What Is The Fear Of The Lord?

May 9, 2017

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 1:7)

Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” – (The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe, CS Lewis)

The fear of God in Scripture is a humble posture of the heart that believes in and reverences God’s holy majesty and sovereign rule, leading to worship, faith, obedience, loving service, and repentance (turning away from sin towards God). The one who fears God is constantly aware of His all-knowing, all-powerful presence, and is motivated by love, awe, and even trembling fear to walk in His ways. The one who fears God accepts and respects that as Creator, He has rightful rule and jurisdiction over His creatures.

On learning to fear God (as it relates to gaining wisdom in Prov 1:7), JI Packer says: “Not till we have become humble and teachable, standing in awe of God’s holiness and sovereignty (“the great and awesome God” Nehemiah 1:5), acknowledging our own littleness, distrusting our own thoughts and willing to have our minds turned upside down, can divine wisdom become ours.” (Knowing God, pg 101)

While the fear of God is first and foremost a positive type of humility, respect, love, and reverence, it also includes a trembling fear that understands the reality of God’s holiness and judgment against sin. Hebrews 10:31 says, “it is a frightening thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” And Matthew 10:28 says, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, fear the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

As sinful people who have no fear of God on our own (Romans 3:18), we have every reason to fear God’s judgment, and this is part of our motivation to be reconciled with God! This fear does not lead to despair, but rather the strong impulse to repent and run to God, casting ourselves upon His benevolent mercy to find forgiveness, safety, and life.

CS. Lewis describes the fear of God in the Problem of Pain as one who, filled with awe, “feels wonder and a certain shrinking” or “a sense of inadequacy to cope with such a visitant.” To this point, when Isaiah (Isaiah 6), Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1), and John (Revelation 1) have visions of the Lord, their responses are essentially the same: to fall on their faces trembling.

1 John 4:18 tells us that “perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” In Christ, we are freed from the fear of divine punishment because Jesus bore the judgment we deserved for our sin. Through faith, we are clothed with His righteousness to stand totally faultless before a holy God. When we are united with Christ through faith, we are empowered to follow and obey God out of love. While fear is the beginning of wisdom, love is the culmination of it.

At the core of the fear of God is a high view of God, knowing well His greatness and majesty. We will end with two great quotes by JI Packer on God’s majesty:

The word majesty, when applied to God, is always a declaration of his greatness and an invitation to worship. The same is true when the Bible speaks of God as being on high and in heaven; the thought here is not that God is far distant from us in space, but that he is far above us in greatness, and therefore is to be adored. “Great is the Lord, and most worthy of praise” (psalm 48:1)…The Christian’s instincts of trust and worship are stimulated very powerfully by knowledge of the greatness of God. But this is knowledge which Christians today largely lack; and that is one reason why our faith is so feeble and our worship so flabby. We are modern people, and modern people, though they cherish great thoughts of themselves, have as a rule small thoughts of God. When the person in the church, let alone the person in the street, uses the word God, the thought is rarely of divine majesty.” (Knowing God, pg 83)

“‘To whom will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One’ (Isaiah 40:25). This question rebukes wrong thoughts about God. ‘Your thoughts of God are too human,’ said Luther to Erasmus. This is where most of us go astray. Our thoughts of God are not great enough; we fail to reckon with the reality of his limitless wisdom and power.” (Knowing God, pg 88).

*Further Reading: Genesis 22:12, Proverbs 1:7, Psalm 111:10, Deuteronomy 10:12-13, Psalm 128:1-6, Ecclesiastes 12:13, Romans 11:33-36, Romans 3:18, Matthew 10:28, Hebrews 10:31

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