Has “fearing the Lord” gone out of style?
“The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them” (Psalm 25:14).
Fearing God can seem like a no-longer-applicable-Old-Testament-kind-of-thing, rather than a vital principle for 21st century living. But awareness of God’s love and grace must never cause us to disregard his holiness, righteousness, and justice.
Throughout the Bible, God connects fearing the Lord with a correct understanding of his great power.
After the Israelites crossed the Red Sea on dry ground, God wiped out the Egyptian army that pursued them. “And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant” (Exodus 14:31).
Similarly, in the New Testament, the church responded with fear when God struck down Ananias and Sapphira for lying (Acts 5:1-11). So, the death and resurrection of Jesus did not make fearing the Lord obsolete. Luke, the writer of Acts, mentions fear of the Lord as a key part of the early church. “Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers” (Acts 9:31).
Certainly, fearing the Lord isn’t an easy concept to understand.
We fear God because he alone holds the power over the destiny of our souls (Matthew 10:28). But, fearing the Lord doesn’t mean living in a state of constant anxiety or dread of God.
Because Jesus paid the price for our sins, as believers we know God doesn’t condemn us. Still, God’s holiness and power cause us to humbly revere him, just as we show a healthy fear of or respect for electricity, fire, or raging waters.
The Psalms and Proverbs speak extensively about fearing the Lord, listing for us its many benefits. It’s good to remember that the Proverbs provide us with wise sayings; through them we understand how life generally works. Likewise, the Psalms demonstrate how a person relates to God in various circumstances. Psalmists express a full range of human emotions. Doctrine drawn from these books must be tested against the whole of Scripture.
Read the following lists, which detail some of the benefits of fearing of the Lord.
The fear of the Lord:
- adds length to life (Proverbs 10:27)
- teaches a person wisdom (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10; 15:33)
- enables a person to avoid evil (Proverbs 3:7; 8:13; 14:16; 16:6)
- leads to life (Proverbs 14:27; 19:23)
- brings wealth and honour and life (Proverbs 22:4)
Those who fear the Lord:
- have a secure fortress and a refuge for their children (Proverbs 14:26)
- are blessed (Proverbs 28:14; Psalm 112:1; Psalm 128:1; Psalm 128:4)
- are to be praised (Proverbs 31:30)
- lack nothing (Psalm 34:9)
To those who fear the Lord, God:
- confides in them (Psalm 25:14)
- makes his covenant known to them (Psalm 25:14)
- has his eyes on them (Psalm 33:18)
- has compassion on them (Psalm 103:13)
- loves them (Psalm 103:17)
- sends his righteousness to them (Psalm 103:17)
- delights in them (Psalm 147:11)
Security, wisdom, and life all appeal, yet, the relational aspects of the third list draw me most strongly. Not only does God watch over, love, and delight in those who fear him, but he also confides in them. The thrilling idea that God whispers his thoughts to me boggles my mind. Almighty God, the Creator of the universe, shares his heart and plans with us when we fear him!
Rather than a barrier to intimacy, fearing God opens the door to a closer relationship with him. Proverbs 8:13 says, “To fear the Lord is to hate evil.” God hates evil. When we choose to hate evil and obey God instead, in his strength, we align ourselves with God. What could be more beneficial than that?