Should we actually “fear” God? According to the prophet Isaiah, there is a type of fear that is of tremendous value to all.
6 The fear of the Lord is His treasure. Isaiah 33:6 (NKJV)
King Solomon reigned at the peak of Israel’s Old Testament glory, and during this time he wrote many wise sayings under the inspiration of the Spirit of God. His Book of Proverbs begins with a very key concept: the “fear” of God is the foundation of a joyful and successful life.
7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge… Proverbs 1:7 (NKJV)
Solomon obviously concurs with Isaiah calling the fear of the Lord a treasure, yet a few chapters later, the Lord comforts Israel through Isaiah by telling them NOT to fear.
1 But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine.” Isaiah 43:1 (NKJV)
So the question is, do we fear God or not?
I believe the answer is both no and yes. It all depends upon the definition of the word. Two definitions given in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary are:
1: an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger.
2: profound reverence and awe especially toward God.
Speaking about God, both Solomon and Isaiah are using the second definition of fear. It is a belief in God’s existence, majesty, awe, and power, and a recognition of His divine love and graciousness towards us. We show God a reverent fear by receiving His many blessings with a sense of gratitude and deep respect.
When we approach God on His terms, we have no reason to fear Him using the first definition – there is no danger from Him, and He is our true protection from the dangers around us. He has provided an atonement to believers for all of our sins and shortcomings through the death and resurrection of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. In this way, Christ has torn down the wall separating Jews and Gentiles, and extended the promised blessings of Abraham to all believers.
13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Galatians 3:13-14 (NKJV)
Because of Christ, we now have the right to boldly approach the Father’s throne, and He eagerly yearns for us to do so. God wants us to bring to Him all of our needs and the needs of those around us.
One believer I know describes his fear of the Lord this way:
“I knew that my father loved me and all of our family very much. He sacrificed for us and would provide us with everything we needed and a lot of what we wanted. But he was strict. I did not often defy him or actively oppose his will – I respected him. That is how I understand the concept of the fear of the Lord.”
Others of us may not have been blessed with such a relationship with a loving parent. They may have been deceased, abusive, or virtually absent, perhaps even abandoning us to chase after their own false idols. We may need to look to another good role model in our lives to help us relate to God’s benevolent nature.
The fear of the Lord is a very positive and comforting feeling, action, and attitude that comes out of a deep respect for Him and an appreciation for how much He really does love us. It forms the basis of our humble reliance upon Him. His presence and blessings support and sustain us, and keep us safely under His wing, throughout eternity. This is our true treasure, the beginning of wisdom and knowledge.
7 God shall bless us, and all the ends of the earth shall fear Him. Psalm 67:7 (NKJV)
Is there another, negative type of fear in your life? Many of us do or have had it. It can be a crippling and overwhelming emotion, often coming upon us without warning or even obvious cause. Fear can also be hiding behind a mask of deep anger or rage.
God wants us to bring any and all negative fear to Him – He will make a way for it to lose its power over us. This may take some time and will often involve us walking right through fearful situations. But with God’s loving help, we will eventually come out on the other side of fear on the road to freedom and victory.
Father God, we come before Your throne to ask Your help and blessing. Take away our harmful fears and associated depression or anger, and replace these with a respectful reliance upon You and Your loving care. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.