Why Does the Bible Say to Get “Fear of the Lord?”
It’s unfortunate that throughout the history of Christianity, God has been a figure of fear more than a figure of love and benevolence. After Christianity became an accepted lifestyle by the ruling government, organized churches became a political tool more than a “blessing to the nations.” Look at the Dark Ages, the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition...all eras where death and fear were associated with God. Eventually, God’s people had to leave family and country just to worship Him in peace.
But the Bible authors knew that God wasn’t about instilling fear. From the early prophets to John at the end of Revelations, God was the embodiment of love. And when the Bible authors advise us to get “fear of the Lord”—they do not mean to cower and be afraid; in fact, they adamantly want us to get “fear of the Lord” because to them, it meant “wisdom and understanding.”
Fear of the Lord...
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever." Psalm 111:10 "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding." Proverbs 9:10 "The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility." Proverbs 15:33 "For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding." Proverbs 2:6 "Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding." Proverbs 4:7
To be in fear of the Lord, was to get wisdom and understanding about Him. To understand why He does what He does—to seek out answers and get knowledge. God did not want His creatures to be afraid of Him and mindlessly accept the good as well as the evil in their life—but to question and seek Him for answers, for peace and understanding.
Why did the authors use the word, “fear?” Unfortunately, this was the accepted language of the culture and their limited “understanding” of who God is. Adam and Eve had known God’s love from birth—in fact, God, each other and created animals were all they knew. But before Adam and Eve could fully understand their relationship with God, they sinned and they now knew fear. “And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where artthou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I wasnaked; and I hid myself.” Genesis 3:8-10
This feeling of fear and guilt became part of the stories Adam and Eve told to their descendants; and the concept of fear was realized by their children and grandchildren as they learned to adapt to the hardness of life in a sinful world. But as God continued to interact with his creatures, some started to understand who God is; while others abandoned God and lived their own sinful/fearful lives. Pagans created their own gods and worshipped them in fear and bargained with them through human sacrifices. This concept of fear was prevalent in the growing world and colored the worship of Jehovah.
Wisdom vs. Book-smart
But as God’s people grew in their understanding, the idea of fear was left behind and a desire to know Him became their cry. Over 30 times is the “fear of the Lord” mentioned in the Bible, but over 200 times are the words “wisdom and understanding” repeated.
Wisdom, not as the world deems it, but God’s wisdom. He’s not asking you to remember the Periodic Tables, all the Mathematical formulas or even the capital of 25 states (even though he advises you to be smarter than the secular world: “And the LORD shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou hearken unto the commandments of the LORD thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them: Deuteronomy 28:13)
"Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?" 1 Corinthians 1:20 "For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God." 1 Corinthians 1:22, 24 "For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness." 1 Corinthians 3:19
Comparative to the Greek philosophers or Roman literature, God’s wisdom not only leads to understanding, but also emotional and spiritual growth.
"And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the seashore." 1 King 4:29 "Only the LORD give thee wisdom and understanding, and give thee charge concerning Israel, that thou mayest keep the law of the LORD thy God." 1 Chronicles 22:12 "And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that iswisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding." Job 28:28
God's Wisdom Leads to Love and Life
God’s wisdom will lead you to understand God better. Understanding God better will lead you to respond to His love for you. Accepting God in your life and loving Him, will lead you to live a Godly life.
"But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy." James 3:17 "Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual." 1 Corinthians 2:13 "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction." Proverbs 1:7 "The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate." Proverbs 8:13 "And wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and strength of salvation: the fear of the LORD is his treasure." Isaiah 33:6
The “fear of the Lord” is your salvation and your most precious treasure. Get wisdom; get God in your life.
"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." James 1:5 "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord." Colossians 3:16 "There is no fear in love; but perfectlove casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love." 1 John 4:18 "And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him." 1 John 4:16 "Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love." 1 John 4: 7, 8
God is love and God loves you. If He didn’t love you, He wouldn’t be God, because Love is who God is. You need to learn, understand and believe this.
Pray for wisdom and understanding. Read the bible. Get to know Jesus. Believe His words.