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How to Understand the Fear of the Lord

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A healthy fear of the Lord is often displaced with casualness toward God. God is often relegated in the hearts of man as a “buddy” with His creation rather than as the all-powerful, all-mighty God of His creation. Yes, God loves His people, and yes, Jesus bowed so low as to call His faithful followers His friends. But let us not forget that God is a God Who dwells in unapproachable light. When the time comes for the scroll to be opened and its seals to be broken (Rev. 5), no mere man will be able to do it. The Lion of the Tribe of Judah will arise as the One Who is supremely worthy.

The fear of the Lord comes in many ways. It is an interesting concept that is often read about but is minimally understood. God is, in the minds of many, the “man upstairs” rather than the King on His throne. But those who desire to grow in their fear of the Lord will be blessed by God. God will reveal truth to those who want to place themselves under the Lord properly, rather than to those who simply want to be along God’s side, or even, sadly to say, out in front of Him.

To know that God spoke and the world came to be should cause the heart of man to magnify his Creator. To know that God took dust from the earth and created man should amaze all humanity. To even get a glimpse of that reality should elevate God and humble man. Man was formed from dust – that stuff that you walk on all day long and don’t pay any attention to. Yeah, that stuff. God made man out of that.

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God has always been and always will be. He created time, the earth, the sun, the moon, and the stars. The mighty hurricanes, waves of the sea, volcanoes, the lightning in the night sky, powerful shooting stars – all of that was created by something infinitely mightier than they.

God desires to be feared by all of His creation. He is worthy to be feared. The unbeliever should have a fear of what God will do at the judgment. God knows all things and sees all things, and a time is coming when everyone will stand before this righteous Judge. That is worthy of fear.

But God tells His children that they have been saved, they have been justified, and they have been sanctified in Christ. So what is there to fear now that the Christian has already been judged in the here and now?

When one realizes Who God is and what it means to be apart from God, it should produce fear. God is the source of everything good. He is the source of joy; He is the source of peace; He is the source of blessing; He is the strong tower, the mighty fortress, and the help in a time of trouble. He is the strong One that binds the strong man. God is everything – which means that without God, man has nothing.

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But you may say, “It seems like people have a lot who do not have God.” It may seem as though that is true, but all of it is empty. All of it is fading away. All of it is transient. There is no real value to it all. Paul counted it all as rubbish because that is exactly what it is.

In this way, the Christian must fear God. Sure, this is not the only way that the Christian must fear God. But the Christian must come to grips with all that God is – and all that God is for him personally. The fear of God will keep someone close to God because he could not imagine severing the tie. He fears God and wants to do what he must to stay close to Him. He does not want to imagine life without God. He doesn’t want to picture what it would be like to dishonor God. He is concerned that God receive glory.

Yes, those who fear God know that God is gracious and will receive them back like the prodigal if they stray. The man who fears God properly has an understanding of God’s Word. He is not legalistically fearing God but properly fearing God. Nevertheless, a fear comes about him as begins to see like never before the God whom Isaiah saw in Isaiah chapter 6. Scripture says, “…I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory” (Is. 6:1-3). Isaiah caught a glimpse of God, and his response was a fearful response.

God was gracious to Isaiah as Isaiah approached God properly. Isaiah saw his unclean lips and declared woe upon his own life. God forgave Isaiah of his sin, but Isaiah was never the same after that life-changing glimpse of God. Throughout the book of Isaiah, the title “The Holy One of Israel” can be found. This is what the angels declared as they worshipped God in Isaiah 6. Isaiah could never go back after he saw what he did. The same is true for those that learn the fear of the Lord. There is no going back when one rightly learns the fear of the Lord.

The following is a quick look at Solomon’s instructions on how you can develop a fear of the Lord, taken from Proverbs 2:1-5. It may be a good idea to read that short portion of Scripture prior to reading about its explanation.

• Receive words – Solomon starts Proverbs chapter 2 by telling the reader that he must receive God’s Word. Surely, there could be no other way to learn the fear of the Lord. You will never learn the fear of the Lord through the culture. The culture does not fear God. You will only learn casualness, indifference, or hatred there.

• Hide commandments – Along with receiving God’s Word, the reader is instructed to hide what he reads in his heart. For so many, turning to the Bible can be an experience like the seed that fell along the path. This seed was later plucked up by Satan and forgotten by the man. If you want to learn the fear of the Lord, receive God’s Word, then hide it in your heart.

• Incline ears – In Proverbs 2:2, Solomon moves toward the need to incline one’s ear. This speaks of the man who must listen to God’s Word. In Romans 10, Paul tells us that faith comes from hearing. If one wants to grow in the fear of the Lord, he must let down his walls that cover his ears. He must open himself to the teaching of God’s Word.

• Apply heart – The second half of Proverbs 2:2 tells the reader that he must apply his heart to understanding. To apply oneself means that one has devoted himself to whatever his pursuit is. If someone applies himself to his job or schooling, it means that this pursuit is a priority in his life. It also means that there may be other things that he can no longer do.

• Cry after – The person must cry to God for knowledge. He must turn to God in earnest prayer.

• Lift voice – He must lift his voice to God for understanding. Yet again, God is depicted as the source of blessing here. Cry to God and lift your voice. A fear of God comes through prayer.

• Seek silver – Silver is desirable for many. But what is your chief desire? Whatever it is, you will find yourself spending your days seeking for it. Seek understanding like it is your chief desire.

• Search for treasure – Yet again, the reader is instructed to seek/search. You must not be complacent if you want to grow in your fear of the Lord. If you seek the Lord with all your heart, you will, in fact, find Him.

• Understand the fear of the Lord – Then the Bible says, “Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God” (Prov. 2:5).

Final prayer

Father, I thank You for the ways that You have helped me to fear You. I recognize that I do not fear You enough. Teach me to fear You more. You are worthy of it. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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