By Kim Josephson
The fear of the Lord is one of the most misunderstood expressions of the Bible. Many modern expositors take it upon themselves to soften these words in an effort to make God more approachable, but in doing so, they take away the positive force of the fear of God and do much harm to the health of the Church!
The Bible says in Proverbs 1:7 "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction." Because this is true, we need to understand the fear of the Lord. Said in another way, and hopefully not diminishing its effect - the fear of the Lord is the starting point of experience with God. It is amazing that so many are interested in the "deep" things of God and yet have no knowledge of the fear of the Lord. According to the Word, our spiritual life must be built line upon line, precept upon precept. This principle must therefore be the foundation. We must put first thing first!
Again in Proverbs 19:23, "The fear of th LORD tendeth to life: and he that hath it shall abide satisfied; he shall not be visited with evil." The last promise of this verse should make this subject one of the most popular in our churches but unfortunately most of us haven't learned much about it. Is it any wonder that as a consequence of our negligence or our ignorance we have experienced so much of the opposite? Rather than "abiding satisfied" many of the Lord's people seem frustrated and disappointed. Some of the best selling tapes and books of our time deal with this problem. The shared experience of so many is "God's failure to keep His promises," the subsequent "anger" or "discouragement of His children" and a lengthy discourse by "Job's counselors" on "how to accept the will of God." If this doesn't sound like a bunch of murmuring in the wilderness, then what does? God have mercy on us! Simply put, we desperately need the fear of the Lord!
Proverbs 22:4, "By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches, and honour, and life." Riches - shock of shocks! I never got this scripture in the "Prosperity Pack" and yet it's a promised consequence of the fear of the Lord. Honor and life too; my heart cries teach me the fear of the Lord!
The scriptures abound with promises that are contingent upon the fear of God. In Psalms 34:7 the Word says, "The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them." We love to take comfort from the scripture with these words, but the promise is to those who fear the Lord. Again in Verse 9: "O fear the LORD, ye His saints: for there is no want to them that fear Him." No want - none at all - according to the Word! This is not some vain promise, some opiate served up to ease a troubled mind. It's a literal promise of the ETERNAL WORD OF GOD! It's a bank draft written on the account of Jesus payable to them that fear the Lord. Would to God we'd embrace this doctrine!
But rather than embrace this truth, many "men of the cloth" run from the idea. It is shoved off into a corner with other "negative," "Old Testament" concepts. This ought not be! Jesus even preached it! (Luke 12:4-5) The promise of the fear of the Lord is always positive, positive, positive! Only it's neglect will bring that which is truly negative.
So what is the fear of the Lord? According to Proverbs 8:13: "The fear of the Lord is to hate evil..." Essentially it is not a passive "awesome reverence" of God, but an active hatred for that which offends God. We should be afraid of offending our Holy God! Sin should be abhorrent to the "new man" within. We should mortify the deeds of the body (Rom. 8:13) and make no place for sin in our lives. We should allow the axe of God's judgement to be put to the root of it. This should be our concern and prayer lest we trample under foot the blood of Jesus (Heb. 10:29).
Unfortunately, it is a shallow appreciation for the sacrifice of Christ that has spawned a sin-sick Church. An understanding of God's wondrous grace and love should cause us to yield a whole-hearted allegiance to Jesus Christ. It should break our hearts to ever sin against His wonderful love. We should as the Palmist, ask God to search our hearts and see if there be any wicked way within and ask God to save us from ourselves.
It is astounding that instead of such a God-honouring attitude, in our day, commentators are more concerned with how to eliminate the pangs of conscience, how to diminish the reality of our guilt, and how to excuse our sin! God have mercy on us!
O Church, let us pray that God will give us repentance in this matter and give us grace to fear the Lord. This can and will be a glorious new beginning in our experience with Him. You have His Word On it!