This item has been on my heart a lot lately. My hope in this post is to challenge you to a deeper level of understanding when it comes to "the fear of the Lord."
I would like to preface this blog with Proverbs 1:7, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of understanding."
So what exactly is the fear of the Lord? Is it to be afraid of God? Is it to know how scary He is? Should Christians fear God? We continue in the Word of God - the first mention of the fear of the Lord is in Genesis 22. If you are unfamiliar with Abraham offering up his son Isaac as a sacrifice, you should pre-read Genesis 22:1-19.
Abraham had previously told his wife, Sarah, to pretend to be his sister when approaching new land. Abraham feared what man would do to him if they desired to keep Sarah as their own (she was lovely, according to Scripture). Abraham was often in fear of man. Yet, in Genesis 22 you find that he is willing to sacrifice his own son (the promised lineage to which he would be a 'father of many nations') for the Lord. Something I want to first emphasize to you is that God knows whether you will pass or fail a test before He gives it to you. God knew that Abraham would honor His request before He told him to do it. God knew before any of this that Abraham did, in fact, fear the Lord. Yet, He still tested Him. God's tests are not for Him to gain understanding of us, He knows all. They are His way of providing us an opportunity to know Him more and gain maturity (note James 1).
Returning to Abraham's journey to sacrifice Isaac - Once he was there and bound his son, the angel of the Lord called down to Abraham to stop. In verse 12 it writes, "Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” What then was the proof of the fear? Was God pleased that Abraham was so afraid of Him that he would kill his son in fear of what God would do to Him if he didn't? Certainly not! God was pleased with Abraham because he KNEW God enough to know that God loved Him and always had a bigger plan. Abraham loved God and trusted Him to the point of complete obedience. In Hebrews 11:6 it says, "And without faith it is impossible to please Him," and continues in verses 17-19, "By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, 'Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.' He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead."
Faith and fear cannot coincide; and if it is impossible to please Him without faith, then you cannot have fear. Faith in God and possessing the Fear of the Lord are proven by the same manner: OBEDIENCE. Why would someone possess faith in God? Because they know Him and trust Him. Why would someone possess the fear of the Lord? Because they know Him and trust Him.
The only people in the Bible who were afraid of God were those who were facing God's judgement (usually nations involved in sin and disobedience) and the words often used are "terror," panic," or "hide." (See 1 Sam. 11:7, 2 Chron. 14:14, or Is. 2:10) - While, people who were wise, knowledgeable, and had long lives were those who held the fear of the lord. (See Job 28:28, Ps. 19:9, Prov. 2:5) The best way to describe the feeling is to rightly ascribe God with who He is and the power He holds in direct comparison with who you are and the power you hold. The only way this comes is through pursuing God and knowledge of Him while continually seeking His revelation of who He is and who you are in His Kingdom. The more He shows you, the more little you will realize you are. And the more you know Him, the more you understand His love and desire for you. The reality is anyone who receives this revelation (typically revelation by revelation in stages, you cannot handle it all at once) will become more obedient to Christ.
Please understand this: God disciplines His children (Heb. 12) and we are not to take it lightly, but that doesn't mean we are to fear Him as a parent would fear punishment from their earthly parent. Because God is bigger than that. His love and jealousy for us is bigger. I think many times the problem Christians stumble into is that they picture their relationship with their parents as their relationship with God. But the issue is God is infinitely better as a parent than any parent on earth. His love is stronger. His patience is greater. His reproof is perfect. His judgement is beautiful. He knows all and knows precisely what is best for you. So when He disciples His children or corrects you it is because He knows EXACTLY what is best for you. He is gracious. He is kind. He is goodness.
Is it the fear of the Lord that leads you to repentance? Yes! Romans 2 says it is HIS KINDNESS that leads us to repent. Why are these the same? Because knowing Him is to know his love, kindness and grace. His kindness is the reason for my repentance because I want to pursue Him in every way. I don't go to God with my tail between my legs because I sin (note Heb. 10:19-23). I go as the Prodigal Son, knowing that His Kindness to EVEN his slaves is better than how I am treated here and now. But the beauty is this: HE CALLS US FRIENDS (note John 15:15).
In conclusion, BIBLE.ORG describes it as "an inward attitude of humble reverence toward God, in light of His self-revelation, that results in outward expression of Christlikeness." If you are not finding yourself in continual shock and awe of who God is and how much He loves you, leading you to obedience and a strong-willed pursuit of Him, then you do not know the FEAR OF THE LORD. It is 1) an inward attitude adjustment toward humility due to the revelation of God's character, majesty, power, holiness and kindness. 2) A realization that only God is worthy of our reverence and devotion. 3) Manifested obedience to do all that He may ask - not out of fear - but out of understanding.
Philippians 2:5-8 "Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."
Do you fear the Lord in the right way? Do you need more revelation and understanding of who God is? The answer is always yes. I with you will pursue even greater understanding of who God is. Think on it.