Proverbs 9:10 (NLT)10 Fear of the LORD is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment.
Fear of God isn’t the emotion that usually comes to mind when we think of fear. That emotion is fright, which is a sudden intense feeling of fear. Synonyms of this type fear are fearfulness, terror, horror, alarm, panic, dread, trepidation, dismay, nervousness, apprehension, apprehensiveness, perturbation, and disquiet. The fear of God is a reverential respect of God’s power and glory. Fear of God is the result of His love for mankind and the grace that He has given to those who, in faith, believe in His Son, Jesus Christ.
Scripture is full of examples of how fearing God is a positive rather than a negative thing. For example in Genesis 42:18, Joseph wins his brothers' trust when he declares he is a God-fearing man. It was because the midwives feared God that they obeyed him instead of the authorities by sparing the Hebrew babies (Exodus 1:17). Pharaoh brought disaster on his nation because he did not fear God (Exodus 9:29-31). Moses chose leaders to help him on the basis that they feared God and wouldn't take bribes (Exodus 18:21) and told the Hebrews that God met with them in a terrifying display of his power so that they wouldn't sin (Exodus 20:20). The Mosaic Law cites fear of God as a reason to treat the disabled and elderly well (Leviticus 19:14, 32). And lest you think this is only an Old Testament idea, note that Jesus states this stronger than anyone when he says, "Don't be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28). And Paul says to work toward complete holiness because we fear God (2 Corinthians 7:1).
So it's clear from these passages, that fearing God is good because it saves us from caving into our own sinful nature. That's why hearing someone is God-fearing actually makes us trust that person more. If they fear God, they are more likely to keep their word and treat others with kindness. In fact, Romans 3, a classic chapter on sin, says that our chief sin is that we "have no fear of God at all" (Romans 3:18).
A Prayer For A Humble Fear Of God
By Mark Altrogge
What does it mean to fear God? Consider the words of Psalm 147:10-11: "His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love."
God commands us to fear him and says that he takes pleasure in us when we fear him. Why? Does he enjoy us being afraid of him? I know I don’t want my children to be afraid of me. I want them to love me and enjoy being with me, not to be afraid of me.
A Humble Fear Of God
So, in what sense are we to fear God? The “fear” that brings God pleasure is not our being afraid of him, but our having a high and exalted, reverential view of him.
To “fear him” means to stand in awe of him: “Let All The Earth FEAR The Lord; Let All The Inhabitants Of The World STAND IN AWE OF HIM!” (Ps 33.8).
To fear the Lord is to stand in awe of his majesty, power, wisdom, justice and mercy, especially in Christ – in his life, death and resurrection – that is, to have an exalted view of God. To see God in all his glory and then respond to him appropriately. To humble ourselves before him. To adore him.
We tend to be in awe of worldly power, talent, intelligence, and beauty. But these things don’t impress God because “His delight is not in the strength of the horse (mighty armies, worldly power) nor his pleasure in the legs of a man (human strength).”
But God delights in those who fear him – those who stand in awe of him – and instead of trusting in their own human abilities or resources, “hope in his steadfast love.”
The Wicked Do Not Fear God
By way of contrast, the wicked person doesn’t fear God – he doesn’t stand in awe of God. The wicked has a low view of God:
Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart;there is no fear of God before his eyes.For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated. The words of his mouth are trouble and deceit; he has ceased to act wisely and do good. He plots trouble while on his bed; he sets himself in a way that is not good;
he does not reject evil.” (PS 36.1-4)
The wicked person has such a low view of God and such a lack of awe for God that he doesn’t think God can find out his sin or hate it. He doesn’t act wisely or do good because he doesn’t view God as holy and just and serious about punishing sin. He trusts in his own wits and strength. Obviously, the Lord doesn’t find any pleasure in the wicked. The wicked refuses to fear God.
So Let Us Fear God
Stand In Awe Of Him, Take Refuge In Him, And Hope In His Steadfast Love.For it brings the Lord pleasure when we trust in him for strength and help, not our own wits and resources.
God, We Pray That Our Hearts Would Learn How To Rightfully Fear You. We Bow Before You, Acknowledging You As Lord And Savior Of Lives, Praising You For Your Might, Your Sovereignty, Your Power, Your Strength, Your Mercy, And Your Justice. We Thank You For Your Unending Love Even When We Are Undeserving. We Stand In Awe Of You. We Surrender Our Hearts To You. We Put You First, Lord. Amen.
JoHannah Reardon is a former managing editor of ChristianBibleStudies.com. Find her numerous books at JoHannahReardon.com, including her book No More Fear, which ponders the attributes of God.