“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 1:7, KJV)
Read Proverbs chapter 1.
If you read Part 1 of this series of devotionals, you'll remember the Bible's clear call to be fearless during difficult and perilous times because God—our Helper, our Strength, our Upholder—is with us. All of that is unequivocally true. At the same time, some of you may have wondered to yourselves: “Doesn't the Bible also tell us that we should actually fear, as in ‘fear the LORD?’” What could this mean?
Two things will help us answer this important question. Firstly, as Christians, we are motivated to fear God out of awe and joy in our relationship with Him, our Creator. To fully comprehend His holiness and love is beyond us, yet He loved us to the extent of sending His son to die on the cross to grant us salvation instead of condemnation. As we try to grasp this mystery, we gain wisdom (Proverbs 9:10), and we are called to fear Him out of reverence (Deuteronomy 10:12-13), humility (Proverbs 22:4), and joy (Malachi 4:2).
Secondly, in the repeated command to “fear not,” God is promising His presence and power to overcome the fearful and dreadful life situations we face each day. He guarantees us His continued presence when He says, “So do not fear, for I am with you; . . . I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). In other words, we are commanded/encouraged to not fear anything that could harm or hinder us—again, because God is with us. Jesus Himself said as much: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Matthew 10:28).
Yes, the Bible is indeed telling us to fear, but it is telling us to fear a person, our Creator and Redeemer: the Lord. Notice what Jesus says in the second half of Matthew 10:28: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both the soul and body in hell.” Jesus is saying there is nothing on earth we should fear—even things and people that can kill the body. But there is a God in heaven who has power over both the body and the soul whom we should revere with a sense of genuine fear and awe.
Fear the Lord? Fear God? It may sound unusual to our ears. Is God really someone of whom we should be afraid? In Part 3 of this series, I'll provide a deeper biblical answer for what it means to “Fear the LORD.”
Prayer for the week:
Heavenly Father, I pray that by Your Holy Spirit You would help me understand Your word more clearly and accurately. Help me to not be afraid of anything in this world but at the same time have an appropriate, biblically informed fear of You. May I grow in my understanding of what it means to fear You and thus grow in Your wisdom for my life.
Andy Lauer is senior pastor of South Bend First Church of the Nazarene in South Bend, Indiana, USA.
Written for Coffee Break.