Wednesday, February 13, 2008

fear of the Lord

I was reading Proverbs in the last couple of weeks and I've been spending a lot of time thinking aout what it means when it is talking about "fearing the Lord". That seems like such a strange concept to me. But, it comes up over and over again. So, if you choose to read this blog, you will have to put up with me trying to figure it out as I go. Tonight this is really a way to try to make sense of my thoughts and I type.

All of these verses have something to say about it (I think this list is comprehensive, but I could have missed a few verses):

  • "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline." Proverbs 1:7
  • "My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands withing you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God." Proverbs 2:1-5
  • "To fear the Lord is to hate evil . . ." Proverbs 8:13
  • "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." Proverbs 9:10
  • "The fear of the Lord adds length to life, but the years of the wicked are cut short." Proverbs 10:27
  • "He whose walk is upright fears the Lord . . ." Proverbs 14:2
  • "A wise man fears the Lord and shuns evil . . ." Proverbs 14:16
  • "He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress . . ." Proverbs 14:26
  • "The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death." Proverbs 14:27
  • "The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom . . ." Proverbs 15:33
  • "The fear of the Lord leads to life: Then one rests content, untouched by trouble." Proverbs 19:23
  • "Humility and the fear of the Lord bring wealth and honour and life." Proverbs 22:4
  • ". . . but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord." Proverbs 23:17
  • "Blessed in the man who always fears the Lord, but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble." Proverbs 28:14

After reading about fearing the Lord so much I really wanted to understand what it meant. What does it mean to fear the Lord? What does this look like?

I figured I would start with looking up what the word "fear" meant in this context. According to my Bible Dictionary, fear, in this context, means "profound reverence and awe toward God." Great! I still don't get it . . . I don't use reverence or awe in my daily life, so now I need to look up what those words mean:
awe - profound and reverent dread of the supernatural; respectful fear inspired by authority
revere - to show honour and devotion to; worship; adore
reverence - honour and respect mixed with love
OK, sort of helpful, but this is still a concept I'm trying to figure out.

As far as I understand so far, fearing God means that we have a respect for Him because of His power and authority. And that we show Him this respect through our worship of Him. I guess this makes sense (and to tie this in to all the verses from Proverbs, as true wisdom comes from God and we would need to be willing to give God the glory, honour, and respect that He is due in order to gain His wisdom.

This isn't an idea that is spoken about only in Proverbs either. There are other Scriptures that say the same thing as well.

  • "Fear the Lord your God, serve him only . . ." Deuteronomy 6:13
  • "What does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul." Deuteronomy 10:12
  • "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding." Psalm 111:10
So, these verses seem to be saying the same thing. That wisdom comes from God, and in order to gain God's wisdom we must fear - honour and respect - God.

I like the way the note in my study Bible put it:
"The only way to become truly wise is to fear (revere) God. . . . Too often people want to skip this step, thinking they can become wise by life expereince and academic knowledge alone. But if we do no acknowledge God as the source of wisdom, then our foundation for making wise decisions is shaky, and we are prone to mistakes and foolish choices." (NIV Life Application Study Bible)

The one verse that I came acros that made me smile and shake my head all at the same time is 2 Corinthians 5:11, which says:
"Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord . . ."
Those are Paul's words and as I read them I was thinking "No I don't, I don't know what it means." In this case I also liked the note in my study Bible. It was the most helpful to me in understanding what it means to fear the Lord:
"To 'fear the Lord'does not mean that believers become paralyzed. On the contrary, knowing God's perfection and that He will judge everyone's actions should spur Christians to good deeds, to what pleases our God. The fear of the Lord also frees believers from all of life's anxieties and worries. Knowing that God is 'for us' can keep believers unafraid of earthly powers - people, governments, or the forces of nature. God takes care of his own. The fear of God gives us uncommon courage in the face of life's troubles." (NIV Life Application Study Bible)

So, as I sit here now I realize that I have probably repeated myself multiple times as I've tried to figure this out. But that's probably how long it took me to get it through my head. (Again my apologies if this was a bit ramlbing, but I warned you at the beginning.)

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