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How Important is Fearing God?

In order for us to overcome a century and a half of liberal thinking, we must be convinced that the fear of God is important and essential to true biblical religion. The first observation is this: The frequency of its mention in Scripture, as compared to other aspects of vital piety, reveals the importance of the fear of God.

 

Training Children
This observation is based upon the assumption that when someone tells you to do something over and over again, it is evidently important to him or her that you do it.

Every parent knows that this principle is true. As soon as your children start crawling, they automatically go for the electrical cords of lamps, radios, etc. They desperately want to chew those wires! You have to tell them, “No wires!” over and over again. As children grow, you have to tell them repeatedly not to go near the swimming pool without an adult; do not to talk to strangers; do not fight with your sister or brother, etc. It was even by repetition that you taught them the alphabet and how to read.

In short, we have to repeat things to our children over and over again. In order for them to learn something we must repeat it until they catch on to it. Why? Because this is human nature. Sometimes the only way that we can get something into our thick sculls is to have it pounded into it again and again. What is so surprising is that when we study the frequency of the mention of the fear of God in Scripture and then compare it to the other aspects of vital piety, we discover that God is overwhelmingly concerned that people fear Him.

 

Our Love of God
For example, the Bible speaks of our love to God, His name, His law, and His Word, a total of 88 times. This is the sum total of both the Old and New Testaments, counting every verse that speaks of man’s love toward God. This breaks down to 45 references in the Old Testament and 43 references in the New Testament.

Since man’s love toward God is mentioned 88 times in the Bible, it is rather obvious that it is very important to God that we love Him personally and also love His name and His Law. David proclaimed,

I love the Lord, because He hears my voice and my supplications. (Psalm 116:1)
Oh, how love I your Law! It is my meditation all the day. (Psalm 119:97)

God repeatedly tells us in the Bible that we should love Him with all our heart, soul and mind. The Lord Jesus said,

You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. (Matthew 22:37)

The mere fact that He had to tell us to love Him 88 times reveals that He is concerned that we do so.

 

Trusting in God
Secondly, the Bible speaks of our trusting in God (Proverbs 3:5-6), His name (Psalm 33:21), and His Word (Psalm 119:42) ninety-one times. This breaks down to 82 times in the Old Testament and 9 times in the New Testament.

But lest someone be tempted to say that since trusting God is mainly found in the Old Testament, it is not really important today, we must emphasize that the New Testament often assumes what the Old Testament has already established. Thus the New Testament assumes such virtues as trusting God because it was clearly taught in the Old Testament.

 

Fearing God
When we come to the subject of the fear of God, the Bible speaks of it 278 times! We are referring to all the places in Scripture where it speaks of men fearing God, His name, His Law or His Word.

In the Old Testament there are 235 references to the fear of God. In the New Testament there are 43 references to the fear of God which, by the way, is the same number of references as man’s love to God.

From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible proclaims that the fear of the Lord is a fountain of life and those who drink deeply of it shall have the blessings of God in this life and in the life to come. However, those who reject the fear of the Lord will end up in the ways of death.

 

A Logical Conclusion
What is the only logical conclusion we can draw from the frequency of the mention of the fear of God in Scripture? The fear of God is the predominant response to and fundamental attitude toward God, His Word, His Law and His name, that God desires. This is why it is mentioned more times than any other aspect of vital piety.

 

Ever Hear about It?
Given the scriptural importance of the fear of the Lord, most of us must confess that although we have been going to church for many years, we have never heard a single sermon on the fear of God! When was the last time you had a Sunday School lesson on the fear of God? Have you ever seen a book on the fear of God? The typical Christian today has heard many sermons on the love of God but absolutely nothing about the fear of God. This is sad as well as unbiblical.

 

What We Are Not Saying
We must emphasize that we are NOT saying that the fear of God is the ONLY way to relate to God. Please do not misunderstand what we are saying and run off thinking that we are denying the importance of loving God.

Of course you should love God. That is not the issue. What we are saying is that we must relate to God in more than one way. Loving God is not enough according to the Bible. We must also FEAR Him.

Just as a diamond has many facets, so our relationship to God has many different aspects. It is multi-dimensional. While we believe in loving God, we also believe that there is more to walking with God than loving Him. We must also trust Him, believe in Him and fear Him! The modern church’s failure to teach the average Christian this truth is what has led to the sloppy and disobedient lifestyle of most Christians today.

 

The Fundamental Aspect
If we take the Bible seriously, the fundamental aspect of our relationship to God should be the fear of the Lord! We should fear the Lord, trust Him, love Him, obey Him, honor Him, etc. Anything less than this is not true saving religion.

 

The Psalms
The Book of Psalms is the record of man’s intimate and personal relationship with God. These hymns and prayers express the subjective experience of what it means to walk with God. Thus it is not surprising to find that the Psalmist declares 62 times that the fear of the Lord is the pinnacle of that personal relationship.

Entire Psalms are dedicated to the subject of the blessedness which results when someone fears the Lord.

 

Psalm 112
In Psalm 112:1, the Psalmist states,
Praise the Lord! How blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commandments.

In Hebrew poetry, the second phrase often deepens our understanding of the first phrase. In this verse, the fear of God is not a negative or a slavish fear. It is a “delight!” The Psalmist says, “who greatly delights in His commandments.”

This is the kind of awe or reverence which actually draws you into God’s presence where you experience delight in the Law of God because you fear the Lord. The Psalmist goes on to say,

His descendants will be mighty on earth. The generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in his house and his righteousness endures forever. Light arises in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious and compassionate and righteous. (Psalm 112:2-4)

 

Carnal Blessings
Under the Old Covenant, the word “blessing” sometimes had a carnal meaning. A “blessing” was not so much “heavenly” as it was “earthly.” It was usually more “carnal” than it was “spiritual” (2 Corinthians 3:1-11).

Under the Old Covenant, material prosperity was the reward for fearing the Lord. They were promised many children; their barns would be full; their cattle would gave birth in due season; they would inherit the land; they would live a long time, etc. The word “blessing” mainly referred to the carnal gifts of God.

No, we are not saying the same thing that the “blab it - grab it” prosperity preachers on TV are saying! What we are saying is that the Old Covenant was a carnal covenant which focused on such material things as land, children, money, health, etc.

 

Spiritual Blessings
In distinction, the New Covenant is as spiritual as the Old Covenant was carnal. In the New Testament, we are told to focus on “things above” instead of carnal “things below” (Colossians 3:1-2). We are not looking for a land here on earth but a heavenly home where Christ dwells (John 14:1-2).

 

Psalm 128
Again, in Psalm 128, we find another entire Psalm dedicated to the blessedness of fearing the Lord.

Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in His ways. You will eat the fruit of your labor. Blessings and prosperity will be yours. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house. Your sons will be like olive shoots around your table. (Psalm 128:1-3)

The olive tree was so important to the Jews that they would often bring the young shoots into the house where they could watch over them until they were strong enough to be planted outside. This is why David says that our children are so precious that they are like olive plants sitting around our table because we fear the Lord.

 

Psalm 111
In Psalm 111:10, we read,

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. All who follow His precepts have good understanding. To Him belongs eternal praise.

Do you want to be a wise person? Do you seek after understanding? Do you search for wisdom as you would for a hidden treasure? Then you must begin with the fear of the Lord.

 

Psalm 130
In Psalm 130:3-4, we find,

If you, oh Lord, kept a record of our sins, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with you that you may be feared.

God is keeping a record of every evil thought that passes through your mind. He has taken note of every evil deed you have ever done and of every idle word that you have ever spoken. There is a coming Day of Judgment on which He will hold you personally accountable for all the evil you have ever thought, felt, spoken, or done.

Do you think that you will be able to stand on that Day and successfully defend your sins before God? No, all would be lost! There would be no hope for you because your sins are like the sands on a seashore. You cannot even count them.

If the Psalmist were simply to leave it there, we would be able to out-existentialize the existentialists! Christians would have to tell Kafka and Sartre to move over because we are going to preach a real theology of despair. But look at verse 4, “but with You there is forgiveness.”

What? Forgiveness? Despite the fact that we sinned against God’s grace and provoked Him to His face? Even when we have trampled His Law under our feet? Despite all the rebellion, the hatred, and the spite? “Yes!” the Psalmist says, “There is forgiveness with God. There is an infinite amount of forgiveness in God, and you may receive this forgiveness without cost and price to yourself.”

But what is the GOAL of God’s forgiveness? WHY does He forgive us? WHAT is He seeking to accomplish by forgiving us? David states that the purpose of God’s forgiveness is to usher us into a new relationship to Him, and that new relationship is the fear of God: “that You may be feared.”

God does not just forgive you and then, willy nilly, let you run off and live like the devil. He is not interested in people who want to play games trying to keep one foot in the world and one foot with God. He does not play that kind of game with people. He is either Lord of all or not Lord at all.

 

Psalm 34
We are also told that the fear of God brings special protection and provision. In Psalm 34:7-16, we read,

The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him and He delivers them. Fear the Lord, you His saints, for those who fear Him, lack nothing. Come my children, listen to me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord, whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking lies, turn from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their cry. The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them, from the earth.

 

Psalm 33
The same thing is said in Psalm 33:18-19,

The eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him, on those whose hope is in His unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.

 

Psalm 111
Or again, in Psalm 111:5, we are told, “He has given food to those who fear Him.” This is why we are told in Deuteronomy 6:24,

The Lord commanded us to obey all of 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 book of Ecclesiastes reflects the same idea:
Although a wicked man commits a hundred crimes, and still lives a long time, I know that it will go better with God-fearing men who fear God. - Ecclesiastes 8:12

 

Psalm 103
The fear of the Lord also secures the compassion and love of God, as David explains in Psalm 103:11, 17,

For as high as the Heavens are above the earth, so great is His love toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. From everlasting to everlasting, the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him.

Do you want to secure the love and the compassion of the forgiveness of God? You must fear God in order to have it.

 

Proverbs
In the book of Proverbs, the fear of the Lord is referred to 15 times as being the source of wisdom, knowledge, discretion, truthfulness and morality. Thus the fear of the Lord should not be limited to “inner” piety. It is truly practical and enables us to live a godly life in a sinful world.

What is wisdom? The ability to see something from God’s viewpoint. And what is understanding? The ability to respond to what you have seen according to God’s Word. We are told in Proverbs 14:27,

The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death.

The fear of God is a fountain of life! Would it not be a blessing to have such a fountain and to be able to put in your cup and lift it up and drink of the waters of life? Would you like to have “a fountain of life” in your home; an artesian well that is bubbling up with the water of eternal life for you and your family? Would you rejoice in such a fountain? This is what the fear of the Lord is all about!

More than simply promising a long life if you fear the Lord, Solomon says that the fear of the Lord will enable you to escape from “the snares of death” when you and your family are tempted to do evil in the sight of the Lord.

 

Practical Stuff, Too
But someone may say, “This is all theological stuff. Do I get anything practical out of fearing God?” Well, what about a good night’s sleep? Proverbs 19:23 says,

The fear of the Lord leads to life. The one who fears God can sleep satisfied, untouched by any evil.

Would you like to have a nice sleep untouched by the evils of night? Solomon said that the fear of the Lord is the very essence of life. You can lie down safely, rest contented, and sleep satisfied, unmolested by evil, because the Lord encamps around those who fear Him.

In Isaiah 33:6, we read,

And He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation, wisdom and knowledge. The fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.

God is pictured as a great and glorious King whose treasure house is filled with all of the glories and benefits of salvation. The prophet Isaiah says that there is a key that unlocks the door to the treasure room.

All of God’s treasures can be ours if we have the key that unlocks the door. What is this key? Where can we find it? This key is the fear of the Lord. It is the key that unlocks the door to the treasure house of God. Is it not amazing that what Isaiah proclaimed as the “key” to the blessings of God is totally ignored today? Have you used the key of the fear of the Lord to unlock the storeroom of blessing for you and your family?

 

A Defective Covenant
The book of Hebrews tells us that there was a fundamental defect in the Old Covenant (Hebrews 7:18-8:13). What was this defect? The Old Covenant could not provide a redeemed heart to fear God. It was a carnal, legal covenant that dealt with such external things as land, wealth, health and one’s children. The constant lament throughout the Old Testament was,

Oh, that they had such a heart in them, that they should fear Me, and keep all my commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever! (Deuteronomy 5:29)

 

A Superior Covenant
The superior nature of the New Covenant is that it provides man with a new heart to fear God.

“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers… I will put my law within them, and on their heart I will write it… They shall all know Me. And they shall be My people, and I will be their God; and I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me always… I will put the fear of Me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from Me. (Jeremiah 31:31-33; 32:38-40)

All the gracious provisions of the New Covenant, from knowing God to forgiveness of sins, are given to usher us into the fear of the Lord. This last insight provides us with the link between the fear of God and the New Testament.

 

The New Testament
The authors of the New Testament apply the prophecy of the New Covenant to the Church in such places as Hebrews 8:8-13 and Hebrews 10:11-18. Indeed, the New Testament is itself the record of the establishment of the New Covenant through the person and work of Christ. This New Covenant is a covenant of grace wherein God graciously provides man with a new heart to fear Him always. Thus the fear of God is the stated goal of the New Covenant.

But why is this a “new” concept to so many Christians today? The liberals have always claimed that the Old Testament deity was a primitive savage god you had to fear. The New Testament, they claimed, did away with the fear of God and substituted the love of God in its place.

Since the goal of the New Covenant is to bring sinners into a permanent relationship with God in which they fear Him and keep His commandments forever, there is no way that the Liberals can legitimately pit the Old Testament against the New Testament.

 

The Frequency of Mention
Even more to the point, there are 43 references in the New Testament to the fear of God. This means that there are as many references to the fear of God as there are references to the love of God! For example, in Acts 9:31, we are told that the church enjoyed a time of peace:

So the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria enjoyed peace. As it continued to be built up and to live in the fear of the Lord, it kept increasing in numbers through the encouragement of the Holy Spirit.

In the Greek text, we are told by way of participles, how and why they obtained this peace. The text states that the Church “continued to be built up.” It was increasing in numbers. Why?
Luke tells us that this was happening because the Christians were going on in the fear of the Lord. Thus the fear of the Lord was the divinely appointed means by which the church experienced peace and growth. Luke also tells us that as they went on in the fear of the Lord, they experienced the comfort of the Holy Spirit. Thus the fruit of the Spirit is rooted in the fear of God.

Do you want to see your church prosper in the things of God? Then learn to fear the Lord. All of these things happen as people live in the fear of the Lord.

 

No Fear of God
One last principle can be drawn from Romans 3:18. In speaking of those who are not Christians, the Apostle Paul tells us, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

If you are truly converted, you already fear God to some degree. You know that He is mighty to save and mighty to judge. You realize that the Lord is a great King. He is not sitting in a wheelchair waiting for you to wheel Him around. He is a great King, sitting high and lifted up on a throne, ruling the universe.

But to those who do not know the Lord personally, they have no fear of God. If they were honest, they would say, “No, I do not fear God. To fear God never enters my mind. Since God is all loving, what is there to fear? If I want to steal something, I steal it. If I want to say something, I say it because I do not fear God.” When men no longer fear God, there is no restraint upon their lusts.

 

Conclusion
The fear of the Lord is the recognition that God is holy as well as loving, and thus He is to be feared as well as trusted. God is the Righteous Judge of all the earth who sits upon His throne judging the nations with equity. If we make the mistake of neglecting or denying this biblical view of God, we will suffer in our spiritual life. Since God has revealed Himself in Scripture, to worship any other God than the One revealed in Scripture is the essence of idolatry.

This is an excerpt of Fearing God by Robert Morey

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