Deuteronomy 13:4 says, “Serve only the LORD your God and fear him alone. Obey his commands, listen to his voice, and cling to him.” The second action word is “fear”. Let’s take a deeper look at what it means to fear the LORD.
Even though I grew up in church and was well familiar with the phrase, “fear the LORD”, I didn’t begin understanding what that meant until I learned about “El Gadol Ve-Nora.” This Hebrew name of God translates to “Great and Awesome God.” Great and awesome is meant to evoke a deep sense of fear and reverence. We don’t fear God because He is bent towards our destruction. We fear Him because His power and glory are so overwhelming our human minds can’t possibly understand. When I heard fear of the Lord put in the context of the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, it clicked. When Susan asked if Aslan was a “safe” lion Mr. Beaver replied, “Course he isn’t safe! But he is good.” I’m so thankful that my God is so powerful that He isn’t safe and doesn’t fit in boxes of my own design.
Fear of the Lord is Inspired by Seeing God’s Power.
“That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.” (Exodus 14:30-31)
Just as Susan and her three siblings saw the power of the fear-inspiring Aslan, God displays His power for us to see. The Israelites watched God’s power as He delivered them from Egyptian captivity. In a mighty display of power God parted the Red Sea to let the Israelites pass, then sent the sea raging when the Egyptians tried to follow. The Israelites were rightfully amazed at what they saw God do on their behalf. Verse thirty-one tells us that seeing God’s “mighty hand” inspired fear and trust. The Israelites had a healthy perspective of God’s power, which led to an appropriate response of respect.
Though we may not see our captors lying dead on the shore, God delivers us from captivity. Each of us was a slave to our own sin. In an unforgettable mighty act, God displayed His power when He died on the cross and rose again. As a result of His mighty act, we are offered deliverance from our captivity and the gift of an abundant eternal life. As we celebrated God’s work this weekend I was reminded that the only appropriate response to His power is fear and trust. I’m praying that my daily attitude is one of complete awe and respect to the all-powerful God of the universe and Lord of my life.
Fear of the Lord brings Wisdom and Praise.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.” (Psalm 111:10)
This is purely my speculation but I wonder if the reason scripture tells us that fearing the Lord is the beginning of wisdom is because seeing God as He truly is confirms that we are only dust. When we fear God and understand that He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and beyond time and space, our opinion of ourselves is put into perspective. Responding to the knowledge that God is all-powerful brings wisdom as we realize we have very little control, but God does. Understanding that He is all-knowing should prompt us to live wisely in order to honor Him with our actions. Realizing God is beyond time and space puts our fleeting life in perspective. It should prompt us to live with kingdom urgency in order to glorify God with the limited time we have. Fearing the Lord gives us a proper view of God, which opens the door to invite wisdom in.
Naturally, when we hold a proper view of God, we respond with praise. Praise should characterize every believer. So often I’m characterized by grouchiness and complaints, because my focus is on myself rather than God. When I shift my focus to the Holy God of the universe who delights over me my response is gratitude and praise.
Fear of the Lord is taught.
“Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” (Psalm 34:11)
The Israelites were commanded time and time again to tell their children of the wonderful works of the Lord. For the benefit of future generations, they set up monuments as reminders of the Lord’s faithfulness and power. They understood that intentional teaching was key if their respect for the Lord was going to pass on to their children. We can’t simply sit idly and expect the people God has placed in our sphere of influence to fear the Lord. We are supposed to teach them the fear of the Lord just as the Psalmist did. Sharing our personal testimonies, studying the scriptures, and teaching our children to watch for God’s hand in their lives has an eternal impact as they learn to fear the Lord.