The Fear of God – The Beginning of Understanding
Throughout the Jewish scriptures we learn that “the fear of God is the beginning of understanding… wisdom… knowledge.” Indeed, the fear of God is a primary theme throughout the entire Old Testament:
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline (Proverbs 1:7).
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding (Psalm 111:10).
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding (Proverbs 9:10).
But he stands alone, and who can oppose him? He does whatever he pleases. He carries out his decree against me, and many such plans he still has in store. That is why I am terrified before him; when I think of all this, I fear him. God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me (Job 23:13-16).
“Should you not fear me?" declares the Lord. "Should you not tremble in my presence?" (Jeremiah 5:22).
Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling (Psalm 2:11).
The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever (Psalm 19:9).
Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere him (Psalm 33:8).
Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD (Psalm 34:11).
Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name (Psalm 86:11).
Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
The Fear of God – The Real Meaning
In these “Fear of God” scriptures, the word “fear” is derived from Hebrew words such as yir’ah (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10; Psalm 2:11; 19:9; 34:11), yare’ (Psalm 33:8; 86:11; Jeremiah 5:22; Ecclesiastes 12:13) and pachad (Job 23:15), which actually mean “fear,” “terror,” or “dread.” Although many Christian teachers will downplay the “fear of God” and use replacement words such as “respect,” “reverence,” or “honor,” the Hebrew language is pretty clear. In addition, there are other Hebrew words that portray softer meanings, such as kabad (Exodus 20:12 – “Honor your father and your mother…” Proverbs 3:9 – “Honor the LORD with your wealth…”)
The Fear of God – The Rest of the Story
The good news is that the fear of God is only the beginning of understanding. We’ve got to read the rest of the story! In fact, the great news is that the Love of God reflected through Jesus Christ in the New Testament scriptures has the power to cast out this fear and set us free!
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 (1 John 4:18).
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us (1 John 4:7-12).
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
“Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (Jesus to His disciples in John 15:12-13).
The Fear of God – The Love of God
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How can we comprehend the utterly Great News of Jesus Christ if we don’t first appreciate the fear of God? Without total awe, wonder, terror, dread, reverence, and respect for a perfectly holy, righteous, and just Creator, can we truly appreciate what Jesus Christ, the Son of God, did for us on Calvary’s cross?
It ultimately comes down to perspective and position. Who is God and what is my perspective on His nature, power, and justice? Who am I and what is my human position relative to this Almighty God?
Once we understand and accept the entire story, we can walk out our lives in a special appreciation of co-existing truths -- the “Fear of God” and the “Love of God.”
Let those who fear the LORD say: "His love endures forever" (Psalm 118:4).
The LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love (Psalm 147:11).
He said in a loud voice, "Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water" (Revelation 14:7).
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