In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence, and His children will have a place of refuge. – Proverbs 14:26
The fear of the Lord. It is a subject that is not oft spoken of, yet it is found all throughout the bible – both in the Old and New Testaments. I’ve come to realize that it is a very important subject, because this is a generation that knows very little about respect and honor.
God is to be feared. This is something we need to know more about.
The bible says that there is strong confidence in those that fear the Lord. This struck when I read it. Can fear bring confidence? Doesn’t fear bring the exact opposite? In my experience, fear has brought insecurity, not confidence. How can this be true?
Jesus was the most confident person who ever lived. Never did He doubt Himself, His abilities, or His purpose. Did He understand the fear of the Lord? Did He walk in the fear of the Lord?
Yes, He did. He even delighted in the fear of the Lord:
The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him (Jesus)…The Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. His delight is in the fear of the Lord – Isaiah 11:1-3
Jesus walked in the fear of the Lord. And we can see that He possessed a strong confidence, exactly as the scripture has said. Jesus had strong confidence becuase He conducted His life in the fear of God.
But what about us? Can we have strong confidence?
Jesus is not just a hero to be admired, but a pattern to be followed. He said, “follow Me.” This is forever an invitation to be just like He was.
What is the fear of the Lord?
I’ve pondered on this for quite a bit. What does it mean to fear the Lord? Thankfully, the scriptures give us the answer.
In the Old Testament book of Isaiah, God calls Isaiah to prophesy to a reprobate Israel. They had turned away from the Lord to seek after other gods. They had rejected the God that rescued them out of Eygpt from slavery, and had followed their own lusts into occult worship. God, in His great mercy, raised up Isaiah to rebuke them of their unfaithfulness. Perhaps they would repent and turn back to the Lord.
But God knew that, as a whole, they would not turn back. Their hearts were too hardened. They loved their sin too much. And for many of these people, the last thing they wanted was for some prophet to tell them how wretched their sin was. So God, knowing the fierce oppostion that was to come against Isaiah, warned him not to fear them. What’s interesting, however, is that God tells him to direct his fear somewhere else:
The Lord of hosts, Him you shall hallow; Let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread. – Isaiah 8:13
And Jesus spoke a similar thing in Luke 12. There was a great temptation in those days to shrink back from faith in Christ because of the religious leadership of the day. Those religious leaders (the Pharisees and Saducees) would eventually be the ones to condemn Jesus to death, and then wreak havoc upon the church – putting men and women to death, or committing them to prison.
Forseeing these things, Jesus said this:
My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into Hell; yes, I say unto you fear Him! – Luke 12:4-5
These two passages can help us form an idea of what it means to fear the Lord. In both cases, the temptation was to adjust one’s behavior or speech due to the fear of what man might do. The alternative, however, is to act and speak in such a way that we fear what God might do.
This is what is what it means to fear the Lord. It means that we speak and act with the concern of what God thinks about us.
This what Peter and John did when they were arrested for preaching the gospel in Jerusalem. They faced beatings and jail time for their actions, and were expressly forbidden from preaching or teaching any more about Jesus. But look at their response:
Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than God, you judge. For we cannot help but speak the things we have see and heard. – Acts 4:19
These men were severly threatened by the authorities, who had the power to beat them, throw them in jail, and have them killed. None of those options are pleasant. But at the same time, they had a command from God to preach the gospel to every creature. They were faced with a choice: should they fear the punishment that would come from the religious leaders, or should they fear the punishment of disobeying God?
The answer is obvious – we should always obey God.
And everyone can answer that question correctly as an armchair quarterback. But the truth is, many of us, when put into a similar situation, bow to the fear of man, not walking in the fear of the Lord.
How many times have we felt a prompting of the Lord to speak to someone. Maybe we weren’t sure it was from the Lord. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. How many times, when that kind of circumstance would arise, did you say to yourself, “Well, I’m not sure if that is from the Lord or not, I better just go ahead and do it since I’m not sure. I don’t want to displease the Lord”?
I can speak for myself (to my own shame) that I have never said that. If I haven’t been really sure that it was the Lord, I have almost always erred on the side of the fear of man. I would either fear what they would think of me, or fear that I wouldn’t do a good job representing the Lord. Both, really, are the fear of man. If we feared the Lord, we’d be ok with messing up, because in messing up, we still obeyed the Lord.
But now, let’s turn this situation around. What if you feared the Lord as much as you have feared what man has thought of you? What if the same kind of fear that kept you from doing the will of God acutally drove you to fulfill the will of God? Wouldn’t that be wonderful!? Think of the confidence you would have if the same fear that had, in times before, driven you away from doing the will of God, was now driving you to it! You would have strong confidence because your mind would be focused on pleasing heaven, rather than saving face on earth.
How can we walk in the fear of the Lord? The answer is obvious: we must continually have our minds fixed on the reality of God’s kingdom.
Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. – Col 3:2
When the realities of God’s kingdom become distant to us, the temporal consequences of the world’s rejection become more powerful.
Being put to death is an awful thing, and most men would do everything in their power to avoid it; however, when the reality of hell is firmly fixed in our minds, compared to hell, being put to death isn’t such a bad thing!
We must be mindful of these things. And we must remember that God is love, yes, but He is also the Almighty Judge who will render to every man according to his deeds, whether good or evil. He is a consuming fire, and it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
We should live in dread of ever displeasing God. We should not think that God will simply forgive our misdeeds. Forgiveness is available, but only after true repentance–truly being sorry for what we have done, with the resolve to really change. But even forgiveness does not take away God’s corrective punishment (as we see in the case of David and Bathsheeba). We should greatly fear His punishment, as a son fears the rod of correction from his father. It is done in love, yes, but it still really hurts.
Fear the Lord. Let Him be your fear. Let Him be your dread. Don’t fear those that can only kill the body, or make fun of you, or exclude you, or reject you, or speak evil of you, but fear Him, who after He has killed, has the power to cast into Hell. Yes, I say unto you, fear Him.
Meditate on these things. Let these truths sink deep into your soul. As your mind becomes more and more fixed on heaven, the fear of man will be less and less. Then the shackles of fear will be broken, and you will be able, with strong confidence, to fulfill the calling that God has for your life. Amen.
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