A little bit of fear is good. Then a lot of fear must be better.
As in: “fear the Lord” (Deut 6:1-2). Not just every now and then, or whenever one remembers or feels so inclined. But “all the days of your life”. Just like Enoch and his 365 years of long walks with God. Good on you, Enoch. You modelled for us an excellent attitude to adopt for one’s entire being – spending one’s whole life in reverential fear of God and being loved by Him fully. The two glommed together.
There was also a time when people were bad, downright rotten. The Apostle Paul described in stark language: “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Rom 3:18). And what happens where there is no fear of God? Paul writes, “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known” (Rom 3:13-17). Scary.
JoHannah Reardon explains: “Scripture is full of examples of how fearing God is a positive rather than a negative thing. For example, in Genesis 42:18, Joseph wins his brothers' trust when he declares he is a God-fearing man. It was because the midwives feared God that they obeyed Him instead of the authorities by sparing the Hebrew babies (Ex 1:17). Pharaoh brought disaster on his nation because he did not fear God (Ex 9:29-31). Moses chose leaders to help him on the basis that they feared God and wouldn't take bribes (Ex 18:21) and told the Hebrews that God met with them in a terrifying display of His power so that they wouldn't sin (Ex 20:20).”
The teacher in Ecclesiastes sums up the whole discourse with “Fear God''. And for good measure, “keep His commandments'' (Eccl 12:13). Might as well. Embrace them in one huge hug! And it will go especially well with us. And for us.
What are some practical outcomes arising from Godly fear? Here are five for starters.
1. The fear of the Lord … brings wisdom.
Because fearing God causes us to view things from His perspective and in so doing as Ps 111:10 shows, we gain ‘insight’ through observation. Proverbs 9:10 adds ‘knowledge’ and ‘understanding’ – all contributive to becoming and staying wise. We avoid being blasé and over-familiar with God and spiritual matters.
Godly fear recognizes His holiness, right in the midst of His glory, majesty, purity and power.
2. The fear of the Lord … produces awe.
The angels cry out, “Holy, holy, holy” (Isa 6:3; Rev 4:8). That’s who He is. Godly fear recognizes His holiness, right in the midst of His glory, majesty, purity and power. We reserve awe for God only because there is none like Him – the all-magnificent One.
3. The fear of the Lord … causes horror against sin.
Zero Tolerance. Some people may feel that since God is all-loving and Jesus Christ has paid for our sins in full, there is some wiggle room. The fear of the Lord will set that aright in quick order: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God'' (Heb 10:31). There is not the slightest discount for sin. “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” (Jas 4:17).
4. The fear of the Lord … recognizes the fact that the Lord is a God of justice.
He will judge fairly and righteously (Gen 18:25; Isa 59:16-20). This inspires even more godly fear and trust in Him who will do rightly.
5. The fear of the Lord … results in overwhelming spiritual comfort.
There is a direct link between the fear of the Lord with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:31). His presence and protection are felt by those who have such a sense of regard and reverence for God. The Spirit draws us closer and makes possible what is stated in 1 John 4:18, that “perfect love casts out fear”. That is, all fear that’s fright. Instead, the fear of the Lord yields a humble confidence paired with holy boldness.
Yes, godly fear and perfect love. What a combination. Ours for keeps.
Dr Andrew Goh is the editor of Impact magazine.
VOL. 45 NO. 3 of IMPACT Magazine
WHAT IF GOD WASN'T PAYING ATTENTION ... Some thoughts on fear by Mary Yeo-Carpenter THE FEAR OF THE LORD ... Explained and embraced by Tan Soo Inn LURKING JUST BELOW THE SURFACE ... The thief that steals your peace by Daniel K S Koh FEAR AND SOCIAL ANXIETY ... Its causes and cures by Benny Bong LET'S BE TRULY KIASU ... Less is more by John Ting FEEL IT FOR ALL ITS WORTH
- The IMPACT Panel Responds - WHY DID JESUS DRIVE FOLLOWERS AWAY? ... Getting to the heart of the matter by Mary Yeo-Carpenter