Does God Really Want Our Fear?
Any discussion of the promises of God must include a look at “the fear of the LORD.” Lots of verses offer promises based on this requirement, so I’ve summarized what I see in some of them:
- Keeps from sin (Ex 20:20)
- Brings the LORD delight (Psa 147:11)
- The LORD watches over and delivers from death and famine. (Psa 33:18-19), (Psa 34:7)
- They lack nothing (Psa 34:9); have food (Psa 111:5); and are blessed (Psa 112:1)
- They receive God’s love – as great as the heavens are high above the earth (Psa 103:11) and endures forever (Psa 103:17), (Psa 118:4), (Psa 147:11)
- God fulfills their desires, hears their cry and saves them (Psa 145:19)
- Leads to knowledge (Prov 1:7) and wisdom (Prov 9:10) (Prov 15:33)
- Adds length to life (Prov 10:27) and turns from deadly traps (Prov 14:27) (Prov 19:23)
- Brings confidence and refuge for children (Prov 14:26)
- Leads to contented rest – free from trouble (Prov 19:23)
- Brings riches, honor, and life (Prov 22:4)
- Freedom from fear of punishment and people (Psa 23:4), (Prov 29:25), (Rom 8:15), (Luke 12:5), (I John 4:18)
- Applies to every person (Ecc 12:13)
- Pure, enduring forever (Psa 19:9)
- Humble (Prov 22:4)
(I’ve included these verses and more, here)
So . . . quite an extensive topic! This fear of the LORD seems foundational to a relationship with God.
I must admit, I don’t like this. The “fear of the Lord” rubs me the wrong way. I like to think of love as foundational instead.
But the command to fear God appears roughly twice as much as the command to love God, and most of the love commands intrinsically include instructions to obey. I think this verse probably bundles everything up best.
Deu 10:12-13 And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?
To be honest, the phrase “for your own good” rubs me the wrong way too. We don’t much care for stuff that is for our own good. It sounds like medicine, or discipline, or some other yucky thing that ends with “ine.”
But, I have found, fearing God is liberating . . . and not like medicine, which cures our illness but leaves a bitter taste, but more like an escape route from prison we avoid – fearing more pain than our cell – only to find the path to love and joy and freedom.
Part of my aversion to the phrase is an idea that we only fear abuse, or someone who would mistreat us for stepping out of line (like thinking independently) . . . or we imagine being chased by a monster! If we view God as a human peer or spouse, his behavior would certainly be classified as unhealthy.
But God is far from a peer. I think a healthy parent-child relationship illustrates the concept more closely. It’s an imperfect shadow, but helpful.
Any parent who has held their newborn knows overwhelming love – the need to protect and do whatever it takes to see this little human grow into a happy, successful adult. As children grow and develop, we provide rules and instruction to help train them toward success.
For the most part, they don’t like our rules. They don’t want to eat healthy foods, they don’t want to get enough sleep, they don’t want to go to school, they don’t want to pick up their stuff, and they don’t want to work for anything they want to receive. We don’t want our kids to be afraid of us, but we do want them to take our boundaries and teaching seriously – for their own good!
In a healthy parent-child relationship, the parent communicates great love and affection with words and hugs – praise and encouragement – and with reasonable limits . . . enforced with negative consequences if need be. We don’t insist on respect out of some egotistical need. We require respect so kids will follow the rules, which they need to mature into happy, responsible adults. We demand respect because we love our children. At least, we aim for this model.
God created us for love and fellowship with him. Because forced love is not true love, God gave us a choice. Our choice was for pride and rejection of the divine love story. But in that overwhelming love of a parent (or Creator), he made a way for restoration.
So here is where the rubber meets the road and the fear of the LORD is crucial.
When we see God for who he is in all his awesome power and glory – when we understand the greatness of who he is along with our own contribution of zero dollars and zero cents to the equation – then we can start to understand the terror we should feel at disregarding his commands and the reverence he deserves . . . which is the fear of the LORD.
Embracing the fear of the LORD results in humility, which allows God’s love and grace into our life.
And that love and grace releases us from slavery to other people – characterized by the struggle with low self-esteem and its unhealthy opposite, high self-esteem.
- I am a slave when I believe lies about myself – that I need to be smarter, prettier, more talented, nicer, etc. to feel accepted and worthwhile – or that I am worthwhile because of these qualities.
TRUTH: The LORD delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in his unfailing love. (Ps 147:11)
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.(Mat 10:29-31)
“What is mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that you care for him? You made them a little lower than the angels; you crowned them with glory and honor.” (Heb 2:6b-7)
- I am a slave when I believe lies about my life – that I need a boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse, a baby, a college degree, a better career, car, house, wardrobe, etc. to be happy and successful.
TRUTH: Humility is the fear of the LORD; its wages are riches and honor and life. (Proverbs 22:4)
Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have. Just dreaming about nice things is meaningless like chasing the wind. (Ecclesiastes 6:9)
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Col 3:1-2)
- I am a slave when I believe lies about my relationships – that I need to make others happy, that others need me, that my welfare is not as important as others, and that all relationship success is my responsibility.
TRUTH: The fear of the LORD leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble. (Prov 19:23)
Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. (Gal 6:4-5)
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Mat 11:28-30)
- I am a slave when I believe the people and events in my life are out of control – or when I believe they are safely under my control.
TRUTH: In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence, and it will be a refuge for his children. The fear of the LORD is like a life-giving fountain, to turn people from deadly snares. (Prov 14:26-27)
Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him. (Psa 115:3)
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Phil 4:6)
- I am a slave when I accept and believe the judgements of others – positive or negative.
TRUTH: The fear of people becomes a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD will be set on high. (Prov 29:25)
The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. (1 Sam 16:7)
no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the LORD. (Isa 54:17)
- I am a slave when I don’t know who I am, where I am going, and why I am here.
TRUTH: Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. (Ecc 12:13)
Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: (Psa 37:3-5)
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Eph 2:10)
- I am a slave when painful memories keep me trapped in anxiety, fear, resentment, and failure.
TRUTH: there is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (I John 4:18)
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: (2 Co 5:17-18)
Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Col 3:13)
- I am a slave when I need anyone, anything, or any circumstance to gain peace, purpose, or safety.
TRUTH: But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. (Psa 33:18-19)
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, (Eph 1:11)
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. (Isa 26:3)
- I am a slave when I feel trapped in my self-destructive behavior.
TRUTH: The fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning. (Ex 20:20b)
The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” (Rom 8:15)
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (Gal 5:16)
I think each of these false beliefs warrants an individual post – but this post about the fear of the LORD is quite long enough!
Has the fear of the LORD rescued you from lies? What truths aided your escape?