Many people like to quote “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10) Do we really understand what it means to Fear the Lord? Preachers have taught us that God is love, so the fear of the Lord for the Christian is a healthy respect for God, as we respect those in authority, like our earthly father. Yet I wonder, how often do we obey our earthly fathers out of love? Most times we do, but sometimes we need reminders of the consequences for our sins. This does not entail the loss of that love, nor does it mean that we cease to be the son or daughter. What it does mean, is that a healthy fear remembers both the positive and negative reasons for obedience.
Israel learned this well, and God has given us their example in the Scriptures to learn from. They learned to obey out of love ... periodically ... and out of fear for the consequences of disobedience. Remember, pain and consequences are not meant to discourage us, but rather to motivate us to true repentance and change. Proverbs 14:27 reminds us that, “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may avoid the snares of death.” We fear God for the joy of Heaven, and also for fear of the pain of Hell. Both are real, and physical places, one of which is where we spend eternity, depending on what you do with the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. A true Christian consistently lives in the fear of the Lord, although we will have times where we need reminders. The more we get to know God through His Word, and the more we keep our focus on Jesus Christ, our ability to keep the fear of the Lord our priority will grow and strengthen.
Proverbs 8:13a says, ““The fear of the Lord is to hate evil;” Why would you hate evil, except that you know what the consequences are for doing evil! Really, God’s love is the sole focus of the fear of the Lord, when you realize that this love demands both justice and grace. In Exodus 20, Moses brought the ten commandments to the people, explaining God’s way of living. When the people witnessed the thundering, and lightning flashes that accompanied God’s voice, they trembled in fear ... and this was not just respect! They had every right to be afraid, but Moses was able to comfort them (verse 20), saying, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.” A healthy fear recognizes the many reasons for obedience, and motivates obedience out of love. Jesus reminded His disciples, in Matthew 10:28, “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” We who are truly believers in Christ, allowing Him to rule in our lives, have no reason to fear any man, or even the devil, for the simple reason that we fear the Lord who controls our eternal destination. It is those who do not fear God that will be sent to Hell and eternal punishment, something to be avoided and feared!
Comfort in all of this comes from the reminder in Luke 1:51, “His mercy is on them that fear Him from generation to generation.” For those who truly fear the Lord in its fullest sense, there is mercy and grace! God enables us to live as we should, to be righteous, and allowing His love, grace, and mercy to flow through us to others.