One of our favorite psalms says, “Blessed the man that fears Jehovah… Lo on him that fears Jehovah…” All of those blessings of eating the fruit of your labors, your wife being a fruitful vine and your children like olive shoots around your table, and seeing your children’s children – all of those blessings are predicated on the fear of the Lord.
What does it mean to fear the Lord? It means to be afraid of God. It means to tremble at the thought of God. Christians are often quick to explain this away. It means respect or reverence, we might say. But that really is not sufficient. The fear of the Lord really is a holy dread, a holy trembling. There is a sinful, fleshly fear that is unholy and ungodly, and perfect love casts out that kind of fear. But if you read your Bible and you want to know the God of the Bible, you must come to embrace the fact that there is a knowledge of God’s holiness and glory and justice and power that makes you feel like you’re standing on the very edge of a cliff looking down into thin air.
God is not a cosmic teddy bear. He is fierce and terrible. When people come into His presence they fall down, they tremble. It’s the fear of knowing His complete perfection and holiness and knowing we are not. He is a hurricane of glory, the sun of righteousness, the lion of the tribe of Judah, thunder and lightning goes out from His throne, and He sees all things, knows all things, and He will judge the world in absolute justice.
Do you fear the Lord?
This godly, holy fear is necessary for a godly and holy life. God spoke to the people of Israel and gave them His covenant so that they would learn to fear Him all the days of their life and teach their children to do the same. The fear of the Lord teaches men wisdom; it teaches us to obey God’s commands. The fear of the Lord hates all evil. The fear of the Lord is clean and endures forever. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life. The fear of the Lord is better than great treasure. Hebrews says that in the New Covenant, we have come to Mt. Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and God speaks to us directly from heaven, and therefore we must serve God with reverence and godly fear, because our God is a consuming fire.
Our God is not at all safe, but He is good.