What is the fear of God?

An angry person warns, “We’ll put the fear of God in them!” I can only assume they’re talking about the wrath of God, but little do they understand what the fear of God really means. Most people think of it as a warning to be good or you’ll get yours. As a follower of the Lord Jesus, my concept of “fear” might be different.

People have their own ways of understanding “the fear of God.” Most folks think of hellfire and brimstone; the lashing out of an angry and vengeful God. Truthfully, that is an uneducated and narrow view.

I mean no offense, but those who see God as being this furious reactionary fail to see the whole story. They certainly miss the point of God’s love entirely. They don’t understand what is actually happening and why God’s plan is Holy, righteous and just.

We must start with the 10 Commandments

To understand “fear of God” we start with the 10 Commandments. Are the commandments given to govern us and give warning that any disobedience will result in some sort of calamity? Or, are the commandments given to us to guide us on how to live a better and more fulfilling life?

If we embrace the 10 Commandments, we are showing true piety. Fear of the Lord is then a sign of love and hope. It is not cowering under the bed hoping not to be struck by lightning.

Fear of God allows us to respect and revere God and Jesus because they love us and want what is best for us. It is a sign of reverence and submission to our creator.

Fear of the Lord can also mean we have respect for God’s word and we try to avoid being careless in our following of Christ. Fear of the Lord allows us to go to God to confess sins and restore relationship.

Fear can be good for us

“Fear” is not necessarily a negative, an unpleasant emotional fear of imminent danger. A healthy fear is a sign of respect. I follow the Lord, not because I am afraid of Him, but because I love Him.

Jesus showed us a way to live, to love one another and be contented. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge:

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

and wisdom:

16 How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver! 17 The highway of the upright avoids evil; those who guard their ways preserve their lives. 18 Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:16-18

We are living in the time of grace

We are living in an age of grace. God is holding back His wrath to draw as many to Him as possible. But His grace has His own self-imposed limits.

God will not always be willing to allow us to self-destruct and a great tribulation is coming. God’s wrath will be poured out on a fallen world. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that He will make all things new and the new creation will be eternal, free of negative fear, free of death and disease.

Fear of the Lord is about love and hope.