This Way to the Fear of God

The Fear of God (7)

...then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. Proverbs 2:5

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What We’ve Seen
We have been discussing the much-neglected doctrine of the fear of God. We have seen that God commands us to fear Him, and that fear and love, rather than being opposed, actually create a harmonic tension in our souls which leads to knowledge and wisdom, and out of which righteousness and good works resound.

We have further seen that the fear of God grows where people delight in His Law and hope in His steadfast love, so that, increasingly, they attain to the knowledge of Truth and the wisdom of God which is embodied in the life of Christ. Can there be any lingering doubt concerning whether the followers of Christ are called to fear God? The concept may still seem strange, even suspect to you; but we must agree, I think, that Scripture and the Lord Jesus Christ plainly instruct us to fear the Lord, even as we love Him.

Reasons to Fear God

The Fear of God (6)

The fear of the LORD leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm. Proverbs 19:23

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The Good Life
God’s desire for His people is that they should know full and abundant life in Jesus Christ (Jn. 10:10; 14:6). This is the good life, life as God intended it, the kind of life in which human beings know their greatest joy and flourish in love.

This is why we become Christians; but if we want this life, truly want to know and enjoy the fullness of life in Christ, we can only achieve it on God’s terms. And His terms are clear: they who fear God know the life God intends for them and enter into the rest He has accomplished for them in Jesus Christ.

Living By Courageous Faith

The Fear of God (5)

But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God.” Genesis 22:11, 12

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How Does God Know?
How does God know if we truly fear Him?

After all, God commands us to fear Him. He knows that when we fear Him we will delight in His Law and hate all manner of evil. This pleases Him and brings those who fear Him into the experience of His pleasure. They who live thus before the Lord are positioning themselves for acts of courageous obedience which only true faith can engender. When we live by such faith, obeying God even when what He requires of us seems unlikely, fearful, unreasonable, or beyond anything we’ve ever experienced, then we prove to Him that we love and fear Him as we ought.

This is what God saw in Abraham, and this is what He is looking for in us, so that we might give Him the pleasure of seeing that we fear Him as we should.

Hating Sin

The Fear of God (4)

Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes. Psalm 36:1

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Who Does Not Fear God?
It is characteristic of wicked people that they do not fear God.

As David continues to say in Psalm 36, wicked people delight in the very things God warns against and for which He threatens judgment and wrath. The wicked “flatters himself in his own eyes” concerning his sins, because he thinks he’s getting away with something deliciously evil and self-serving (v. 2). His words and acts are devoid of peace, truth, wisdom, and goodness because he does not fear the Lord (v. 3). He plots his life along a course of wickedness, setting himself in a way that is not good and that embraces all kinds of evil (v. 4).

These are the wicked, so marked and identified by their repudiation of God and His ways.

Delighting in God's Law

The Fear of God (3)

Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in His commandments. Psalm 112:1

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Those Who Fear the Lord
They are relating properly to God who, having come through faith in Jesus Christ to know the Father, now live daily in love and fear of Him.

What characterizes such people? That is, how can we know those who love and fear the Lord? More to the point, how can we be sure that we love and fear the Lord?

The psalmist tells us plainly: they fear the Lord who delight in His commandments. The reference here is clearly to the Law of God – the Ten Commandments and the statutes, precepts, and rules which guide us in the blameless life of love for God and our neighbors (Lk. 1:6; Matt. 22:34-30). Paul insists that the Law of God is holy and righteous and good (Rom. 7:12), and it is appropriate for those who delight in the God Who gave such laws to delight in His Law as well.

But what does it mean to delight in the Law of God?

The Pleasure of the Lord

The Fear of God (2)

...but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love. Psalm 147:11

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Whom to Fear
On several occasions the Lord Jesus commanded His disciples not to fear. He told them not to be afraid of men who, after all, can only kill you (Matt. 10:28) He instructed them to sell all they possessed and follow Him, and not to be afraid, when they do, that they might miss a good and happy life, since they are gaining the Kingdom of God (Lk. 12:32, 33). He warned that in this world we could expect to have many trials and tribulations, but added that, since He had overcome the world, we should not be afraid (Jn. 16:33).

There is no reason, Jesus insisted, for any of His followers to fear anything here on earth.

At the same time, as we have seen, Jesus clearly and unequivocally commands His disciples to fear God (Matt. 10:28). What Jesus understood is what the psalmist also knew, that God takes pleasure when His people fear Him as they should; and, as we have seen, that fear is based on God’s awesome holiness, justice, power, and might.


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