"Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.” (Isaiah 11:1-2)
The fear of the Lord has been troubling to many a Christian and unbeliever alike. We accept unquestionably that God is love and then question why we should question a loving God. The writer of Hebrews says, "And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him." (Hebrews 11:6) If the believer believes that “He is,” then we must accept that He is the Creator of the heavens and the earth. What power of man can create a universe? Take a look and see what the power of man has done to the earth. God, the One whom we believe is, is All-powerful – All-knowing – Ever-present. Yet, we go through our life with little regard that a God of that magnitude is as near to us as the air that we breathe. The Prophet Isaiah when he found himself in the presence of the Lord said, "Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts." (Isaiah 6:5) Isaiah knew his place before a Holy God. Is that the sum of fear before the Lord? Are we not as close to God as Isaiah was in the Temple and yet we do not feel the least bit undone.
We all have our fears as we travel through this world. We fear crime, we fear for the safety of our loved ones, we fear the enemies of our nation, and we even fear Satan himself. But do we show the same fear to God? What do the Scriptures tell us about a proper fear of the Lord?
The Hebrew and Greek text translate fear to have the meaning of a positive reverence towards God. The Hebrew word for fear in our text is “yirah.” The Hebrew definition for yirah is fear, terror, awesome or terrifying thing (object causing fear), fear (of God), respect, and reverence, piety, revered.
This word is used often when speaking of the fear we should have towards the Lord. It is a fear that acknowledges the intentions of God. "Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin." (Exodus 20:20) God’s Word gives us a proper fear of the Lord. "Then you will discern the fear of the LORD And discover the knowledge of God." (Proverbs 2:5) Fear of the Lord makes us receptive to the wisdom and knowledge of the Lord. "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction." (Proverbs 1:7)
In the New Testament, we see the Greek word used for fear is “Phobeo.” This word is used when in reference to God and bears a similar meaning with its Hebrew counterpart. This word was used by one of the thieves on the cross at the crucifixion of Jesus. "But the other answered, and rebuking him said, "Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?" (Luke 23:40)
If the believer maintains a proper reverent fear of God, then as King Solomon wrote in Proverbs that fear is the beginning of our knowledge of God. (Proverbs 1:7) The Psalmist expounded on that with these words. "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever." (Psalm 111:10)
There are actions that I have never done in the presence of my father. Not only would these actions brought consequences of punishment but it would have dishonored him. Something I would never intentionally do in his presence. But when I was not in his presence I would so to speak let the badger out now and then. Sometimes my father would find me out and there was a price to pay for my disobedience. The truth is God is ever present. "Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me." (Psalm 139:7-10) I could keep somethings from my father, from my bosses, even from my Pastor, but I cannot hide it from my God.
My reverent fear of my father kept me on the straight and narrow while in his house but I am in my Father’s world and His presence is about me. If I am to have the proper reverent fear of the Lord, then I must strive to be obedient to His Word in everything that I do. "For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries." (Hebrews 10:26-27) I find myself in constant confession and repentance through my fear of the Lord. As the time travels on, as I resist the wiles of the Devil, as I maintain proper fear of the Lord knowing that I am in His presence, I notice the knees are not as sore as they used to be.
All life is a discipline and all who walk this earth are disciplining themselves to the things they desire. If we desire a fellowship with the Lord then we must discipline ourselves according to His Word. We cannot allow sin in our life to form a cloud between us and God. Sometimes we pray and feel that our prayer goes no higher than the ceiling. Perhaps there is a cloud of sin blocking the path to the throne of God’s grace? John the Baptist told us to make straight the path of the Lord. (John 1:23) We have an adversary that seeks to destroy us, we are in a spiritual battle against wicked forces in heavenly places, we must be disciplined in righteousness to overcome the foe. "But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come." (1 Timothy 4:7-8)
We live in a world that has a strong allure pulling upon us at every turn. We ride down the roads and billboards fill our eyes with temptations. We travel our streets and see people living in wicked ways. We turn on our television sets, go on the internet, and listen to the radio and sinful attractions fill our minds. The pull of the world is a constant intruder to our intentions to live a godly life. Even the Apostle Peter who lived three years with Jesus in an intimate relationship fell to sin in his denial of the Lord. Judas too who betrayed Jesus. Both spent three years in the presence of God’s Son and yet fell to the allure of the world. We try our best but we will stumble and our heavenly Father knows that we will. Jesus said the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Peter repented and led thousands of souls to the Lord on Pentecost. Judas who had the same opportunity laid with his god Satan and hung himself and forever sealed his fate. Jesus was nailed to the cross by the sin of the world, mine, yours, Peter’s and Judas’ too. Peter chose repentance and Judas chose rejection of the truth. Jesus is faithful and true and wanting to forgive us of our sin. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)
Forgiveness by God’s grace leads us to a proper fear of the Lord. "If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, That You may be feared." (Psalm 130:3-4) Repentance is changing our direction in life, it is changing our way of thinking. If we repent, turn away from the worldly way and follow Jesus on the path to the Kingdom we will certainly have reason to be grateful for the price Jesus paid that we might be free from the wages of sin.
We now have a purpose which gives us hope. Those who have no hope have no purpose. When we experience the love that God has for His children we will have a reverent fear but His love will put away that terrifying fear of the wrath of God. "By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the Day of Judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love" (1 John 4:17-18)
We spoke earlier of eternal wisdom. That through our faith we are able to see beyond this world to the world of God’s Kingdom which is our eternal home. Having a proper reverent fear of the Lord will help us in living a godly life that we may be successful in our sanctification through the work of the Holy Spirit. One day, and it will not be long, we the justified through our faith in Jesus Christ will be standing on the streets of the Holy City of God sanctified by the Spirit in the righteousness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. A soldier uses his fear wisely as a self-benefit against his enemy. We as the Onward Christian Soldiers should also use our fear of the Lord, our friend that is closer than a brother, wisely that our hope will be fulfilled in the promises of the Lord. "The fear of the LORD leads to life, So that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil." (Proverbs 19:32)
Thomas N Kirkpatrick
First Baptist Church of Durant, June 4, 2015