Sunday, September 7, 2008


The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
-Proverbs 1:7

If you are a Christian - or even if you are not, but have even a cursory knowledge of the bible, you know that the bible speaks of "the fear of the LORD" many, many times. I have sat through various bible studies through the years wherein this issue was discussed with the intention of trying to define what it means to fear the LORD. The most common and usual proposals are as follows:

1) to "fear" the LORD is to have "reverence" for/towards Him.
2) to "fear" the LORD is to actually "fear" Him ( as in, be afraid/terrified).

The fact of the matter is, both are right. The Hebrew word most commonly used in the bible for "fear" of the LORD is "yir'âh" (pronounced 'yir-aw'). It means: fear, reverence, dreadful.

The Greek word for "fear" is "phobeō" (pronounced fob-eh'-o). It means: frighten, alarmed; by analogy to be in awe of, revere, reverence.

So we can see that both are in view in light of the definitions of the two primary words used in scripture that are translated as "fear."

If this is so, it really does not tell us very much - that is, if all we have are the definitions of the Hebrew and Greek words. I mean, I have "fear" and "reverence" for lightening, but on a day to day basis, that fear and reverence does not really affect my thoughts and actions. In fact, even during a thunder storm, my actions vary little more than staying indoors and trying not to stand under the biggest tree in the neighborhood, or not standing on my roof holding up a 10 foot metal pole!

The bible speaks often about the "fear of the LORD", or similar such sentiments. But what does it mean to fear God, since we are commanded to do so? Fortunately for us, God gives us example after context after example of what it means to fear Him. The verse that I opened with states that if we want to grow in knowledge, we must begin with the fear of the LORD. But how does one "begin" with the fear of the LORD? Deut. 6:2,3 gives us a clue: "That thou mightest fear the LORD thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son's son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged. Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath promised thee, in the land that floweth with milk and honey." YHWH called Israel to "hear" Him many times; and it was understood that to "hear" meant to listen to instruction with the intention of obeying. And by obeying, one would "fear the LORD thy God." So, one of the biblical "definitions", if you will, of what it means to "fear" the LORD is to "hear" God and obey Him. What is interesting to me is that the beginning of knowledge is the fear of the LORD. In other words, to hear God, and then to obey Him is to fear Him - and this is the beginning of knowledge. Wow! God expects us to listen to what He says, obey Him, and then we will grow in understanding. This is totally opposite of what the world teaches. This is completely opposite of our natural inclinations. We want to understand first, before we "obey." God's ways are certainly NOT our ways. We obey Him because He is God - He is King and Judge over all:

"The LORD is King for ever and ever: the heathen are perished out of his land."
- Psalm 10:16

"That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" - Gen. 18:25

When there is an earthly King, the subjects of the Kingdom fear and revere that King (if he actually has true authority, such as in the Kingdoms of time past). They do as he commands, for they know that if they don't, they will suffer the consequences. Under a "King" such as Caesar Nero, for example, the consequences for disobedience or disloyalty were dire. The whole Universe has a King - He is King over ALL of the earth's inhabitants. He is Mighty, All Powerful, Glorious, Majestic, Holy ( "Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?" - Ex. 15:11). This King demands obedience. There are dire consequences for those that refuse to obey the King. This King demands that we have faith in Him first (faith being a trust in Him that acknowledges that He is who He says He is; that He will do what He says He will do; that we are who He says we are). In fact, this is one of His greatest demands.

This King has given us a book that tells us what He expects from us. His name is YHWH. His Son's name is Yeshua. His "book" is known as "the bible", the "TaNaKh", the scriptures, the "Holy" book, the "good" book, etc.

This King has had, and has still, emissaries and ambassadors to call to action His people, and to assimilate new subjects. One such ambassador, in time past, was named Peter, who said: "Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king" (1 Pet. 2:17). This ambassador had read (or heard it read to him rather) the Kings book all of His life. He even spent several years in direct contact with the King. He knew what it meant to "fear" Him. He knew that it meant to "hate evil" (Proverbs 8:13). He knew that it meant to "walk in all [the LORD's] ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD [his] God with all [his] heart and with all [his] soul (Deut. 10:12). He knew that to fear the King he needed to "... keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and... serve him, and cleave unto him" (Deut. 13:4). In fact, once the King even told him personally that "If ye love me, [you will] keep my commandments" (John 14:15), and " He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him" (John 14:21). Peter knew what the King meant, for the King had already told His subjects such things in His book. It had made it much more personal for Him that day, though, when the King said it to him face to face.

The King calls to His people today through the voice of His Spirit. He says to them, morning by morning (Isaiah 50:4) that if we are His indeed, we will continue in His word (John 8:31) . We will walk in His ways (Zech. 3:7). In fact, we will walk even as He walked (1 John 2:6). We will touch not the unclean thing (2 Cor. 6:17). We will hear His voice (John 10:16) and do whatsoever He commands (John 15:14). Or, to simplify if you like, we will "fear" Him.

Are you one of His - a subject of the King? Do you love Him? Do you fear Him? To love Him is to fear Him. Then do what He says. The King has issued His decree.


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