"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom..." Proverbs 9:10
What does it mean to fear the Lord?
Am I supposed to be scared of Him, like my kids were scared of the dark?
And doesn't the Bible also teach us that "true love drives out all fear"?
Yes, it does. So how do we reconcile that?
There is one type of fear that is characterized by reverence, awe, and respect.
There is another type of fear that involves being actively afraid.
Some people (like my friend Jeff) fear tornadoes in the sense that they are fascinated by them. They study them. They chase them. They have great awe and respect for what they can do and want to prevent others from being harmed by them. They want you to fear them in the same way they do. They know there is something very healthy about their strange fear.
Other people (like my friend Meagan) fear tornadoes in the sense that they are almost paralyzed be the thought of a storm. Maybe they have literally and miraculously lived through the devastation (as my friend Meagan's family did) and find themselves panicking at the sound of a weather siren. This fear grips you, seizes you, and can keep you up at night. You could call this being "afraid".
The fear of God should look like the former.
The fear of God - some times and in some ways - should also look like the latter.
I believe the fear of the Lord is something we have neglected to talk about recently. Maybe we've forgotten that God devised a plan that took a hundred years to carry out to eradicate a sinful, rebellious people from the face of the earth and start over. Maybe we've forgotten that God wiped out nations that came against His people. Maybe it's slipped past us that God disciplined His own people in the desert for 40 years because of their sinful disobedience. Could we possibly have neglected to learn that those who even came into the presence of God without Him first beckoning were struck dead?
Achan stole from the things God said to burn. He was stoned to death.
Uzzah touched the Ark of God. He was struck dead.
Have we lost our fear of God?
Our sense of awe?
Or did we ever have it in the first place?
If we "fear the Lord", we not only hold His Word - the scriptures - to be the Truth, but we build our life on them by obeying them. And as we grow to know Him, we begin to comprehend how mighty, awesome, sovereign, perfect, and just He really is. And it is in understanding this that we are overwhelmed by His mercy and grace - because we know of His wrath and justice. When we realize that we are sinful people who deserve God's justice - that we are a rebellious people who in no way deserve or could ever earn His grace and mercyHe did not have to save us - that we are undone because of His unconditional love for us. He never had to pursue us. He did not have to sacrifice His own Son to redeem us. But He did.
"The fear of the Lord" is the beginning of everything good in our lives.
Make no mistake, when someone like Miley Cyrus decides to go on a RANT about God's Word, God's wrath, God's righteousness, and God's redemption being a "fairy tale", this is not "fear of the Lord". But also understand, when you and I - when those of us who know and believe the truth of God's Word - choose to live in unbelief and disobedience, we have lost our sense of awe as well. It infuriates us to see someone openly mock God. Pray that it will infuriate us even more when the Spirit gives us the humble discernment to see that we have secretly mocked Him. David said that God desires "truth in the innermost parts" - He wants "honesty from the heart". (Psalm 51) May this be the attitude of heart and frame of mind with which we approach the Lord.
When those around you who are lost mock God, love them.
Pray for them.
But don't hate them.
Don't be infuriated by them.
Show them that to fear the Lord is to love others - even those who hate you.
Seek Him. Fear Him. Love Him.
"My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God." Proverbs 2:1-5