On the Fear of God

The other day while I was eating lunch with Linda Boice, the wife of the late James Montgomery Boice, listening to stories about her and her husbands lives, she made a comment about her father that seems to me noteworthy. Mrs. Boice said that she knew her father to have been a God-fearing man. “He used to pray beside his bed every evening,” she recalled. I was moved by the way she described her father to have been a “God-fearing man.” Sadly, this language is hardly ever used today–even within the church. And yet, it is not language from a former generation. It is found in every book of the Bible (either explicitly or by example). The Proverbs explain that true wisdom, understanding, peace, satisfaction and life are given to the man who fears the LORD.

But what is the “fear of God?” What does it mean to be a “God-fearing” man or woman? There are several answers to these questions. One of the simplest is also found in the book of Proverbs where Solomon tells us, “The fear of the LORD is to depart from evil.” He says this in another way in the same book–“My son, do not let your heart envy sinners, but be zealous of the fear of the LORD all the day long, for surely there is a hereafter and your hope will not be cut off.” The fear of the LORD can be said to be walking uprightly. Interestingly David, in Psalm 19 calls the Scriptures “the fear of the LORD,” when he writes, “The fear of the LORD is clean enduring forever.” This is found among such terms as “the law of the LORD,” “the statutes of the LORD,” “the commandments of the LORD,” and “the judgments of the LORD.” So we see that it is by the word of the LORD that we learn the fear of the LORD.

There is another aspect of the fear of the LORD that is not often pointed out. Isaiah tells us that the fear of the LORD is His special treasure reserved for His people. This is God’s greatest gift to His people. It is reserved for them. They, of all the people on the face of the earth receive this treasure. God fills their hearts with the very thing by which all other gifts come. We have already noted that wisdom, understanding, peace, satisfaction, and life belong to those who fear the LORD. If the fear of the LORD brings all these other blessings shouldn’t we be praying for this wonderful gift; shouldn’t this be the one thing that we desire. Of course we can say that Jesus is the One through whom the fear of God comes. The Scriptures tell us that He Himself feared God (Hebrews 5:7). It is ultimately at the cross that we see why we should fear God. The thief on the cross understood this when he said to the other thief, “Do you not even fear God seeing we are under the same condemnation, and we indeed justly but this Man has done nothing wrong.”

As you read through the Scriptures start to look at how many references there are to this most important subject. There are two helpful books I would recommend: (1) The Fear of God by John Bunyan, and (2) The Fear of God by Jerry Bridges. John Murray also has a helpful article on this subject as an appendix to his book Principles of Conduct. May God grant us all His special treasure which He has reserved for His own. May we pray that He would teach us what it means to fear Him in our lives day by day.

1 Response

  1. Nicholas T. Batzig

    A friend reminded me that I should have mentioned Jeremiah Burrough’s work “Gospel Fear.” This is another important work on the subject of the fear of the LORD.

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