Bible Study, Bible Study Methods/Hermeneutics, Musings

The Fear of the Lord

What is the “fear of the Lord?”

The words that are used in both the Old Testament and New Testament are words that would be used to describe general fear, to be frightened, a terror, to feel great distress, deep concern of pain, to tremble, to show high value and honor to one in authority bordering on fear (adapted from Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains and A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Third Edition).

The concept of the “fear of the Lord” is often translated “awe” or “respect” and most people in the pew when asked, “What is the fear of the Lord” simply declare, “To respect or to honor God.”

But when asked, “What does it look like to respect or honor God” as described in the passages that command us to “fear the Lord” most are not sure.

It is interesting to read the passages that use either “fear the Lord” or “fear of the Lord” and other combinations. One thing you find is that the “fear of the Lord” is a positive command not a negative command. And it is not antithetical to “love for the Lord.” As a matter of fact “fear the Lord” and “love the Lord” occur together in a number of passages.

See all of Deuteronomy 6 (particularly Deuteronomy 6:1-3, 4-5, 13-18, 24-25):

Proverbs 16:6 By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil. (ESV)

Deuteronomy 10:12–13 “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require 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, 13 and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good? (ESV)

The fear of the Lord often commanded in the context of a challenge to turn from evil:

Job 28:28 And he said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.’ ” (ESV)

Proverbs 8:13 The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate. (ESV)

Proverbs 14:26–27 In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge. 27 The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death. (ESV)

Proverbs 16:6 By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil. (ESV)

See also Proverbs 1:7; 9:10; Joshua 4:24; 24:14-15

What is the fear of the Lord? And how does it related to the love for the Lord?

Love for the Lord causes us to run toward God
Fear of the Lord causes to run away from sin

My definition:
A recognition that God is God and I am not–therefore I must submit/surrender to His control and commands. Fleeing sin and pursuing His righteousness in full obedience lest I turn toward sin and defame the Lord.

To fear God is to have such a holy awe of God upon our hearts, that we dare not sin. —Thomas Watson

Author: Steve

I love to study the Bible and I love to engage with others in learning. I had been privileged to do this on a regular basis through church ministry and through part-time teaching at a local Bible colleges. Helping individuals learn to feed themselves through their own study of God’s Word is joy-giving to me. Influencing groups to do life and church from a biblically grounded, theologically faithful perspective is my passion.

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