What Does it Mean to Have the Fear of the LORD?

Our study today is what it means to have the fear of the LORD; and It will serve the reader well to study the contents of this page thoroughly and to watch the excellent video presentation by Pastor Stephen Bohr just below. The fear of the LORD for many people is a difficult concept to grasp, and although the writings on this page and the video presentation are in harmony with each other, they are delivered from different perspectives so the reader/viewer will be far better positioned to grasp the concept once the study has been completed.

“1 Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which the LORD your God commanded to teach you, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go to possess it:
2 That thou mightest fear the LORD thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged.” Deuteronomy 6:1,2

It is evident that having the fear of the LORD is directly connected to His Commandments,

“that thou might fear the LORD to keep His Commandments”.

 

This concept of the Fear of God is not to be understood in the way that we would normally identify with fear, that is to be afraid. The fear of God is greatly misunderstood by the vast majority of [Christians],  and generally not ever understood by those who are not.

The Fear of God is not the fear that we would normally identify with when we think of another fear, like the fear of man for example.

Solomon Explains

“The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.” Proverbs 29:25.

An appropriate rendering of this verse is

“whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe from the snares of men”.

Understanding this difference is critical, and I use this example deliberately as it is foundational to grasping the significance of the effects of fear, and the results that it brings at the judgment.

“But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” Revelation 21:8

The fearful will take their part in the lake of fire, which is the second death; so the fear of God must not be that which we normally identify as fear, because the fear of man, will cause second death, but the fear of God is a prerequisite for those who wish to receive His seal, and everlasting life.

“Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.” Revelation 14:7
“Then a voice came from the throne, saying: “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both small and great!” Revelation 19:5

Solomon confirms the preamble to the ten commandments quoted above with his closing statements in Ecclesiastes.

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” Ecclesiastes 12:13

So we must go to the Scriptures to determine the meaning of this phrase; To fear God: Keeping in mind Isaiah 28:10.

“The fear of the LORD [is] the beginning of wisdom” – Psalms 111:10
“And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that [is] wisdom; and to depart from evil [is] understanding.” Job 28:28
“The fear of the LORD [is] the beginning of knowledge” – Proverbs 1:7
“The fear of the LORD [is] the instruction of wisdom; and before honour [is] humility.” Proverbs 15:33
“The fear of the LORD [is] to hate evil” – Proverbs 8:13
“In the fear of the LORD [is] strong confidence” – Proverbs 14:26
“The fear of the LORD [is] a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death” – Proverbs 14:27

As a stepping stone to uncovering the full, and most often undisclosed meaning of the “Fear of the Lord” we can  decipher the above verses as.

“The fear of the Lord? Is the beginning of wisdom, knowledge and humility, it’s when you hate evil and love the LORD and your bretherin. It gives you strong confidence and is like a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.”

So what are the snares of death? As above Prov 29:25 “The fear of man bringeth a snare…”

To help us understand the significant difference between the two ideas we must realize that the Fear of God is a choice.

“For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD:” Proverbs 1:29
“O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name:…” Nehemiah 1:11

What we normally associate as the fear of men for example, is not generally perceived as a choice. The idea of it being a choice does not seem rational, but when we have the Fear of the Lord we WILL NOT suffer from the fear of men.

This verse sums up this idea nicely.

“My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee;  So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, [and] apply thine heart to understanding;   Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, [and] liftest up thy voice for understanding;  If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as [for] hid treasures;  Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.” – Proverbs 2:1-5

The overwhelming majority of Bible verses that talk about the fear of the LORD are to be understood in this context; but, there are some verses where difficulty may arise so I would like to touch on some of the most common ones which may cause problems for us so that we might better understand the context in which these verses are to be understood.

You see the idea is commonly portrayed that we are to fear the wrath of God, and that this is what is meant by the fear that we are supposed to have; but this is untrue. The Bible most certainly talks of people being in fear in the presence of God.

“When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.” Exodus 20:18

But the context is here defined when Moses explains to the people why they trembled with fear.

“Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” Exodus 20:20

The context can now be understood in the light of what we have discovered above. “Do NOT be AFRAID” but fear the LORD so that ye will not sin.

Another verse which might benefit some explanation is Deut 9:19

“For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure, wherewith the LORD was wroth against you to destroy you. But the LORD hearkened unto me at that time also.” Deuteronomy 9:19
“To the transgressor it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God: (Hebrews 10:31) But Moses stood alone in the presence of the Eternal One, and he was not afraid; for his soul was in harmony with the will of his maker.” PP329.

Moses was afraid for the people, who were in transgression against God’ Law, he was afraid for them, not for himself.

Those who are in condemnation at the judgment will be afraid of the consequences of sinning against God and His Holy Law.

The fear of God spoken of in Deuteronomy 9:19 is akin to that of the following verses.

Jonah 1:15-16; Luke 12:4-5; 23:40;

These verses have to do with the people being in transgression of God’ will, and His Law. It is the results of that transgression that they fear when they fear God. In this sense they are afraid, but this is clearly not the fear that God wills us to have.

So having the fear of God is not synonymous with being afraid of God, as they are opposite in meaning and intent.

The last verses that I would like to look at a little closer is in 2 Chronicles 17:9-10

“They taught throughout Judah, taking with them the Book of the Law of the Lord; they went around to all the towns of Judah and taught the people. The fear of the Lord fell on all the kingdoms of the lands surrounding Judah, so that they did not make war with Jehoshaphat.” 2 Chronicles 17:9-10

 

“Throughout the kingdom the people were in need of instruction in the law of God. In an understanding of this law lay their safety; by conforming their lives to its requirements they would become loyal both to God and to man. Knowing this, Jehoshaphat took steps to ensure to his people thorough instruction in the Holy Scriptures. The princes in charge of the different portions of his realm were directed to arrange for the faithful ministry of teaching priests. By royal appointment these instructors, working under the direct supervision of the princes, “went about throughout all the cities of Judah, and taught the people.” 2 Chronicles 17:7-9. And as many endeavored to understand God’s requirements and to put away sin, a revival was effected. To this wise provision for the spiritual needs of his subjects, Jehoshaphat owed much of his prosperity as a ruler. In obedience to God’s law there is great gain. In conformity to the divine requirements there is a transforming power that brings peace and good will among men. If the teachings of God’s word were made the controlling influence in the life of every man and woman, if mind and heart were brought under its restraining power, the evils that now exist in national and in social life would find no place. From every home would go forth an influence that would make men and women strong in spiritual insight and in moral power, and thus nations and individuals would be placed on vantage ground.” PK 191, 192.

 

In summary: The fear of the LORD, of which we are told to have is a choice that is ours to make. To be afraid of the LORD, is to be in transgression of Him and His Holy Law.

 

“And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul,” Deuteronomy 10:12