The Fear of God (7)
“...then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.”
We have been discussing the much-neglected doctrine of the fear of God. We have seen that God commands us to fear Him, and that fear and love, rather than being opposed, actually create a harmonic tension in our souls which leads to knowledge and wisdom, and out of which righteousness and good works resound. We have further seen that the fear of God grows where people delight in His Law and hope in His steadfast love, so that, increasingly, they attain to the knowledge of Truth and the wisdom of God which is embodied in the life of Christ.
Can there be any lingering doubt concerning whether the followers of Christ are called to fear God? The concept may still seem strange, even suspect to you; but we must agree, I think, that Scripture and the Lord Jesus Christ plainly instruct us to fear the Lord, even as we love Him.
But we have also seen that such fear of the Lord must be nurtured. We don’t come by it naturally; indeed, we seem to have something of a spiritual aversion to relating to God on the basis of fear. So we will need to learn how to develop this affection and to keep it tightly bound to our love for God as we do. Solomon’s advice to his son in Proverbs 2:1-5 lays out a kind of roadmap marking out the way to the fear of God. We can see this in verse 5, the end of the passage, when Solomon says, “then you will understand the fear of the LORD…” We need to back up to verse 1 and make our way down to verse 5 in order to discover what is involved in arriving at the fear of God.
First, of course, we must allow ourselves to be taught (v. 1). Gaining the fear of God requires new insights and understandings, together with a whole different way of looking at our relationship with God. So we must submit to Scripture and wise teachers who can counsel and guide us in understanding both why this affection is so necessary and how we may begin to nurture it within our souls. As we are being taught we must listen carefully to discern wisdom and bend our hearts toward understanding (v. 2), so that we are able to internalize and personalize the teaching we are receiving about the fear of God. We must not study so important a subject in merely abstract terms; rather, we want to know for ourselves what it means to fear the Lord and how we can begin to attain to this. We want to acquire the fear of God and realize its many benefits in our own lives.
At the same time, we must envelop our study and learning in prayer to God, crying out to Him to help us understand and gain that fear of Him which He requires (vv. 3, 4). Solomon describes praying in a way that makes obtaining understanding and wisdom the most important thing any of us can do. We must cherish, long for, and seek the acquisition of these precious commodities as the highest priority in our lives, pleading with God day by day to nurture the fear of Him in our souls. God alone gives the wisdom and knowledge that flow from fearing Him (v. 6), and He will only give these, as we have seen, to those who approach Him for them out of love and fear for Him.
This combination of study and prayer is an ongoing, lifelong calling. We must not be reluctant to nurture the fear of God in our hearts. This way lies much blessing, even power to enhance our witness for the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:11). Set yourself a course of study and prayer along the way to the fear of God, and see if the Lord doesn’t meet you there, enriching your knowledge of Him and His Truth, and clothing you with the wisdom and power of Jesus Christ for your everyday life.
Would you describe yourself as one who earnestly desires to know Truth and live in wisdom? What would be the identifying marks of such a person? Are these marks present in your life? Lay out a plan to begin growing in love for God’s Truth and desire for His wisdom. Share that plan with a Christian friend and ask him or her to pray for you.
This week’s series, The Fear of God, is available in a free downloadable format, suitable for group study.
For more insight into this topic, order the book, The Joy of Fearing God, by Jerry Bridges, from our onlne store. Or read the article, “The Fear of the Lord,” by Charles Colson.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.