Fear the Lord?

Proverbs 1:7 is like the motto for the entire book of Proverbs:

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

What does it mean to have or live with “the fear of the Lord”?

To “fear the LORD” is to:
  1. Live in awe of God, who is utterly holy and entirely different from us.
  1. Be in covenant relationship with God, knowing and believing His promises.
  1. Know that you are accountable to this incomprehensible God, and that He is entirely trustworthy.
  1. Walk in holiness by trusting Him because of who He is. 

“The fear of the Lord” as a phrase occurs 14 times in Proverbs.

Other portions of Scripture carry this phrase:

“Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.” (Job 28:28)

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!” (Psalm 111:10)

“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 the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.” (Isa. 11:2-3)


And it’s not just an Old Testament idea:

“So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.” (Acts 9:31)

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.” (2 Cor. 5:10-11)


So, does God want you to be terrified of Him?
The short answer is: if you’ve trusted in Jesus, no!

Some of the most clarifying passages for understanding the true nature of the fear of the Lord are found in the Psalms:

“Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!” (Psalm 31:19)

“Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.” (Psalm 86:11)

“If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.” (Psalm 130:3-4)

Those who are God’s children aren’t being called to stand in terror of Him, but to live in reverence and awe. As Jerry Bridges says it,

“I can know if I truly fear God by determining if I have a genuine hatred of evil and an earnest desire to obey His commands.”

Without the fear of the Lord, the pursuit of wisdom is worthless, because it would be nothing but an attempt to live and thrive apart from the God who made us to be in relationship with Him. There is absolutely no thriving, meaningful, purposeful, wise life apart from relationship with God, and relationship with God only comes through faith in Jesus.