What is this “fear of God”? Why is fear not of God but I still have to fear Him? Is there a difference?
First of all, where does the Bible talk about the fear of God?
The most recognized and known Bible verses that talk about the fear of God (or fear of the Lord) are found in the Proverbs (Proverbs 1:7; 2:5; 9:10; 10:27; 14:26-27; 15:16, 33; 19:23).
So in each verse, you see what the fear of God is:
– Proverbs 1:7 – the beginning of knowledge;
– Proverbs 2:5 – understanding and finding the knowledge of God;
– Proverbs 9:10 – the beginning of wisdom;
– Proverbs 10:27 – prolongs days;
– Proverbs 14:26-27 – strong confidence and the foundation of life;
– Proverbs 15:16 – better to have little than great treasure and trouble;
– Proverbs 15:33 – the instruction of wisdom;
– Proverbs 19:23 – tends to life, satisfying.
There are many more verses that you find throughout the Bible talking about this fear of God and so I encourage you to draw up a Google search and you’ll find all the verses related to this.
So, what is this fear of God in its true original meaning/definition?
The word “fear” in this context is not to be afraid of God or feel a fear towards God. This meaning is from the Hebrew word “yare” (יָרֵא) which is to “revere” God. This Hebrew word also describes to fear, to stand in awe, to stand in fear, in reverence, in honor.
Now you have to understand why it’s important to distinguish this word from their intended meanings. The Hebrew language is a very poor language, containing only 45 thousand words.
That’s right. Only 45 thousand words.
This is why the same word can have many different meanings and therefore why it’s important to know how to read the word in its correct context.
According to dictionary.com, the word revere means to regard with respect tinged in awe; venerate. It also means to have a profound amount of respect.
So once again, because there are few words in the Hebrew language with many different meanings, context is extremely important when reading the Word. Therefore, when we speak of the fear of God, we can always relate it to having this reverence for God, this highest amount of respect for God, this awe and honor for God alone.
When we look at Leviticus 19:3, we see here being spoken about revering the mother and father. Other versions would say respecting the mother and father. This word once again from the Hebrew “yare” we’ve been speaking about. In verse 32 of this same chapter, we now see that this word is used as “fear thy God”, going back to the reverence and respect towards the Lord our God.
I am no theologian, so correct me if I’m wrong. I just find context to be extremely important when reading the Word of God. Now let us look at some more Scripture:
– Joshua 4:14 – “On that day the LORD magnified Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they feared him, as they feared Moses, all the days of his life.”
– Nehemiah 1:11 – “O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king’s cupbearer.”
– Proverbs 9:10 – “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.
All of these verses mentioned here redirect to the Hebrew “yare”, with Proverbs 9:10 using the word “yirah”, a feminine noun with its origin word being “yare”.
A definition of “revere” for “yare” means we want to draw close to Him. We want to be near the people we respect and we flee from the things/persons we fear.
Now let us take a look at the Greek word for “fear” and believe it or not, it’s actually the word “phobos” (Φόβος) which is where we get the English word “phobia” from. The Greek word “phobos” is defined as fear, terror, alarm, the object or cause of fear, reverence, respect.
This word is once again found throughout the Bible, with the New Testament verses like these:
– Matthew 28:8 – The women at Christ’s tomb ran to the disciples in fear;
– Acts 2:43 – Fear (or awe) came upon every soul;
– 1 Peter 3:1-2, 15 – Wives are to fear (respect) their husbands, as well as believers are to fear (revere) the Lord;
– 1 John 4:18 – There is no fear in love, which is to say that love is not something to be afraid of as God is love and there is no fear within God.
We see that with this word as well, there are different meanings and it’s important therefore to use it in its correct context. Now this is not the only word to describe either fear or reverence, but it is the most common and most used word in the Greek to describe these words.
Remember that simply respecting God is not enough, because you can respect someone and not have this fear or reverence for the person. Therefore, it is important to acknowledge that God Is to be revered because as Psalms 89:7 would say: “God is greatly to be feared.”
In the same manner, you can fear something or someone and have no respect or reverence for them at all.
So where does Jesus come to play in this fear of God?
As we know, the New Testament is where Jesus is introduced to us as God in flesh, the Christ/Messiah. As you go back in the Old Testament, you will see many mentions of the Messiah and Isaiah 9:6 gives us the prophecy of Jesus’ birth. As you are aware, Jesus was born and at the age of 30 He started His ministry, ministered His disciples for three whole years before being crucified, later dying and afterwards resurrected (Hallelujah for that). He did all of this for my sins and yours. Suffered all of that so that we can let the old “us” die with our sins and have new life in Jesus Christ, guaranteeing us Eternal Life with Him and the Father. And how amazing to know that before He left, He gifted us with the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit to speak on behalf of Christ and guide us through it all until the Return of Christ.
Wouldn’t you say that that is something to fear? What a great reverence we have to give Christ!
We as believers in Christ show this “fear of God” to Jesus by confessing our sins, repenting from them and recognizing Jesus Christ as our only personal Lord and Savior, and therefore share this amazing Gospel of Jesus Christ with others. We share this hope with others that are lost in the world as we see once again in 1 Peter 3:15:
“sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.”
Trust me, nobody isn’t and shouldn’t stuff Jesus down anyone’s throat if the Creator and Designer of this world Himself has not done so. Talk about a Sovereign and Merciful God.
So why do we have this reverence for Christ? Because in John 14:6 we are reminded that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father but through Him.
Not only that, Jesus is coming back for us and He wants to bring more and more souls with Him. The enemy isn’t painting a pretty picture of the world because he likes us, he’s doing it because when Christ returns and does what needs to be done, the enemy has his destination- and that’s eternal torment. And all he wants is to bring as many people with him as possible and I don’t know about you, but I for sure don’t want anyone to end up there.
I will be the first to admit that I was a wretch, a horrible sinner and I was destined for eternal torment, but God is so gracious and merciful and has given Jesus to the world to die and save us. And what are we to do?
– Admit we’re sinners and repent;
– Believe that Jesus is the Son of God;
-Confess Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
Is that all I have to do?
To be saved, yes.
But what do we do in gratitude to God?
Love Him, obey Him, follow Him diligently, read this Living Word of God and go into the world and make disciples.
So, the fear of God is true to what it says in the Proverbs 9:10: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.”
Proverbs 28:14 (ESV): “Blessed is the one who fears the Lord always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity.”
Before I finish, I just wanted to mention that I highly recommend you read the Berean Patriot’s article on the fear of God (link is down below). It is so good, so in dept and definitely worth a read.
I made a quote out of something likewise they had written and I just love what it says here:
“To revere God is to pursue Him and to want to be more like Him – which is extremely wise.”
– Berean Patriot – What it really means to “Fear the Lord” (it’s not about dread)
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