You who are His holy ones, fear Yahweh, for those who fear Him lack nothing.
The idea that we should fear the Lord has fallen on hard times lately. No one seems to like it any more. Many think that we should ignore those parts of the Bible or at least find a new way to understand them so that they make more sense in the postmodern world. I disagree. God's Word is without error and is precious. If we don't agree with part of it, it is either because we don't understand it or because we are wrong and in need of heart-change. In the case of fearing the Lord, I think it is both.
First, my understanding of the Biblical passages that call us to fear the Lord is that it is not calling us to be terrified of Him (though there certainly are some points in Scripture where people are faced with a clear picture of God's power and are rightly terrified. c.f. Exodus 20 [esp. verses 18-19], Isaiah 6, Revelation 1:17-18). I believe the fear the Bible is referring to when it says that we should fear the Lord is the type of fear a person would have before a great king. There is little in the modern American experience that helps us understand this, but perhaps the closest thing is the fear of a child for his father. As a small child, you love your father and you know he loves you, but you are also aware of the fact that he is much greater than you and will discipline you harshly if you are disobedient.
Second, I think the simple truth is that we just don’t like the idea of fearing God. We prefer to focus on the parts of the Bible that talk about how we have been brought close to God through Jesus. We like to talk about how we are friends of God and no longer servants (John 15:15). But the fact of the matter is that we have been called to fear Him and that through our fear of Him our every need is provided. Let me explain why.
Those who fear God obey Him. They submit their lives to His will as they would a king. By doing so they become a part of His kingdom and come under His protection. He is a great king and provides bountifully for all in His kingdom. But He cannot and will not tolerate persons who want to be in His kingdom but who refuse to bow the knee to Him. He cannot have little would-be-kings running around threatening His authority yet demanding that He provide for their needs. It would be an assault to the greatness of His majesty.
So let me ask you, is Jesus the Lord of your life? (c.f. Romans 10:9) To put it another way, is He king of your life or are you just a little would-be-king who refuses to obey His commands? Psalm 111 says, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom." How wise are you? Stop and consider how awesome a God you serve and tremble with a holy fear in His presence. Then let Him draw you close by the love of His Son.
For further reading...
- Deuteronomy 6:1-3 - Teach your children to fear the LORD.
- Joshua 24:14-15 - Fear the Lord or leave!
- Proverbs 19:23 - Untouched by trouble.
- Revelation 15:3-4 - A song for the end of days.
- Deuteronomy 5:22-29- Take note of how God approves of Israel's fear of Him at Sinai and also how continuing in that fear would lead to prosperity.