Some of the reading I have been doing lately mentions “The Fear Of The LORD” but never seems to be certain of exactly what it is to “fear the LORD”. I have an idea about it, but first, let’s take a look at a few verses from Scripture.
The NKJV has a number of Old Testament references to “The Fear of the LORD”, but only one New Testament verse. I used Bible Gateway to produce a list of 28 NKJV references with the exact words, “The Fear of the Lord”. A sample is reproduced here:
1 Samuel 11:7 So he took a yoke of oxen and cut them in pieces, and sent them throughout all the territory of Israel by the hands of messengers, saying, “Whoever does not go out with Saul and Samuel to battle, so it shall be done to his oxen.” And the fear of the Lord fell on the people, and they came out with one consent.
2 Chronicles 14:14 Then they defeated all the cities around Gerar, for the fear of the Lord came upon them; and they plundered all the cities, for there was exceedingly much spoil in them.
Psalm 34:11 Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord
Proverbs 9:10 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
Isaiah 11:3 His delight is in the fear of the Lord, And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, Nor decide by the hearing of His ears;
Acts 9:31 Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.
Do you see a progression in Jewish/Christian understanding as we proceed from Samuel to Acts? We start with terror and end delighted and walking with this specific fear.
One concept comes to my mind. The ideas C. S. Lewis put into his Narnia series about the nature of Aslan. “He’s not tame, but He’s good” for example. The description of Lucy’s first approach to Aslan (in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe) is exactly what I would call “The Fear of the LORD”. How would you approach a talking Lion? I think the answer would be, “With great respect and extreme care.”
Look at Exodus 9:19-21:
19 Therefore send now and gather your livestock and all that you have in the field, for the hail shall come down on every man and every animal which is found in the field and is not brought home; and they shall die.” ’ ”
20 He who feared the word of the Lord among the servants of Pharaoh made his servants and his livestock flee to the houses. 21 But he who did not regard the word of the Lord left his servants and his livestock in the field.
To me, this sounds like ‘respect’ is a synonym for ‘fear’. Just like approaching a Lion. One would probably be ‘trembling’. It seems that ‘respect’ and ‘fear’ both imply a certain understanding that the person who is respected/feared has power and can harm.
But there’s more to this than simple wariness. When we approach God, we should be wary; it is obvious that only a fool is not careful in approaching God. But we see something else in Lewis’ descriptions of Aslan: we can trust the Lion. The quote from Isaiah chapter 11 turns things upside down: this is the description of the reign of the Servant, Jesse’s Branch. We enjoy reading verses 6-9, the picture of a little child leading all the beasts, with the lion and the calf lying down together, eating straw.
So, in Acts 9, the churches walk in the Fear of the Lord and also in the Comfort of the Holy Spirit. Unlike the Roman Emperor Nero, we can trust our King. There’s no capricious justice with Our Lord. Instead, we know that He is one of us. He died on the Cross for us. That’s because He loves us. Only a King who truly loves his subjects will do that which is best for them.
True, God is like a great talking Lion, capable of destroying both the body and the soul. And so we do fear Him. We would be foolish not to fear such power. However, it seems to me that He likes it when we snuggle up to Him and play with His mane.