towards the Lord.

14 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

[1] D A Carson, NIV Biblical Theology  Study Bible , Zondervan, 2018, Grand rapids, Michigan, USA

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid

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