All too often the church gets a watered-down version of what it is to fear God, if it is talked about at all. Usually the explanation involves “oh well it doesn’t really mean that.” Why is the Word of God so adamant about fearing God if those words are not to be taken seriously?
When I was a child, I feared my Dad. Not in a bad way, always walking on eggshells afraid of making him angry, but in the sense that I love him and didn’t want to disobey him. He isn’t the type to get angry often, but whenever I did something seriously wrong, I knew it. The threat of discipline, and even the thought of disappointing him sent enough fear into my heart that I wanted to be good and do as I was told. When discipline came, it was swift and effective.
Why do we treat our Father God as if he is someone who doesn’t care what we do? Why do we act as if he will never discipline us as a good father does his children? God is gracious and merciful, but he is also just. “Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness” (Hebrews 12:10).
Why should we fear God? Exodus 20:20 says that the fear of the Lord will keep us from sinning. This is key. Our earthly parents wouldn’t (or shouldn’t have) tolerated us doing whatever we wanted, but had certain expectations of us. They expect obedience. When they say no, they mean no, and if we do it anyways there are consequences. And we respect our parents for the discipline they give (Hebrews 12:9). How much more should we fear God in our actions, wanting to please him and keep his commands?
The Proverbs also point to several reasons why we should fear God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline” (Proverbs 1:7). We are foolish to despise wisdom and discipline, but the fear of the Lord brings light to our minds in the form of knowledge. Again, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10). Fearing God bring us wisdom and also knowledge of he whom we serve. Another promise of God is found in Proverbs 19:23: “The fear of the Lord leads to life: Then one rests content, untouched by trouble.” Fearing God brings life and contentment.
Finally, we find the command to fear God after the Great Commandment: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength… Fear the Lord and serve him only” (Deuteronomy 6:4, 5, 12). Fearing God is part of our worship of him as we love him with everything we have and everything we are. Simply put, we cannot truly worship God if we do not fear him.
Do you fear God? Or for you is the Almighty God just a cardboard cut-out of some deity that you do not truly know?