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  • Writer's pictureFrank Paul

The Fear of the Lord

by Frank Paul

(Editor’s note: Interesting anecdotal God wink about this article. I was talking with Eileen, my wife for those of you who don’t know her, about whether to write this article the night before. I was a bit hesitant because I thought perhaps most people knew what this meant; OR that most people were so fixed in their preconceived notion brow beaten into them since youth that God was frightening, that my article would seem ridiculous. We couldn’t really come up with a fixed answer yes or no. The next morning I opened my Bible app on my phone that has a daily verse from Scripture that I read every day and the first words that I see are, “The Fear of the Lord,” as the verse of the day was Proverbs 8:13. Out of all the Scripture verses in the Bible, this one popped up. Wow, I said to myself, I guess I’m supposed to tackle this subject and write this article. So off I went to dig into the research. Thank you, God.)

I will speak for myself; however, I have a sense many others have the same question. Ever wonder what “Fear of the Lord” really means?   

At first glance, it sounds scary, frightening, even foreboding. Is God going to strike me down if I do not behave; should I hide in a cave as David did when King Saul was after him? What is up with this phrase; it appears over 20 times in the Old Testament, and two or three times in the New Testament, depending on which translation of the Bible you read.

I believe a common misconception of the meaning of “fear” is similar to our misunderstanding of “meek, turn the other cheek, ye are the salt of the earth” as covered in the previous three newsletters, which are posted on our website if you want to reference them.

Fear of the Lord is not fear as we know it to mean in the 21st century. Some of this “fear” as we know it today results from years of priests, pastors, and the like pounding the pulpit while sermonizing that God will punish you if you do not shape up, without a follow-up that God will love you if you obey His commandments. I believe the lack of follow-up in these sermons while I was growing up made me think only one way: God is scary unless you behave.

Once, again, however, if we do the research, we find that the Hebrew and Aramaic languages have a couple of definitions for fear: dread, frighten; and the one that is relevant for this conversation, reverence. If we rest only in our single-minded English definition, it leaves us with questions. We need to dig deeper into God’s words in reference to the culturally accepted meaning at the time they were written, and not just our current definition, to sometimes grasp the applicability of the words.

Consider Proverbs 8:13, for instance, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.” Or Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” Or my favorite, which is also a Jesus prophetic verse, Isaiah 11:1-2, “…and the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might; the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.” Moving up the Biblical timeline: Acts 9:31, “Then had the churches rest throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria and were edified and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, were multiplied.”

The way in which the Bible uses the phrase “Fear of the Lord “refers to obedience, reverence, rejection of evil, a Godly way of living; recognizing, and adhering to, knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is not a paralyzing, fire consuming fear, but an understanding and respect for God’s wisdom and obedience to it.

God does not want evil rained down on his creation, but worship of Him and love toward one another. There is no evil heart in God. Refer to 2 Chronicles 19:7, “Wherefore now, let the fear of the Lord be upon you; take heed and do it: for there is no iniquity with the Lord our God”… Iniquity definition: immoral or grossly unfair behavior. For if there is no iniquity with the Lord, there is no grossly unfair or hatred He feels toward us.

But let us not think we are off the hook, and we can go a sinning away. Not so. You can find ample examples in the Old Testament where God will direct the current military leader of that particular era to go into a village or an area in Judah or Northern Israel and wipe out every man, woman, and child, and leave not one standing, because they had failed to listen to God and were behaving so poorly for so long. Grossly unfair you say.

Once again, if you take a Biblical verse by itself without context its meaning can, and very often is, distorted. In the verses preceding village or town destruction, there is always, always, multiple verses giving God’s people a chance to turn back to Him, to repent, to obey His commandments, and to revere Him. Not only is it sometimes just a few years, more often than not it is a century or two before God finally “rains down,” if you will, judgment.

Hopefully, this dig into past meanings and uses of “fear” will give you a clearer understanding so that when you read the phrase “Fear of the Lord” going forward, you will not always get knots in your stomach. I know personally I stopped walking on eggshells once I completed my research.

Will you sin again? Probably. Will you get struck down from heaven for it? Probably not. However, better sooner than later you need to choose a different path for your life and earnestly attempt not to sin.

Hold God in reverence, obey His commandments, and do not “fear” Him, as our 21st century meaning of the word conjures up in our minds.



















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