What Does It Mean to “Fear the Lord”?

Every day, I read a section of the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs.

Three Old Testament passages per day.

One theme constantly emerges: how important it is to “fear the Lord.”

It’s the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7, Psalm 111:10) . It’s a life-giving fountain (Proverbs 14:27). It characterized the Messiah’s life (Isaiah 11:2). I could go on and on.

Since it’s stressed so much, I wanted to know what it really means.

My new Dictionary of Biblical Imagery (IVP) says that there are well over a hundred references to the fear of God, as distinct from the terror of him.

So what does it mean to “fear” God in the positive sense?

A light went on for me when I read that it means to be in awe of God.

Suddenly, I understood what a wonderful state it is to live in constant awe of God.

As in:

  • I’m in awe of how much you love me, that you sent your only Son to earth to suffer and die for me.
  • I’m in awe of your power that created–and now sustains–this entire universe.
  • I’m in awe of the amazing beauty of egret orchids.
  • I’m in awe of how the passages of Scripture I read (seemingly random passages) form a harmony of similar themes.
  • I’m in awe that because of your holy nature, your wrath consumes my sin … but because of Jesus’ death and resurrection in which I trust, it doesn’t consume me.
  • I’m in awe that your Holy Spirit can speak a personal word into my situation, so that I know how to solve a business problem, or deal with a difficult person, or give me the right word for a friend in distress
  • I’m in awe of the majesty of a sunset.
  • I’m in awe of ….

I could go on forever. Couldn’t you?

It is, if I may say it, an awesome way to live.

No wonder God tells us to praise him. That’s just an expression of awe. When we praise him, we’re not focusing on our problems, are we? We’re focused on God.

What does that do to our problems?

Find out by trying it. Especially when something is bothering you, switch focus. Find something to be in awe about concerning God. Turn it into a note of praise.

And tell me what happens by commenting below. What about God is awesome to you?

11 Replies to “What Does It Mean to “Fear the Lord”?”

  1. I am in awe how the Lord so often takes what seemed a trial which left me questioning and uses it for good–or for growth. Like the proverbial “whack on the side of the head,” it gets my attention. Often that’s the first step to change and a new understanding.

  2. Diane has grasped a concept few Christians understand. The English word fear gives a bad idea about God. The translation should therefore reflect the Holy Spirit has given Diane: “reverential awe and respect of our Father Love, standing in humble awe of Him with a fervent desire to love and obey Him.” The demons tremble before God, but we should not tremble in fear before our Daddy, Abba Agape, but to lovingly respect Him for His power and especially for His love, for He says that He IS Love (I John 4:8). His forgiveness is amazing. His mercy also. But His grace is also amazing and has been misunderstood. It is principally the empowerment He gives us in sending Jesus to live inside us to obey Him. Oh yes, averse that is often overlooked is John 14:15 that says if we love Jesus, we will keep His commandments, not by our strength but by His, getting us when we fall, washed and cleansed in His blood shed mercifully for us. The Holy Spirit has revealed the following to us, which should make us stand in even greater awe of our great God.

    Grace, the manifold grace of God, 25 Divine Graces

    The Manifold Grace of God – 25 Divine Graces
    1. God’s glory
    2. God’s power in us
    3. Supplication
    4. Fearing (Lovingly revering) God
    5. Saving grace
    6. Serving grace
    7. Standing grace (standing firm, even in trials)
    8. Speaking grace
    9. Giving grace
    10. Pruning grace
    11. Grace of identity – knowing who we are in Christ
    12. Grace for relationships
    13. Grace of inheritance
    14. Grace of empowering (“go ye into all the world,” empowerment to know the truth)
    15. Ministering grace
    16. Strengthening grace
    17. Grace of forgiveness
    18. Intercession, caring, watching out for others
    19. Grace to walk in faith, trusting, relying on God, coming into harmony with Him
    20. Favor with God
    21. Grace to be able to walk in our anointing or calling
    22. Grace to praise and worship God
    23. Grace to have hope (and be consoled and encouraged)
    24. Overcoming grace, deliverance from sin
    25. Grace to walk in miracle-working power

    N.B. The number 5 is the Biblical number of grace. The 25 graces represent 5 x 5 or perfect grace. All 25 graces combine to grant us the grace to walk toward perfection. I Peter 4:10-11 shows that there are five principal aspects (in bold type above, 1,2,6,8,22) to the multi-faceted grace of God: speaking, serving, praise (NIV), power (“strength” and “dominion” [NASB]) and glory. These 5 major graces, which are among the 25 listed above, can be broken down into subdivisions from this same list, each major grace having three to seven accompanying graces. Faith and grace work together to enable us to walk in our identity in Christ. God grants us the faith to believe He will empower us with these graces, which allow us to live up to who we are in Christ.

  3. Diane has grasped a concept few Christians understand. The English word fear gives a bad idea about God. The translation should therefore reflect the Holy Spirit has given Diane: “reverential awe and respect of our Father Love, standing in humble awe of Him with a fervent desire to love and obey Him.” The demons tremble before God, but we should not tremble in fear before our Daddy, Abba Agape, but to lovingly respect Him for His power and especially for His love, for He says that He IS Love (I John 4:8). His forgiveness is amazing. His mercy also. But His grace is also amazing and has been misunderstood. It is principally the empowerment He gives us in sending Jesus to live inside us to obey Him. Oh yes, averse that is often overlooked is John 14:15 that says if we love Jesus, we will keep His commandments, not by our strength but by His, getting us when we fall, washed and cleansed in His blood shed mercifully for us. The Holy Spirit has revealed the following to us, which should make us stand in even greater awe of our great God.

    Grace, the manifold grace of God, 25 Divine Graces

    The Manifold Grace of God – 25 Divine Graces
    1. God’s glory
    2. God’s power in us
    3. Supplication
    4. Fearing (Lovingly revering) God
    5. Saving grace
    6. Serving grace
    7. Standing grace (standing firm, even in trials)
    8. Speaking grace
    9. Giving grace
    10. Pruning grace
    11. Grace of identity – knowing who we are in Christ
    12. Grace for relationships
    13. Grace of inheritance
    14. Grace of empowering (“go ye into all the world,” empowerment to know the truth)
    15. Ministering grace
    16. Strengthening grace
    17. Grace of forgiveness
    18. Intercession, caring, watching out for others
    19. Grace to walk in faith, trusting, relying on God, coming into harmony with Him
    20. Favor with God
    21. Grace to be able to walk in our anointing or calling
    22. Grace to praise and worship God
    23. Grace to have hope (and be consoled and encouraged)
    24. Overcoming grace, deliverance from sin
    25. Grace to walk in miracle-working power

    N.B. The number 5 is the Biblical number of grace. The 25 graces represent 5 x 5 or perfect grace. All 25 graces combine to grant us the grace to walk toward perfection. I Peter 4:10-11 shows that there are five principal aspects (in bold type above, 1,2,6,8,22) to the multi-faceted grace of God: speaking, serving, praise (NIV), power (“strength” and “dominion” [NASB]) and glory. These 5 major graces, which are among the 25 listed above, can be broken down into subdivisions from this same list, each major grace having three to seven accompanying graces. Faith and grace work together to enable us to walk in our identity in Christ. God grants us the faith to believe He will empower us with these graces, which allow us to live up to who we are in Christ.

  4. Hi everyone:
    God reminded us : fear not for 366 times in the Bible,but only fear the Lord,
    if we only fear and respect God the Father, then we will do everything according
    to His will and His law,and to please Him,to love Him,and trust and obey Him, and become a lovely child of the only True Almighty God! Of course our Heavenly Father will love and bless us with abundant life as a reward.That’s why we should all fear the Lord!!! Love in Christ ,Nathan Huang

  5. Hi Diane:
    God remind us: “fear not” for 366 times in the Bible, but only fear the Lord,
    if we only fear and respect God the Father, then we will do everything according
    to His will and His law,and to please Him anyway we can, to love Him, and to trust and obey Him, and become a lovely child of the only true Almighty God!
    Of course our Heavenly Father will love and bless us with abundant life as a reward. That is why we sould all fear the Lord! Love in Christ! Nathan Huang

  6. Hi Diane,
    What a great blog, The fear of the Lord. God really used you for this one. And, God has given you insight into God’s love. thank you for sharing that with me.
    As I read Robert Scott’s comments on God’s graces, they, too, have a great impact on a person.
    The awesome grace of God that has impacted me the most is when I reflect on the prayers of Jesus as in John 17 where he prays for us: “that we may be one with the Father as they are one. . .” and not only that but, “. . . I pray not for these alone but all those that believe on your name.” then as Jesus finished his prayer he went on to give his life for us, and even while on the cross he prayed even more, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” When I try to put the awesome fear of God in to practice I am admonished by Paul the apostle in Ephesians 5:25 “. . . to love my wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it” I am once again reminded how much God loves us and how much we owe him in return for what he has done for us,
    Thank you for your insight in to the fear of the Lord.

    Harvey

  7. Nathan,
    Yes, our love for God is a response that grace draws out. I think he loves us and blesses us just because of how kind and gracious he is, not even as a reward, although he loves to reward us too. I just want to get away from this idea that “God blesses us because of something we do.” I believe God blesses us because he’s so good, and his goodness draws out this response of awe in us. That response on our part puts us into a place where we can receive what God has already prepared for us.

    Hope that makes sense….

  8. Harvey,
    I too love John 17 and Jesus’ prayer. Worth meditating on!

    Thanks for sharing how God is drawing responses from you. It blesses us all.

  9. What does it mean to fear? It is an internal response to a perceived impossibility. That is the reason everytime an angel shows up the first words are “Fear Not”. The reality is that a being that appears (to our understanding) out of nowhere is an impossibility to comprehend or plan for. Even in such a time we are not to fear. If this is true then nothing in our lives should bring us to fear but should bring us to the ONE we are to Fear.

    Fear is an emotion which involves bio-chemicals which make acting in faith way more difficult. However, if we keep fear in proper perspective any false fear leads us to the Cross and to Christ. Our sin is similar. It is sin that separtes us from the Lord. It is the reality of His Holiness that can lead people who sin (all of us) into terror. However, fear of the Lord is not fear of punishment or even fear of sin’s punishment. It is instead the fear of not being in His presence. To fear the Lord is to allow all other fears and sins to bring us into His Holy presence to consume what separates. Is that fearsome? It can feel that way because as sin is consumed (something we cannot do) it may appear that we too will be consumed. This is the point where trust and faith comes in. It is a blessing to walk into the Lord’s presence and know we can trust He will consume our sin without killing us.

  10. Hi Diane, What a great blog, The fear of the Lord. God really used you for this one. And, God has given you insight into God’s love. thank you for sharing that with me. As I read Robert Scott’s comments on God’s graces, they, too, have a great impact on a person. The awesome grace of God that has impacted me the most is when I reflect on the prayers of Jesus as in John 17 where he prays for us: “that we may be one with the Father as they are one. . .” and not only that but, “. . . I pray not for these alone but all those that believe on your name.” then as Jesus finished his prayer he went on to give his life for us, and even while on the cross he prayed even more, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” When I try to put the awesome fear of God in to practice I am admonished by Paul the apostle in Ephesians 5:25 “. . . to love my wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it” I am once again reminded how much God loves us and how much we owe him in return for what he has done for us, Thank you for your insight in to the fear of the Lord. Harvey

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