The Bible tells us repeatedly to fear the Lord. It also gives us many reasons why we are to fear the Lord. Let’s take a look together.
No, the Lord’s delight is in those who fear him, those who put their hope in his unfailing love. (Psalm 147:11)
It might surprise you to find out that the term “fear the Lord” is prevalent in the Bible, showing up in more than 100 places. This phrase is used in conjunction with God’s law, with worship, wisdom and blessings.
If you have spent any time wrestling with this phrase, you may have had someone tell you that “fear” in the Bible doesn’t mean quite the same thing as how we might think of fear. In the biblical context, fear is more in line with healthy respect. If you are someone who has the spiritual gift of faith, this may have been all you needed to hear.
But if we take the time to explore past that simple explanation, it becomes even more clear how to own fearing the Lord in our own lives. When we take the time to understand why we are to fear the Lord, it is more likely to be reflected in our daily walk with Christ.
However, for those who may be exploring this for the first time, let’s answer the what before we explore the why of how we are to fear the Lord. Because the phrase “fear the Lord” can be confusing if you’re considering its meaning for the first time.
What it Means to Fear the Lord
When the Bible talks about fearing the Lord, it is talking about how we are to respect God’s position, not only as our God, but as the Creator, Savior, Lawgiver and Judge over the entire universe.
Think about the best teacher, boss, mentor, parental figure, anybody in your life who brought out the best in you. Chances are, that person will be remembered for being tough, but fair.
Even if you disliked them, you have great respect for them because they invested in you and grew you into something more than you thought you could be. Yet more often than not, you will not dislike them. You probably love them to some extent.
For me, this was Mr. Futrell, one of my radio instructors in high school. Even today, I am mindful of what he taught me and how he invested in me.
This is how we can understand fearing the Lord. We love God, but we need to have great respect for Him. God’s love for us is not sentimental or euphoric. It is based in His ownership over us as our Creator. In His sacrificial love as Savior. In God’s authority as our Lawgiver. And in His desire that all of us should be saved (1 Timothy 2:1-4), although some will not choose Him. His sanctifying work in our lives further reveals His investment in us.
We say we love God, as we should, but we also need to have an awesome respect for who He is. We should not take His commands lightly, nor should we take His gift of salvation for granted. To fear the Lord is to show Him the reverence He deserves.
What the Bible Teaches Us About Fearing the Lord
If we look at the instances in the Bible that help us see why we are to fear the Lord, we can begin to group them in some general categories.
Fearing the Lord is Linked to Obedience
The heart of obedience is love. Loving God and loving all of humankind. These are not mere suggestions; God has consistently required this of His followers, both in the Old and New Testaments. It is our duty if we are to be followers of Christ (Ecclesiastes 12:13), and evidence as to why we are to fear the Lord.
To say we owe a duty to Almighty God is not to suggest that obedience is earning our salvation; it isn’t.
Salvation is based solely on God’s grace, right? Yes, but Jesus Christ also tells us that those who truly love God will obey His commands. That is not earning salvation. That is proving we are truthfully one of God’s children (1 John 2:3-6). Obedience identifies the true disciples of Jesus Christ.
Fearing the Lord is Linked to Wisdom
The Bible tells us repeatedly that one reason why we are to fear the Lord is that it results in true wisdom. Unsurprisingly, we see this mentioned numerous times in the book of Proverbs.
Here we learn that why we are to fear the Lord is that this is the foundation of “true knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7). We will “hate evil” (Proverbs 8:13). Fear of the Lord results in “good judgement” (Proverbs 9:10).
Fearing the Lord is Linked to Worship
It might be hard to imagine that worship would be a result of fearing the Lord. However, just as we are promised the fruits of the spirit as we abide with Christ, when we fear the Lord we will naturally be inclined to worship Him.
When it comes to worship in the Bible, we naturally gravitate to the Psalms, which is where we find indications that the fear of the Lord actually frees us to worship Him more fully.
Because when we fear the Lord, we are honoring Him and showing Him reverence (Psalm 22:23).
We are also promised that when we fear the Lord and obey Him, what results in our hearts is joy (Psalm 112:1).
Fearing the Lord is Linked to Blessing
God has every right to expect our obedience as His children. But in a reflection of His great love for us, when we do obey, God will reward us.
The idea that God will bless us should not be our motivation as to why we are to fear the Lord; instead, consider it a gracious gift that shows how lavish God’s love is towards us.
Even as we gain wisdom by fearing the Lord, God will continue to grow that wisdom in us as we continue to fear Him (Psalm 111:10). God does not leave us stagnant, because we are on a lifelong journey with Him.
God promises long life to those who fear the Lord as long as they live (Deuteronomy 6:1-2). Why would God link long life to following Him? One reason could be that we are providing a good example to others as to why we should fear the Lord.
Take Timothy, who Paul partnered with in ministry and loved like a son. Paul notes that Timothy’s faith was undergirded through the previous generations in his family (2 Timothy 1:5). It’s important to remember that why we fear the Lord must be taught to the next generation. Fearing the Lord will not be learned by osmosis. It must be an intentional passing.
And in fact, this is another blessing we are told about; those that fear the Lord will be blessed with descendants who will also find salvation (Psalm 103.17).
Fear of the Lord
When we examine why we are to fear the Lord in scripture, we discover something interesting. Even those that don’t worship God fear Him. All the more reason for those of us who do follow Christ to take the idea of fearing the Lord seriously.
We read that Israel’s surrounding nations learned to fear God, and not daring to challenge the Israelites because of it (2 Chronicles 17:10).
In the New Testament, James tells us the demons believe in God and “tremble in terror” (James 2:19).
This gives a new perspective on the idea that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Because if it is wise for followers of Christ to fear the Lord, it is even more understandable why His enemies would fear Him.
When we talk about fearing the Lord being a “healthy respect”, part of that is realizing that while we have a relationship with Christ, He is still our King. God may treat us like His children, but He also spoke our universe into existence. So, obey God, be wise in Him, worship Him, and be blessed by Him. And let that all start from fearing the Lord.
More Bible verses about why we are to fear the Lord: