Fearing God: What Does the Bible Really Mean?

5 Mins read

Proverbs 1:7 (NIV)
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Are we supposed to be fearing God? When we read the Bible, we find out about a God who unconditionally loves us. We read about how His love for us motivated Him to give His only Son as a sacrifice for our sins so that we could have a relationship with Him. God had a Son, but He wanted a family, and He wanted us to be members of that family! When we think about those truths, it can be difficult to understand how we can reconcile them with the fact that the Bible tells us in multiple passages that we should “fear God.”

In addition to the loving nature of God that we know about, we also know that the Bible tells us to not be afraid hundreds of times. In fact, there are 365 instances of God telling His people to “fear not” in Scripture. Yet, when it comes to God, the Bible has dozens of passages where we are told to fear Him.

The concept of fearing God can be traced back to the days when God had supernaturally delivered Israel out of Egyptian bondage. Once He had led them out of Egypt and into the wilderness, He began to speak clearly to them, letting them know how to behave.

Leviticus 19:14 (NIV)
“Do not curse the dead or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the Lord.”

While we can trace back to the call to fear God to the earliest days of the Old Testament, it’s important that we understand what the Bible is really saying. God does not want us to be afraid of Him. He is a loving Father, and no loving Father wants His children to feel fear when they think of Him.

Instead, fearing God is about having a holy reverence for who God truly is. When we fear God we respect Him and want to live our lives to honor Him. Today, discover more about embracing the fear of God and what that looks like in your daily life.

Fearing God Produces Obedience
Psalm 112:1 (NIV)
Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who find great delight in his commands.

When we have a reverence for the Lord, we will want to obey His commandments. Think back to the people that you truly respected as a child. For most of us, our parents were the people who had the most direct impact on our lives. When we respected them, we wanted to do the things that they wanted us to do. Even if your parents weren’t your primary caregivers, we all had someone in our lives who we respected. That respect produced obedience.

In this passage from Psalms, David equated fearing (respecting) God and keeping His commandments. Obviously, David passed those ideas on to his son, as Solomon spoke about the importance of fearing God and keeping His commandments in Proverbs 8:13 and Ecclesiastes 12:13. In fact, the verse in Ecclesiastes says that fearing God and keeping His commandments is the entire duty of man.

Fearing God Leads to Prosperity
Psalms 34:9-10 (NIV)
Taste and see the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Fear the Lord you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing.

Much like fearing God, prosperity is another Biblical idea that is misunderstood. When the Bible speaks about prosperity, it isn’t telling us that God will supernaturally put millions of dollars in your bank account. God’s version of prosperity typically doesn’t involve blessing you with the winning Powerball numbers. Instead, God’s brand of prosperity is about giving us everything we need. It also involves blessing us with things that cannot be measured by worldly standards.

The concept of the fear of the Lord leading to prosperity goes back to the first principle that we talked about. God blesses those who are obedient to Him. When we commit our lives to pleasing God, He is fully committed to meeting and exceeding all our needs.

Fearing God Changes How We Worship
Psalm 22:23-24 (NIV)
You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.

Not only does this passage talk about how fearing God changes how we worship, it also speaks about the Lord listens to those who fear Him. He hears their cries for help because they have lived their lives with obedience.

When we have a holy, reverent fear of the Lord, it allows us to worship Him with everything that we have. Worship is so much more than a song, and it goes far beyond lifting your hands in the air. While that’s certainly a form of worship, real worship is a lifestyle. Real worship is what we offer up when we allow every aspect of our lives to be under the leadership of God. Real worship is what happens when we allow our love for God to be the driving force in our lives, propelling us into a deeper walk with Him. If you want to take your worship to another level, allow the fear of God to move you.

Fearing God Opens Us Up to Encouragement
Acts 9:31 (NIV)
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.

Finally, this verse from Acts points to three different benefits associated with fearing God. First of all, when the early Church lived their lives in a state of reverence, they experienced peace. Why do you think that was? Their peace was directly tied to their reverence and obedience to God. When we are obedient to Him, it’s easier for us to experience peace. We don’t have to worry about the guilt associated with sin, so we can live peaceful lives.

Additionally, they grew stronger. This was likely because their worship opened them up to the presence of God. As we’ve already established, living in reverence allows us to worship more deeply. The Bible speaks about God inhabiting the praise of His people, so when our worship reaches a deeper level, so does our relationship with God.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, when we live in a holy reverence of God’s glory, grace, and power, we can be encouraged. To encourage someone literally means to put courage into them. Are you facing difficulties in your life? If so, you might find that your courage is dwindling. Do you have something ahead of you that seems too big for you? You need some courage.

When you are completely submitted to God and living your life primarily to please Him, it creates a situation between you and Him where He can constantly put courage into you.

A Closing Prayer:
Heavenly Father, help me to grow in my fear of You. I know that You do not want me to be afraid of You, but I am called to live my life in a state of reverence regarding You. I have a relationship with the God of creation. The Lord of Heaven and Earth knows my name. Help me to always remember Your power. Help me to go deeper in my worship. In Christ’s name, Amen.

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