How blessed is the man who fears always, but he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity. Proverbs 28:14 NASB
Fear always – We are apt to recite the fact that Scripture exhorts us some 366 times not to fear. This could lead us to imagine that fear has no place in the life of a believer, but that would be a tragic mistake. As we can see from this verse, fear is the basis of bliss! One of the problems with this verse is simply a translation difficulty. The Hebrew word here isn’t yare, the most common word for fear. Yare is the word that is often translated with concepts of awe and reverence. But that’s not what’s happening here, as we shall see.
First we need to clear up the “blessing” in this verse. Like many proclamations in the wisdom literature, the opening Hebrew word here is ashrei, an adverbial form of the verb ‘esher. Ashrei does not mean “Blessed is.” This is not a formula statement for being blessed. Ashrei is a description of the inner state of a man or woman, not a method for attaining some spiritual goal. The same condition applies to the Beatitudes where this Hebrew word is used by Yeshua. “O happy day, O happy day” is more like it.
Secondly, ashrei implies that the man or woman brings about this condition through human effort. That’s the enormous difference between baruch (a verb used to describe God’s blessing action) and ‘esher (a verb used to describe favor produced by human beings). In other words, this state of bliss is in our hands! We don’t have to wait for God to drop it on us or pray for God to “anoint” us with His Spirit. This is ours for the taking. All we need to do is be the kind of person who fears always.
Mefahed tamid rests on the verb pahad. Occurring only twenty-six times in Scripture, it certainly isn’t the basis of the 366 “do not fear” exhortations. Pahad is dread. Deuteronomy 28:66 tells us that those who keep the Torah have no reason to dread (fear) but those who do not follow Torah will come to terror. By extension, a man who “fears” always is a man who puts himself under strict obedience to Torah. Because he takes most seriously the commandments of the Lord, his dread becomes the basis of his bliss.
From a pictographic perspective, pahad means “the word that separates the door.” Dread is the action of distinguishing the open door from the closed one. Dread is tied directly to what is spoken, what comes from the mouth, and for a Hebrew the most important words come from the mouth of the Lord. Those words open the door to life itself. To ignore or refuse them is the equivalent of death. According to Jacob, Isaac served the God of pahad. Isaac, the obedient one, the one who willingly laid down his life on the altar, served the God of dread, the God who provided the only way to life. If mefahed tamid is the direction of your life, you have nothing to fear. If it is not, it’s time for serious reflection. Only the one who dreads finds bliss.
Topical Index: fear, dread, pahad, mefahed tamid, fears always, Proverbs 28:14