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The Fear of the Lord

by Skip Heitzig |
The highest form of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. "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 the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding" (Proverbs 9:10).

What does the fear of the Lord mean? It's not a superstitious terror of an angry, vengeful, narrow-minded God. No, God is holy, generous, and forgiving. The fear of the Lord does not mean an unhealthy terror, but a healthy reverence.

Here's a working definition: The fear of the Lord is reverential awe that produces humble submission to a loving God. The only terror in such a relationship is because I love and respect God so much, I fear that I may somehow displease Him or bring shame to His holy name.

The fear of the Lord is prominent. The fear of the Lord is mentioned 54 times in the Bible, 18 in the book of Proverbs alone. A person who fears the Lord is one whose aim in life is to please God. The Bible says all things were created for God's pleasure (see Revelation 4:11). Your life was meant to give pleasure to your Creator.

The fear of the Lord is preeminent. In Proverbs 1:7 and 9:10, the word beginning means first in order of place, rank, value, or importance. So the fear of the Lord is the chief part of knowledge, or the first controlling principle. It's the place we begin, and the place we abide. Solomon searched for pleasure everywhere, but in the end he said, "Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man's all" (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

A poll said the things Americans want most in life are love, joy, and peace. Those are the fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22), and when the fear of the Lord and pleasing Him becomes predominant, these things will result.

The fear of the Lord is productive. It will keep you from evil (see Proverbs 16:6 and 8:13). When you fear displeasing God, you're afraid of the consequences of going down the path of spiritual, emotional, and even physical destruction from sin.

It will prolong your life (see Proverbs 10:27). The problems of alcohol, drugs, and sexual promiscuity demonstrate this. It will keep you from the judgment of God. The example is Noah, who was "moved with godly fear" (see Hebrews 11:7).

It will increase the quality of your life (see Proverbs 14:27 and 22:4). You can live confidently (see Proverbs 14:26), trusting that He knows best. If you fear God, you don't have to be afraid of anybody else. "The fear of man brings a snare" (Proverbs 29:25). But if you kneel before God in submission, you can stand before anybody.

It will motivate you to tell others about Christ. Paul wrote, "Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men" (2 Corinthians 5:11). We are motivated to reach people because of the fear of God. Jesus Christ warned, "Fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28).

Is the fear of the Lord prominent, preeminent, and productive in your life? God offers wisdom, so if you want your life to count, live wisely. Begin and remain in the reverential awe the produces humble submission to a loving God.

In His strong love,

Skip Heitzig

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