Friday, October 24, 2008
The Fear of the Lord
Many people misunderstand what it means to have a fear of the Lord. They see it as being afraid of God or punished and unfairly judged by Him. But that's not what the fear of the Lord is. The fear of the Lord is a respect for God that makes us want to please and obey Him; a respect that causes us to feel Godly remorse when we don't. This fear of the Lord is not for God's benefit--though surely God delights in His children when they follow His precepts--but it is for our benefit! Yes, the fear of the Lord is more about our well-being than God's!
I think Tony Evans of The Urban Alternative says it best:
"When you fear the Lord, you take God seriously. You give God the appropriate respect, reverence, honor and awe for His person and His position. It also means that you live your life understanding that because God loves you, He will hold you accountable for your actions. In other words, you know that God is God and you're not. Over and over the Bible promises great blessings to the man or woman who walks in the fear of the Lord. Psalm 128:1 says, 'How blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways.'" Tony Evans
Evans asks the question, "Do we have that kind of respect for God?" I think that's a great question! Many of us don't respect God because it means we have to submit to Him and listen to what He's telling us. We don't want to be held accountable, because that means we have to change our ways, which is often hard work. But the question I ask others and myself is, "How is ignoring God working for me, or you?" Is life really any easier by not respecting God?
Those who refuse to fear God are often the most fearful of life and death. They're fearful not in a respectful sense, but in the sense of being scared, anxious, or worried. I know this because it used to be me. Death terrified me. I obsessed over relationships. I worried constantly about what other people thought of me. In my fretting over the present, I put unrealistic expectations on the future. In all of this there was no respect, awe or reverence for anything; just a constant striving on my own part to create and control my world. I think we can agree that that is no way to live.
Is living in the fear of the Lord ever scary? Well, sometimes. Sometimes it's scary to know that God reads my mind and knows every thought that crosses it. It's unsettling to know he heard every word I spoke over coffee with a friend, and that every word wasn't Christ-like. But you know what? When I wasn't a Christian, the guilt over these things would eat me up. I knew I was a gossip, or had any number of failures in integrity. But I had no where to go with it! Talk about scary!
But God does give us a place to go with this stuff. Under His loving hand of conviction, knowing that Jesus died for these very lapses in character, I repent to Him. I commit to relying on Him so that I won't sin in this way again. He forgives me and wipes the slate clean, making me desire to work towards being more Christ-like. And I keep going to Him until together we get it right, and then start dealing with the next thing! That's something I never achieved when I lived in fear of myself and life and not God. I never achieved peace of mind. I never found right motivation to improve.
The fear of the Lord is about a trust in God and accountability to Him that allows us to live with a clear conscience and to change our ways for good. And there's nothing scary about that!
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Proverbs 9:10
"But be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you." 1 Samuel 12:24
"The LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love." Psalm 147:11
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline." Proverbs 1:7
"He who fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge." Proverbs 14:26
"The fear of the LORD teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor." Proverbs 15:33
"Blessed is the man who always fears the LORD, but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble." Proverbs 28:14
"He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure." Isaiah 33:6