The fear of the LORD is the beginning of
wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding (Proverbs
Fear may be the strongest
of human emotions.
Fear thrills and
it baffles. It fascinates. It repels.
We’re afraid of physical forces threatening injury or death. And so we quicken our pace to match our elevated heart-rate when, from the corner of our eye, we observe a sinister figure lurking in the alleyway on a dark night.
But we’re also afraid of what we don’t see with our naked eyes. More than ever in our lifetime, we’ve become intensely aware by unseen viruses with the potential to adversely affect physical health.
Deep down, maybe we all have a nagging fear
for being found out for who we really are? What if people knew what I really
think, what I really want, who I really am?
Add to that, experiences we’ve all had that leave emotional bruises or psychological scars: being paralyzed by performance anxiety, or experiencing the shame of a relational rejection and the social phobia that results.
And so we’ve come to fear fear. We
develop a protective shell.
In our safe and sanitized era, fear must be quelled,
if not eradicated. After all, it has the capacity to deeply compromise mental
And yet the Bible repeatedly calls on us to fear
What’s that all about?
How are we to understand the concept of fearing
God when we think of Him as a loving Father?
Or, when we read of the Lord Jesus lovingly laying down His life for those who were His enemies?
I count 20 times in the earthly ministry of the
Lord Jesus where He (or an angel, or an ancient prophetic word) declared: fear
not! or its counterpart, be not afraid!
And so we’re to not succumb to fear but at the same time, to fear God?
Is the Bible self-contradictory? Is Holy
Scripture inconsistent, or even illogical?
Or, is there a rational – even profitable – resolution? Can fear be negative in some situations and beneficial in others?
We teach our children to recognize – and to fear – forces that are powerfully negative, harmful, and even destructive.
We have locks on our doors for a reason.
And yet, fear can be a healthy reaction
when it leads to rational self-protection.
Most importantly, biblical fear fuels a constructive,
soul-feeding passion for God.
After all, He is the All-Mighty One. It is
foolish to set ourselves as recipients of His disfavour.
Consequently, the clear teaching of the Old Testament wisdom
literature commends the fear of the Lord as life-giving and providing existential
life-treasure to His people:
- wisdom and understanding (Proverbs 9:10).
- length to life (Proverbs 10:27).
- wealth and honour and life
- light and salvation (Psalm 27:1).
- the stored up goodness of the
Lord (Psalm 31:19).
The psalmist declared that those who fear Him are targets
of His protective and unfailing love (Psalm 33:18, 34:7), lacking nothing
In fact, a relationship with the God of the Bible is not possible without
And biblical fear is inextricably connected to
Here’s how: the moral, righteous courage
to follow Christ demands the bedrock foundation of first learning to fear the
Lord: His righteousness, His holiness, His unparalleled grandeur.
I think the Lord Jesus’ favourite Old Testament book may have been Deuteronomy as He quotes from it more than any other. That book of the Torah consistently calls on God’s people to fear Him:
…what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul (Deuteronomy
~ graphic from sammylee freeimages.com