The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. – Proverbs 1:7
“The fear of the Lord” is something that people don’t think about as much. Even as Christians, our predominant view of God being this loving Father that forgives our sins, sometimes leads us to shun the view that God is someone that is to be feared and show reverence to. And the more we shun it or avoid it, the more misconceptions we have about it. By doing so, we rob ourselves of endless wisdom and peace that comes from knowing Him and forfeit such knowledge. Hence why we must explore this theme of “the fear of the Lord”, whilst addressing these questions: What does the life of a person who fears the Lord look like? And what makes them fear the Lord?
But first, let’s go to Exodus and observe what a life that doesn’t fear the Lord looks like.
The life of a person that doesn’t fear God
Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron. “This time, I have sinned”, he said to them,” The Lord is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. Pray to the Lord, for we have had enough thunder and hail. I will let you go; you don’t have to stay any longer.”
Moses replied, “When I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands in prayer to the Lord. The thunder will stop, and there will be no more hail, so you may know that the earth is the Lord’s. But I know that you and your officials still do not fear the Lord God.”– Exodus 9:27-30
This discourse took place after the seventh plague, the Plague of Hail. Pharaoh has witnessed countless times the frightening power and glory of God, but time after time, he hardens his heart and does not obey God. This time was no different. Though his speech displayed fear, his heart’s posture was not in line with his words. The following verses say, “as soon as the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he sinned again” (Exodus 9:34) Just as Moses said to Pharaoh, “You and your officials still do not fear the Lord God.”
This section gives us two important pieces of information:
- The fear of the Lord is not just paying lip service to God whilst it’s not reflected in our actions.
- The lack of fear of the Lord is not because of the lack of understanding of who God is.
Pharaoh witnessed first-hand what God can do, yet, even after the final plague, when all the firstborns of Egypt were killed; his heart was still as hard as a rock, and he did not fear God. Fear of God that comes from the fear that something bad is going to happen to you is not true fear of God and its not sustainable as displayed in Pharoah here “as soon as the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he sinned again” (Exodus 9:34) What motivates true fear of the Lord then? Let’s go to Genesis and observe the life of Abraham.
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The life of a person that fears God
“When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son”– Genesis 22:9-12
When God tested Abraham’s faith by telling him to sacrifice Isaac, he obeyed God, and He said to him, “Now I know that you fear God because you have not withheld from me your son, you only son” (Genesis 22:12) In contrast to Pharaoh, Abraham demonstrated his fear of the Lord with action and his life testified it. But let’s have a closer look. What motivated this fear of the Lord? Was it fear that something bad will happen to him? No, the Bible tells us, Abraham’s motivation for obeying God was faith. “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son.” (Hebrews 11:17)
The fear of the Lord comes from faith
So, what fuels us to fear the Lord? It should be our faith in him. Both Pharaoh and Abraham knew about God and knew what He is capable of doing- but both had completely different responses. Pharaoh had his eyes only on himself, refusing to accept God’s way and trusting in his own ways. While Abraham trusted in God’s way and lived a life with the fear of the Lord. Acknowledging God’s way is better than his, Abraham was not motivated by fear of something bad happening to him if he didn’t obey- but obeyed because he had faith in God’s way.
To conclude, “the fear of the Lord” is a lifestyle that acknowledges God’s way is better than ours showing reverence to Him in everything we do. It is reflected in our daily decisions, actions and not just word only. The main motivation that enables us to live a life with “the fear of the Lord” is faith, as shown in Abraham’s life in contrast with Pharoah’s.
Hence how do we find “the fear of the Lord”? We seek for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, dig through our Bibles and hunger for His wisdom (Prov 2:3-6). Proclaiming that our ways are foolish and his ways are perfect, coming to His presence with all humility. Then we will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God, for he is the source of wisdom and delights in giving it freely. Let’s begin our journey to learn how to live a lifestyle with “the fear of the Lord”.