Then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God. Proverbs 2:5 NASB
Fear – In Hebrew the word is yare. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) tells us that this word is used in five different senses: 1) the emotion of being afraid, 2) the anticipation of evil without emotion, 3) reverence or awe, 4) religious piety and 5) formal religious worship. What confusion this causes when one English word translates so many different concepts. When we read the Old Testament, how often do we come across this phrase “fear of the LORD” and think to ourselves, “What can this possibly mean? Why should fear be the basis of my relationship to God?” Of course, those questions come from having only one word in English to express all these different concepts.
But there is a sense in which fear is the basis of all of our interaction with God. We see this when the people reacted to one of Yeshua’s miracles of healing. They were afraid. Often they wanted Yeshua to leave them alone. In spite of their recognition that God was acting in startling ways right in front of them, they could not cope with the situation. This gives us a clue to understanding what fear has to do with our reactions to God. Just for a moment, think about this: God made everything. Everything actually stays in existence from one second to the next because God sustains everything. God is in control of everything. God has a purpose for everything. And God will judge everything by His standard. Now imagine that this one insignificant, temporary, finite, fragile being called me stands before the God of everything. This is not like meeting a friend or even a stranger. This is meeting the One who is all-powerful, all-knowing and everywhere at once. The One who for His own reasons could, if He chose, wipe away my existence and the existence of everything else with a single thought. If that doesn’t give you a little bit of fright, then you probably haven’t taken it to heart. Is it any wonder that anyone who came into contact with this God fell to the ground trembling?
The truly amazing fact of Scripture is that this God, whom I rightly fear, actually wants me to love Him. More amazing still is that He loves me. He is not out to get me. He really wants to care for me. Who could be better at that than God? The flip side of my fear of the Lord is the statement, “If God is for us, whom shall we fear?”
Sometimes I think we have heard the “God is love” theology so much that we forget just how big God is. The Bible warns us that it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Maybe we need to get a good dose of fear before Him. Respect, awe and honor are all tied to falling on our faces when we confront the living God. We might be a good deal more serious about all this if we first realize how fearful the living God could be. Sometimes I wonder if worship shouldn’t begin with trembling rather than hand-clapping. Sometimes I fear that we aren’t afraid at all.
Topical Index: fear, yare, Proverbs 2:5