April 21, 2002

The Fear of the Lord

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: Proverbs Scripture: Proverbs 9:10


The Fear of the Lord

Proverbs 9:10
Sunday, April 21, 2002  
Pastor Randy Smith

Last week, in beginning our 8-week study on themes in Proverbs, we discussed possibly the most foundational theme that runs through all 31 chapters in the book…wisdom! The authors make it clear that there is a distinction between wisdom and folly. Wisdom is to be esteemed over all desirable things and sought after like a hidden treasure, whereas folly is to be rejected and abhorred. Solomon himself in his hundreds of Proverbs concerning wisdom equates the attainment of wisdom with happiness, life, hope, discernment and honor (just to name a few). And though we are implored to seek diligently after wisdom, Solomon is clear to remind the reader, and demonstrate in his own life, that wisdom is ultimately a gift from God. The Bible says that Jesus Christ is the "wisdom of God" and in Christ are "hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." This wisdom from above comes to us through a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ. It is dispensed to us through prayer, the Scriptures and wise company.

But throughout the Scriptures, wisdom is equated with one prominent trait. That trait, in many ways, encapsulates everything I've mentioned thus far. The trait is called, "the fear of the Lord ." "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding" (Pro. 9:10). Wisdom begins with fearing God, increases with the fear of God and is proven by fearing God.

However, you might ask, "What does it mean to fear God?" And, "Is it right for a Christian, who has been delivered from God's wrath, to fear Him?" Or in other words, "How can I have a loving, intimate relationship with my heavenly Father based on fear?" And, "How does the Christian practically demonstrate a godly fear?" Maybe you already have a response to these questions, but if you don't, they are crucial questions to be answered!

For this reason, I would like to explore this morning a foundational and predominate topic in Proverbs and also in all the Scripture: Fearing God.


To help clarify the situation, let's first explain how the word fear is used in the Bible. Basically, there are six variations of the word.

The first one is the simple fear that most humans experience. It can be sinful, such as the fear of man (Pro. 29:25) or it can be a simple caution or apprehension when faced with a crisis. Last week, I had lunch with a gentleman from this church who walks narrow iron beams in erecting skyscrapers 30 stories above the ground. You wouldn't get me up there in a million years! Is it sinful on my part? No, just fearful of falling! I'm a "scardey-cat!"

The remaining 5 (biblical cases of fear) specifically deal with fearing God. For instance, some fear God and it causes them fight against Him. When confronted with the living God, many wage war against God because they are afraid of Him. From Pharaoh to the Canaanite, from the atheist to the antichrist, many fight against God in fear of submitting to His lordship.

If some fight God out of fear, others out of fear, flee from God. Who can forget this account, "Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, "Where are you?" And he (Adam) said, "I heard the sound of Thee in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself" (Gen. 3:9-10). Or, "And the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb" (Rev. 6:15-16). Whether it is the beginning with Adam (in the Genesis account) or the final culmination of God's wrath at the end (in the Revelation account), men have and will fear God, and because of that fear, attempt to hide from His presence.

Some fear God and attempt to fight against Him, others fear God and attempt to flee from His presence; still others fear God and simply do nothing. Do you remember the man in Luke 19 who did not invest his master's mina (the master of course representing God in the parable)? Do you remember his reason for not investing? He said, "for I was afraid of you, because you are an exacting man; you take up what you did not lay down, and reap what you did not sow" (Lk. 19:21). The master's response, "By your own words I will judge you, you worthless slave" (Lk. 19:22). Many outside (and sadly inside) the church fall into this category-a polite, gentle fear of God which simply leads one to sit on his hands and do nothing. Yes, I fear God and I'll come to church when nothing better is going on, but helping others, financially giving, serving the body, evangelism-you've got to be kidding!

These past three fears of God are obviously not the legitimate godly fear expected in the Scriptures. Reason-because they did not bear the fruit which godly fear in intended to produce. Yes, God wants us to fear Him, but the goal of that fear is not to promote rebellion, seclusion or complacency. Rather, He has His creatures fear Him that we might run to His presence, seek refuge under the shelter of His wings and glorify the King.

We examined 3 variations of the fear of God, thus far, all of which are inappropriate. The final 2 variations manifest the fear which God intends of all humans.

The first one revolves around a proper understanding of His character and attributes. Yes, He is a God of mercy, love and grace, but He is also a God of justice, holiness and wrath. Listen carefully (contrary to the latest hallmark card you read about God); any person not clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ will be subjected to His fiery wrath in conscious, eternal, torment. And that is fearful.

Let me show you a few examples. "It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb. 10:31). "Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe (could also be translated fear-as it is in many translations); for our God is a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:28-29). "For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed - for our testimony to you was believed" (2 Thes. 1:6-10). "And I say to you (Jesus speaking), 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 warn you whom to fear: fear the One who after He has killed has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him" (Lk. 12:4)!

Folks, we need to be very careful with our words, our letters and our e-mails that we portray God in a way that unbelievers will learn to fear Him, come to grip with their sin and cast themselves fully into His merciful arms. Most people in our society see no need for a Savior because they have a low view of God, a high view of themselves and an absent view of God's anger with sin resulting in eternal punishment.

For just as it was in the days of Noah are the people today. Eating and drinking, living a careless life without any concern for the severity of God's judgment without realizing that they upon death will not face (George Burns or) the old man upstairs who will wink at all their sins. Rather they will face a consuming fire who will deal out vengeance and retribution. And any human being who does not have their sin's covered through a relationship with Jesus Christ should hear that and tremble!

The unbeliever should fear God when he hears of the severity of God's judgment and run to the asbestos covering of Jesus Christ who bore God's wrath in the individual's place. They should be like the Philippian jailor who experienced God's power. Acts 16 says he came " trembling with fear , he fell down before Paul and Silas, (and said), 'what must I do to be saved" (Ac. 16:30)!

But what about the believer who is delivered from the "wrath to come" (1 Thes. 1:10)? Should he likewise fear the justice of God? Should he fear the punishment of God? Should he fear eternal separation? The answer is no. Let me show you. "By this, love is perfected with us, that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love" (1 Jn. 4:17-18). "For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again , but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" (Rom. 8:15). Key word… "again"…not leading to fear again . Fear of God's wrath leads us to Him for forgiveness and reconciliation. But once we have received that blessing, this fear is no longer operative in the believer's life. We no longer need to fear God's punishment. On the other hand, we are able to intimately draw near to God as (Rom. 8) "Abba! Father!" Yes, we remember our alienation from God. Yes, we remember what we deserve. And yes we often thank God for our salvation, but the memory in and of itself is not fear.

So, if none of these 5 biblical variations apply to the believer, (back to our original question), should a Christian fear God? And the answer is yes. It's the same Greek word-phobos, but a different context. Let's move to point #2


The reason I know Christians still have responsibility to fear God is because there are over 100 references to the fear of God spoken directly to or directly of God's children. For example, it's commanded to Israel. "And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God" (Deut. 10:12). It is also commanded to the church. "And if you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each man's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay upon earth" (1 Pet. 1:17). Interestingly, the verse interchangeably connects fear with the Fatherhood of God. "Honor all men; love the brotherhood, fear God , honor the king" (1 Pet. 2:17). We also see it demonstrated amongst Christians. "So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and, going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase" (Ac. 9:31). "And everyone kept feeling a sense of awe (phobos-fear); and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles" (Ac. 2:43).

Consider the following personal examples: Abraham- "And he said, "Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God , since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me" (Gen. 22:12). Joseph- "Now Joseph said to them on the third day, 'Do this and live, for I fear God " (Gen. 42:18). Job- "And the LORD said to Satan, 'Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil" (Job 1:8). Or how can we forget Proverbs 31? "But a woman who fears the LORD , she shall be praised" (Pro. 31:30).

The term "God-fearer" was used of Gentile converts to Judaism in the Bible. Even up until recent days, the term a "God-fearing man or woman" was used as a compliment to represent one who is devout in their walk with God

So fearing God is expected amongst God's children. But what is it? Let's begin with Reverence and Awe. "And he said with a loud voice, 'Fear God, and give Him glory , because the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters" (Rev. 14:7). "Who will not fear , O Lord, and glorify Thy name ? For Thou alone art holy; For all the nations will come and worship before Thee, For Thy righteous acts have been revealed" (Rev. 15:4). "Let all the earth fear the LORD ; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him" (Psm. 33:8). Fearing God therefore is a high view of the Almighty in realizing that He transcends His creation. It's realizing that He is holy (set-apart) and therefore to be greatly revered, exalted and respected. Fearing God is the spirit of Isaiah who said, "Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts" (Isa. 6:5). It's the spirit of the early church when they saw Ananias and Sapphira killed by God on the spot. "And great fear came upon the whole church, and upon all who heard of these things" (Ac. 5:11). It's fearing to take even His Name in vain, how much more to make a mockery of Him by our cavalier lifestyle and then tell the world that He is our Lord.

There can be do doubt that the fear of God is connected with reverence and awe as an ongoing act of worship in the life of the believer. Listen to what spiritually takes place in the life of the believer who fears God. We cannot accurately worship God until we first fear Him. For example, fearing God prompts us to love and obey Him. "Only fear the LORD and serve Him in truth with all your heart" (1 Sam. 12:24). "Praise the LORD! How blessed is the man who fears the LORD , Who greatly delights in His commandments " (Psm. 112:1). "So the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes , to fear the LORD our God for our good always and for our survival, as it is today" (Deut. 6:24).

Fearing God is the means for spiritual growth. "So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling " (Phil. 2:12). Fearing God is also the means for perseverance . "Therefore, let us fear lest, while a promise remains of entering His rest , any one of you should seem to have come short of it" (Heb. 4:1). I like the way John Piper once put this along the lines of fearing God and perseverance. "Fearing the Lord means fearing to run away from Him. It means fearing to seek refuge and joy and hope anywhere but in God. It means keeping before our eyes what a fearful prospect it is to stop trusting and depending on God to meet our needs." He who does not fear God has called a peace treaty with sin. But he who does fear God, battles sin and fervently continues in the daily quest for holiness. So fearing God enables us to obey Him, mature spiritually and faithfully persevere until the end.

David Hubbard summarized the practical perspectives of fearing God. "Although (fear) includes worship, it does not end there. It radiates out from our adoration and devotion to everyday conduct that sees each moment as the Lord's time, each relationship as the Lord's opportunity, each duty as the Lord's command, and each blessing as the Lord's gift. It is a new way of looking at life and seeing what it is meant to be when viewed from God's perspective." It all begins with fearing God!

Therefore, fearing God for the Christian is not highmindedness (haughty spirit) or presumption (false assurance of salvation). It's not a trembling dread or a paralyzing action or even a polite reverence. Rather, the fear God expects of His children demonstrates a reverence for His majesty, gratitude for His mercies, dread of His displeasure and desire for His approval.


Hopefully, I have made the biblical case for godly fear very clear. Hopefully, you see the need for godly fear, simply because your Lord calls you to it. But I want to close this morning with some of the many benefits in the life of the believer when godly fear is manifested.

The first, as we learned last week is wisdom . The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge ; Fools despise wisdom and instruction" (Pro. 1:7). Fearing God is the first step to acquire wisdom and it remains foundational in the reception for future wisdom. As a matter of fact, fearing God is the primary indication that we even have wisdom. "And to man He said, 'Behold, the fear of the Lord , that is wisdom ; And to depart from evil is understanding" (Job 28:28). To ask if Christians should fear God is synonymous to asking should Christians have wisdom? Obviously the answer to both is, "yes!"

Fearing God also leads to joy . "How blessed (happy) is the man who fears always , But he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity" (Pro. 28:14). "Praise the LORD! How blessed (happy) is the man who fears the LORD , Who greatly delights in His commandments" (Psm. 112:1). "He will bless those who fear the LORD , The small together with the great" (Psm. 115:13). Listen, fear without joy is torment and joy without fear is presumption. We need both to be truly happy! You were created to be happy. Do you want to be happy? The Bible says to fear God!

Fearing God leads to safety . It almost sound paradoxical, usually we don't take refuge in someone or something we fear. "You who fear the LORD , trust in the LORD; He is their help and their shield " (Psm. 115:11). "In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence , And his children will have refuge " (Pro. 14:26).

Fearing God leads to life . Obviously eternal life, but here I also believe the author is speaking of a quality of life. "The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life , That one may avoid the snares of death" (Pro. 14:27). "The fear of the LORD leads to life " (Pro. 19:23).

Fearing God keeps us from evil . By lovingkindness and truth iniquity is atoned for, And by the fear of the LORD one keeps away from evil " (Pr. 16:6). "The fear of the LORD is to hate evil " (Pro. 8:13).

Fearing God leads to His instruction . "Who is the man who fears the LORD ? He will instruct him in the way he should choose…The secret of the LORD is for those who fear Him , And He will make them know His covenant" (Psm. 25:12).

Fearing God leads to His love . "For as high as the heavens are above the earth, So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him " (Psm. 103:11).

Fearing God leads to His compassion . "Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him " (Psm. 103:13).

Fearing God leads to His mercy . "And His mercy is upon generation after generation Toward those who fear Him " (Lk. 1:50).

And Fearing God leads to His favor . "The LORD favors those who fear Him " (Psm. 147:11).

There are many benefits to fearing God, but ultimately, it's not about us, it's about God. And God wants us to fear Him. As a matter of fact, to fear Him was His reason for saving us! "But there is forgiveness with Thee, That Thou may be feared " (Psm. 130:4).

So with all we've said thus far on the fear of God, how have you feared God this past week? If I called on you, could you identify practical ways you demonstrated a fear of the Lord? Beloved, there should be daily evidence. "Do not let your heart envy sinners, But live in the fear of the LORD always" (Pro. 23:17). Are you fearing God? If not, biblically speaking you showing yourself to be a fool. If you are not fearing Him, my humble advice to you is drop everything and fear Him! Or better yet, take the advice of Solomon. "Better is a little with the fear of the LORD, Than great treasure and turmoil with it" (Pro. 15:16). Solomon was the man who was the epitome of wisdom, second only to Christ, but sadly he realized vanity of life apart from a relationship with God. Probably the final inspired words from his pen, Ecclesiastes 12:13, "The conclusion , when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person."

other sermons in this series

Jun 2


Giving and Receiving Reproof - Part Two

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Proverbs 9:7–8 Series: Proverbs

May 26


Giving and Receiving Reproof - Part One

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Proverbs 9:7–8 Series: Proverbs

May 5


Taming the Tongue

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Proverbs 8:21 Series: Proverbs