Fear of the Lord

The fear of the Lord sounds like the last thing one would ever want, but it is the most important thing of all to have. It is the beginning and principal part of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. Of wisdom God says that “all the things you can desire are not to be compared to her.” (Proverbs 3:14, 8:11)

What is fear of the Lord and why is it so important?

Fear is the belief that, under certain conditions, loss or suffering is occurring or will occur. As a result, fear motivates a us to

The belief that, under certain conditions, loss or suffering will occur may come from the testimony of the Spirit of truth. This is fear of (or from) the Lord. It always points to God as the only reliable source and God’s means as the only reliable means to protect from and overcome loss. 

Consider Noah. (Hebrews 11:7)

By faith Noah, being warned by God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.

Noah was warned by God of a threat of loss. When God warned him there was not yet any sensory evidence that such a loss would occur. God’s warning to Noah told him that there was no reliable source or means to protect him and his family from the loss - other than God and the means God provided. God gave Noah the means to overcome the loss: build an ark. Noah believed God that there was a threat of loss and that there were no other sources or means to overcome that threat (fear). This fear from God, a result of Noah’s faith in God, moved Noah from the path of life he had been on to the path of building the ark and saving his family. Noah’s response to the threat of loss conditions is testimonial evidence of faith and fear of the Lord: causing both to grow and spread.

Consider the testimony of Proverbs regarding fear of the Lord.

Because I called and you refused, I stretched out my hand and no one paid attention; And you neglected all my counsel And did not want my reproof; I will also laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your dread comes, When your dread comes like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, When distress and anguish come upon you.

“Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently but they will not find me, Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD. They would not accept my counsel, they spurned all my reproof. So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way and be satiated with their own devices. For the waywardness of the naive will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them. But he who listens to me shall live securely and will be at ease from the dread of evil. (Proverbs 1:29-33)

People chose not to believe God’s warning that living their lives their way would result in loss. Their own understanding was not reliable to protect them. The best means they could devise were not reliable to protect them. Loss may come on them suddenly and give no time to escape or find sources or means with which to avoid loss. But those who listen to God, who will rely on him and his means, will be at ease from the threat of loss.

My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent... My son, do not walk in the way with them. Keep your feet from their path... they lie in wait for their own blood; They ambush their own lives. (Proverbs 1:10,15,18)

If we believe God that loss will occur under these conditions we follow his instruction and avoid those conditions. We put our trust in God.

My son, if you will receive my words And treasure my commandments within you, Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding; For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding; If you seek her as silver And search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will discern the fear of the LORD And discover the knowledge of God. Discretion will guard you, Understanding will watch over you, To deliver you from the way of evil, From the man who speaks perverse things; From those who leave the paths of uprightness To walk in the ways of darkness; So you will walk in the way of good men And keep to the paths of the righteous. For the upright will live in the land And the blameless will remain in it; But the wicked will be cut off from the land And the treacherous will be uprooted from it. (Proverbs 2:1-5,11-13, 20-22)

Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and turn away from evil. (Proverbs 3:5-7)

Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the LORD your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the LORD your God... But it shall come about, if you do not obey the LORD your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes with which I charge you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you: (Deuteronomy 28:1,2,15)

Every step we take in life, every word we speak and every action we take, that is not submitted to God is a step that leads to destruction. This is not, however, what people without fear of the Lord believe. They believe that destruction is afar off and that it cannot approach without them seeing it coming in time to avoid it. They rely on their own judgment to guide their steps and avoid destruction.

Every step we take that is submitted to God leads to safety from destruction and harm. No destruction can approach us that he is unable to see coming and from which he is unable to protect us. Fear of the Lord leads us to faith and trust in God. By fear of the Lord we learn of God’s great wisdom and love for us.

We can agree and know that this is true, yet still not have fear of the Lord. Actually having fear of the Lord requires experiencing God’s protection from destruction. Consider the following illustration.

Perhaps the best illustration of fear of the Lord is the situation of a person who does not know how to fly a plane finding themselves at the controls of a large airplane, in flight, at night, and surrounded by severe weather. Destruction is imminent and can occur any number of ways. There is one way to safety - relying on the instructions of the air traffic controller. The controller can see the storms and a safe route around them. They know how to instruct you to control the plane and to land it safely.

How important are the instructions of the controller? They are the most important thing. Nothing else you could desire at that point are more important. You will tune out all distractions and everything that interferes with your hearing them. You will do whatever they tell you to do, whether you understand it or not. You understand that great harm will come to you if you do not hear and follow their instruction, direction, and correction.

How important are the instructions of the controller if you are at the controls of a simulator, experiencing simulated conditions, rather than a real plane experiencing real conditions? The destruction and safety from it are only simulated so the instruction doesn’t have the same value. In the same way, you can read and learn about fear of the Lord: but knowing about the fear of the Lord isn’t the same as having fear of the Lord. Fear of the Lord must be given to you by God through experience. It is something you must choose and pray for. It is the most important prayer you will ever pray.

Personal testimony

See also: Fearing God