The Fear of the LORD“One time many years ago, the king of Hungary found himself depressed and unhappy. He sent for his brother, a good-natured but rather indifferent prince. The king said to him, “I am a great sinner; I fear to meet God.” But the prince only laughed at him. This didn’t help the king’s disposition any. Though he was a believer, the king had gotten a glimpse of his guilt for the way he’d been living lately, and he seriously wanted help. In those days it was customary if the executioner sounded a trumpet before a man’s door at any hour, it was a signal that he was to be led to his execution. The king sent the executioner in the dead of night to sound the fateful blast at his brother’s door. The prince realized with horror what was happening. Quickly dressing, he stepped to the door and was seized by the executioner, and dragged pale and trembling into the king’s presence. In an agony of terror he fell on his knees before his brother and begged to know how he had offended him. “My brother,” answered the king, “if the sight of a human executioner is so terrible to you, shall not I, having grievously offended God, fear to be brought before the judgment seat of Christ?” Walk Through Rewards – http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/f/fear_of_god.htm
More than just “respect”Most have heard the saying “the Fear of the LORD”, and often this is lightly interpreted as a general reverence or respect. But it’s much more than that. Why is teaching the real Fear of the LORD important? Because the lack of teaching on the Fear of the LORD, as well as the lack of literal reading of Scripture, has led Churches and Christians towards liberalism, sin and living a very ‘loose’ and rebellious lifestyle. Not only has the Fear of the LORD not been emphasized and taught enough in the Churches, but it’s been sugar-coated and “seeker friendlied”, if not all together ignored. The Almighty GOD has most times been depicted in modern Churches as an all merciful, all forgiving gracious and patient GOD. While all of these attributes are 100% true, this is an incomplete picture. As a Pastor once said, “One truth overemphasized over another truth ceases to be truth. Right teaching, wrong focus.” Pastor Sophocles Christodoulou Because of this most people including Christians have a diminished sense of accountability for their thoughts, words and actions. They think GOD will overlook every sin automatically, whether it’s accidental or deliberate sin and willful wrong doing. Even those struggling with a sinful habit say, “GOD understands and forgives so it’s ok”.
The root meaning of “Fear”Now, many question what the word fear really means in the context of “Fear of the LORD” throughout the Bible, and if it is to be taken as metaphorical or literal. So let’s analyze the word from the original languages in which the Bible was written. In the Hebrew, the word is “YIR’AH” and is used in the Old Testament to describe: – Fear, terror – Awesome or terrifying thing (object causing fear) – Fear (of God), respect, reverence, piety The Greek word is “PHOVOS”, (Greek ΦΟΒΟΣ) and is used to describe: – Fear, dread, terror – That which strikes terror So it’s clear that the word is literal, and appears to be a lot more than respect, reverence or awe. But there is more. Apostle Paul indicated in Philippians 2:12: “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” The Greek word for trembling is “TROMOS” (Greek ΤΡΟΜΟΣ) and means “a trembling or quaking with fear”, just as one would likely tremble in the presence of one who could take our life.
The Fear of the LORD in the ScripturesMatthew 10:28 “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” The Fear of the LORD brings temporal and eternal benefits:
- “The secret of the LORD is for those who fear Him, and He will make them know His covenant” (Ps. 25:14).
- “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them” (Ps. 34:7).
- “The LORD has compassion on those who fear Him” (Ps. 103:13).
- “The LORD favors those who fear Him” (Ps. 147:11).
- “The Fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 1:7; 9:10).
- “The Fear of the LORD prolongs life” (Prov. 10:27).
- “The Fear of the LORD leads to life, that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil” (Prov. 19:23).
- “The reward of humility and the Fear of the LORD are riches, honor and life” (Prov. 22:4).
- As David says to the LORD, “How great is Your goodness, which You have stored up for those who fear You” (Ps. 31:19).
Without the Fear of the LORD…1. We close ourselves to the treasures of God’s wisdom and knowledge! 2. We will flirt with evil and be corrupted by it. 3. Our lives are likely to be shortened by our refusal to heed God’s word (e.g., suffering sexually transmitted diseases because we did not heed His Word on sexual relationships) 4. We will not come to know the love of God that gives us assurance and confidence of our salvation. 5. When fallen into sin, we will not be motivated to repent and turn to God! 6. We will not be motivated to truly “work out our own salvation”! In addition, without the “Fear of the LORD”, we cannot please God. Isaiah 66:1-2 “Thus saith the LORD, The heaven [is] My throne, and the earth [is] My footstool: where [is] the house that ye build unto Me? and where [is] the place of My rest? For all those [things] hath Mine Hand made, and all those [things] have been, saith the LORD: but to this [man] will I look, [even] to [him that is] poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.” Only the person who “trembles at His Word” has God’s promise to receive His tender mercy! Psalms 103:17-18 “But the mercy of the LORD [is] from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear Him, and His righteousness unto children’s children; To such as keep His covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.”
How to have a healthy Fear of the LORDBut how does one develop the proper “Fear of the LORD” without going to the extremes? The Fear of the LORD comes through the Word of GOD. Just as “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17), the same can be said for the “Fear of the LORD”! “So then faith – the Fear of the LORD – [cometh] by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” Notice Deuteronomy 31:10-13, where the children of Israel were told to gather every seven years to read and hear the Word: Deuteronomy 31:10-13 “And Moses commanded them, saying, At the end of [every] seven years, in the solemnity of the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles, When all Israel is come to appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Gather the people together, men, and women, and children, and thy stranger that [is] within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the LORD your God, and observe to do all the words of this law:” As one reads the Word of God, they should gain a healthy degree of the “Fear of the LORD”. Consider the words of Paul in Romans 2:4-11: “Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: For there is no respect of persons with God.” Or how about the words of Peter in 2 Peter 3:7-14: “But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day [is] with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. [Seeing] then [that] all these things shall be dissolved, what manner [of persons] ought ye to be in [all] holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.” In writing about the early Church, Luke recorded: Acts 9:31 “Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and In the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.” Note that they were “walking in the Fear of the LORD”! In writing to the Church at Philippi, Paul told them: Philippians 2:12 “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own Salvation with fear and trembling;” The concept of “fear and trembling” in connection with God is not a popular concept today: People prefer to hear about God’s love, longsuffering and mercy.
The wrong balanceSometimes, when we point out God’s righteous indignation, Holiness, and justice, people reply “My God is not like that!” And they’re right, their god isn’t like that because they have made up a god to be who they want Him to be (usually to suit their sinful lifestyle). The over emphasis on God’s love and mercy today is probably a reaction to the “hell, fire, and brimstone” preaching of another generation. Which over emphasized hell, (a true Biblical teaching), without explaining why one will end up there and without sharing the good News that Jesus paid the price so we don’t have to go there. God, who is love, sent a Savior to wipe away our sins by His grace and mercy if we only accept it. But could it be that we have gone to the other extreme where there is no concept of “fear and trembling” as it relates to the Christian? Could we have focused so much on the fact that God is Love, that we forgot that God is also Holy and Righteous and He cannot and will not tolerate sin? Could this be why many Christians are apathetic in serving the LORD? Could it be we have forgotten Who we should fear and that’s why most Christians don’t live lives that please Him? A Proper “Fear of the LORD” would then include:
- Reverence and awe
- Being afraid to offend God in any way, especially deliberately
- A trembling and quaking if one knows they have offended God and have not obtained forgiveness!