A FEAR Worth Having

By Martin Girard

Do you ever feel afraid? There are many reasons why fear can be experienced. Fear is typically considered to be a sign of weakness, and we can feel ashamed of admitting that we are fearful. However, there is one kind of fear that need not make us ashamed: “the fear of the Lord.” What makes this “fear” different?

The Bible says “the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever” (Ps. 19:9 KJV). It is not a temporary fear. We are also told that it is “the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10). This fear is never found in the ungodly. In his analysis of such individuals, Paul concluded, “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Rom. 3:18). Believers today often find themselves surrounded by ungodly people who have no fear of God.

The first time that fear is mentioned in the Bible is in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve hid themselves among the trees of the garden because they were afraid (Gen. 3:8-10). They had disobeyed their Creator and felt ashamed of facing Him. Years later the nation of Israel stood beneath Mount Sinai as God communed with Moses. The thunder and lightning, the cloud, the earthquake and the trumpet’s blast filled the people with fear. Like Adam, they did not want to face God or hear His voice (Ex. 19:16, 20:18-19).

Although these are Old Testament incidents, God has not changed. The Lord Jesus said that God is to be feared because of His awesome power by which He can “cast into hell” (Lk. 12:5). But when we think about “the fear of the Lord,” we must not think of being afraid. This God, who is “a consuming fire,” wants our service. In order to serve Him acceptably, with reverence and godly fear, we need grace (Heb. 12:28-29). “Fear of the Lord” is not therefore a cringing fear that drives us from Him, but it is reverence for One who is so great. With this godly fear we can serve God acceptably.

Frequently in Scripture fearing the Lord is contrasted with the worship of idols. The people of Israel were to “fear the LORD” and serve Him rather than the gods of the surrounding nations (Dt. 6:13-14). Idols are the product of man’s imagination and are unable to help anyone. Instead, Israel was to “trust in the LORD” – the One who was “their help and their shield” (Ps. 115:4-9). Fearing the Lord is therefore closely connected with trusting in Him, and it results in experiencing His blessing (vv.11,13).

Fear Required
Shortly before his death, Moses reasoned with the people of Israel and summarized the divine requirement this way: “And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul” (Dt. 10:12). In his final words at the end of his reign, David declared that a king ought to display this fear of God as he ruled (2 Sam. 23:3). The writer of Ecclesiastes (believed to be Solomon) concluded his book with the words that “the whole duty of man” was to “fear God, and keep His commandments” (Eccl. 12:13).

Preachers who proclaimed God’s word to His people frequently stressed the importance of fearing the Lord. Joshua, in his closing address, reminded the Israelites of God’s goodness and challenged them to “fear the LORD, and serve Him in sincerity and in truth” (Josh. 24:14). Samuel exhorted the people similarly, to “fear the LORD, and serve Him in truth with all your heart” (1 Sam. 12:24).

The Way To Blessing
“The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear Him” (Ps. 147:11). Indeed, every one who fears Him is declared “blessed” (128:1). We are assured that “it shall be well with them that fear God” (Eccl. 8:12). The Hebrew midwives who “feared God” rather than Pharaoh, refusing to kill the newborn baby boys, experienced God’s blessing (Ex. 1:15-21).

In the New Testament we read about Cornelius, a devout man whose earnest prayers were answered through Peter’s visit and the accompanying blessing of God that came to his household. All this can be traced back to the fact that he “feared God” (Acts 10:2). Truly “the secret of the LORD is with them that fear Him; and He will show them His covenant” (Ps. 25:14). We read in Scripture of many individuals who enjoyed close fellowship with the Lord and were given a special revelation of His purposes because they feared Him.

Shortly after Saul’s conversion God was blessing the Church and building up His people because they were “walking in the fear of the Lord” (Acts 9:31). God-fearing believers can rejoice in the near presence of the Angel of the LORD and experience His deliverance (Ps. 34:7).

It is certain that the only way to know the Lord’s blessing is to fear Him. His great desire is that His people might fear and obey Him, “that it might be well with them” (Dt. 5:29).

Results Of Fearing The Lord
We have already noted the connection between fearing the Lord and obeying Him. A number of other results of fearing the Lord are described in God’s Word. One is praise. When the people of Israel saw how the LORD had defeated the Egyptians at the Red Sea, they “feared the LORD” (Ex. 14:31). Moments later we find them breaking forth into a song of praise to celebrate the LORD’s mighty triumph over their enemy (Ex. 15:1).

Another feature resulting from fearing the Lord is unity in fellowship. The author of the longest Psalm was obviously a God-fearing person, for he wrote: “They that fear Thee will be glad when they see me” (Ps. 119:74). Those who truly fear the Lord are glad when they meet other believers who fear Him too. Godly Nehemiah was motivated by “the fear of God” and recognized its importance in the fellowship of God’s people (Neh. 5:9,15). He entrusted Hananiah with a special responsibility because he knew that he “feared God above many” (7:2). At the close of the Old Testament the LORD took special note of those who feared Him, thought upon His name and spoke often to one another about Him (Mal. 3:16). How necessary it is today to seek the fellowship of like-minded believers who fear the Lord and are intent on pleasing Him.

If we want to obey God we will be careful to avoid the things that do not please Him. Joseph feared God (Gen. 42:18) and therefore refused the seductions of Potiphar’s wife. To accept her immoral invitations would have caused Joseph to “sin against God” (Gen. 39:9). It was the fear of the LORD that kept him from sinning. This is another result of fearing the Lord, and Joseph’s example illustrates well the exhortation: “Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil” (Prov. 3:7).

Very Practical
Joseph’s experience shows us that fearing the Lord is not merely something to think about. It has profound effects in our lives. This kind of reverent fear caused Noah to take God at His word and build the ark, thus providing a means of salvation for his whole family (Heb. 11:7). The fear of the Lord is important in our own service too. From the days of his youth, Obadiah had “feared the LORD greatly.” As a result he cared for the endangered prophets of God and provided food for a hundred of them who were hidden in two caves (1 Ki. 18:3-4,12).

Those who fear the Lord are patient and ready to wait for God’s time. When David was presented with an opportunity to kill Saul, his enemy, he would not. Saul was still “the LORD‘s anointed” and David recognized that God would remove him in His own time (1 Sam. 24:4-6).

The practical nature of fearing the Lord should be seen in the workplace where employees obey their employers and serve them well, “fearing God” (Col. 3:22). Daily employment must be carried out in the conscious awareness that the Lord is watching what we do, and all our work must be done as unto Him (v.23).

Much More
As God’s children we need to learn constantly about “the fear of the Lord.” It will affect our speech and our behavior, keeping us from the paths of sin and leading us in a right way that pleases the Lord (Ps. 34:11-14). Interestingly, this same psalm speaks of the LORD delivering His people from all their fears (v.4). The words of Tate and Brady’s famous hymn that begins “Through all the changing scenes of life” might be a fitting conclusion:

“Fear Him ye saints; And you will then have nothing else to fear;
Make you His service your delight, Your wants shall be His care.”

This article is used by permission from Skyway Messages, adapted.

Author: Sebastien

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