What is the fear of the LORD? This is something many of us have heard about in church or read in the Bible, but it remains an abstract thought that we can’t clearly explain.
If “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7), then it’s an important thing for us to understand what that means. Easton’s Bible Dictionary describes the fear of the LORD this way,
“It is a fear conjoined with love and hope, and is therefore not a slavish dread,
but rather filial reverence.”
(Easton Bible Dictionary)
So it’s not a fearful dread that creates distance. Instead, it’s a fear build on love and hope that draws near to God in worship, humility, and obedience. These are the three keys to understanding what the Bible means by “the fear of the LORD.”
1. Reverent Worship: because God is holy
When we consider the Attributes of God it becomes clear that God is holy and we are not. When we see God for who he is, we fall on our faces in worshipful recognition because God is holy, sovereign, omniscient, omnipresent, etc.
Fear of the LORD means we approach him with reverent worship, not with casual worship. Many people today approach God as if he’s their buddy. He’s not your best friend, and he’s not your butler.
2. Humble Confession: because we are sinners
Whenever someone encounters an angel in Scripture, they always fall on their knees in fear, because their sinfulness is immediately undeniable. We cannot stand before God as his equal or as if we’re worthy of being children of God.
Humility and confession of sin is the natural response to being in God’s presence. We don’t presume to tell God what to do, and we don’t consider ourselves his equal. Instead, we approach him with reverent worship and humble confession because we are sinful, we have earned the paycheck of death and judgment (Romans 6:23).
3. Obedient Faith: because God saves sinners
In light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness, we are astounded by the words, “Fear not.” The gospel proclaims that God saves sinners, and he did it through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Any righteousness we have is Christ’s righteousness which has been wrapped around us by faith. Apart from Christ, we have every reason to be fearful and terrified of being in God’s presence.
The Christian who fears God does so as a beloved child. God has saved sinners, and so the only appropriate response is faithful obedience. God speaks, we listen and obey.
What Does The Fear of the LORD Mean for Life?
- What’s your attitude towards gathered worship at church? Do you go to worship, or to be served? Attend church with the posture of a worshipper, not as a customer.
- Do you squeeze time in Scripture and prayer into your week, but never during times when you can give them your full attention?
- When you pray, do you bring your requests to your Heavenly Father, or do you offer instructions to a “divine butler” who is there to serve you?
- When you disagree with God, who wins the argument? Do you find ways to get around what the Bible says, or do you find ways to overrule what the Bible teaches and what Christianity has taught for centuries?