What does it mean to fear God? What exactly is the fear of God? Have you ever asked yourself these questions?
I know I have.
Do the words “fear + God” spark a bit of…discomfort in your bones? I mean…why should we fear a loving God, right?
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.~ Proverbs 9:10 (NIV)
So…What Does Fearing God Mean?
I grew up in a very loving home. My mom didn’t work outside the house, so we always received the attention we needed from her and some. Not only did she take care of our needs, she went above and beyond to make our home feel like a place of peace.
She cooked us hearty meals every night, kept the house beautiful and stress-free, and spent quality time with us. I loved being home and I loved my mom.
Well, amidst all this love and peace, my mom did lay down some ground rules. We had chores and responsibilities as every kid does. And when we did not obey the rules, or neglected to take care of our chores, dear mommy would reprimand us.
Now, after getting spanked or scolded or told to go to my room, did that ever change how I felt about her? No, of course not.
Obviously, in those moments I’d be angry and maybe had some words to say. (In my head of course. I would never say them to her face. Ha!) However, even when my mother punished me, I knew she still loved me.
These chastising moments did not change the feelings of peace that home gave me. And having rules to follow did not make me resent her or hate being home.
My point? People hear that we should “fear God” and misunderstand it to mean that God is this horrible tyrant who we should fear or else!
But that is absolutely not the case. God is like our parent. In fact, He is the ultimate parent. And just because he has provided us with commandments and chastises us when we go astray, does that make Him a tyrant? Does that make Him evil?
Fear of God is Rational and Respectful
How is it rational to have a respectful fear of your earthly parents, but not of God?
We should not fear Him as one fears a monster. But we should have a healthy, respectful fear. When I think of my mom, I never want to disappoint her. I don’t like to make her angry, and when I do something I know I shouldn’t, I expect her to say something about it.
Why don’t we give God that same respect?
Yes, God has given us commandments to abide by. Yes, he chastises us when we disobey. But that should not change our relationship with Him, just like it doesn’t change our relationship with our earthly parents.
Fear of God Leads to Wisdom
The fear of God leads to wisdom, but the fear of anything else leads to nothing. Fearing God means to respect Him, honor Him, acknowledge who He is.
It means to know your place in the grand scheme of things and to know who provides all that you have. It means to have an understanding that God is bigger than anything you could ever create or dream of and to be so in awe by that reality that you bow down in fearful reverence.
It means to accept that there is a law and that if you break it, there are consequences, and to respect God’s choice to chastise anyone who knowingly disobeys.
Fearing God means choosing wisdom over rebellion.
I’m sure as a child growing up, your parents expected you to have some level of fear towards them, correct? If you didn’t fear your parents on some level, there would have been no reason to obey; there would have been no consequences.
Therefore, if we can fear our parents, and still love them and expect to be loved in return, why can’t we accept the same from our Lord?
Bible Verses About Fearing God
The Bible tells us in Deuteronomy 6:24 to fear the Lord for our good and our survival.
“The LORD commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the LORD our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today.”
The Bible tells us in Psalm 31:19 that God has stored up goodness for those who fear Him.
How great is Your goodness, Which You have stored up for those who fear You, Which You have wrought for those who take refuge in You, Before the sons of men!
The Bible tells us in Psalm 112:1 that the man who fears God is blessed.
“Praise the LORD! How blessed is the man who fears the LORD, Who greatly delights in His commandments.”
The Bible tells us in Psalm 34:7 that God protects those who fear Him.
“The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, And rescues them.”
Fearing God is for Our Benefit
If you look up the definition of fear, one of the definitions is to have a reverential fear of something. That is the fear that God wants from His people.
Now, the Bible also talks about the wrath of God. If you’ve read any verse that discusses God’s wrath, I’m sure it left you shaking in your boots a little, right?
And this wrath makes it difficult to talk about fearing God, especially when you’re trying to convince someone that God is loving.
But, despite how uncomfortable it is to talk about God’s wrath, it’s important to remember that God is a God of judgment and justice. If we choose not to revere God the way we should, we should expect judgment. And God’s wrath is not something to play with.
Just like with our earthly parents, if we lose the respect we should have for God, and start acting disrespectfully, there are consequences. Those consequences are to be feared.
God wants us to view Him in awe and have the utmost respect for Him; that’s the relationship that He seeks to have with us. Not to mention He deserves that respect as the highest being in existence.
And when we make choices that do not honor Him, we should expect to be chastised.
However, the scripture also tells us the fear of God is wisdom and that this fear sustains our lives.
God does not chastise us for fun. He chastises us for our own benefit; fearing God’s judgment keeps us from doing wrong. Just like fearing being spanked as a kid kept us from doing things we had no business doing; things that likely would harm us.
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.~ Psalm 16:11
As scripture tells us, God wants us to have full, happy lives. And everything He does or allows is for the ultimate good of those who love and obey Him. His commandments keep up us from making decisions that will harm us and others.
Let’s get over being offended by the words “fear + God” and recognize that God deserves our admiration and respect.
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