‘Fear of God’ has been a broad topic and one of most discussed about topics among the churches and Christians. It is mentioned very often in the Bible both in the Old Testament and New Testament. The reason being is that ‘Fear of God’ is a very crucial basic element and motivation in the lives of Christian believers. Yet it is something that people tend to overlook and lack of today.
There’s been a lot of controversies with the word ‘fear‘ in the ‘fear of God’, partly because in most cases the word ‘fear‘ has negative connotation and is used to express so called negative human emotion. According to the scripture, there are two types of fear of the God: The first one, as mentioned in Isaiah 2:10, is the terror of the Lord or the dread of the Lord for those unrepentant sinners who will face God’s judgements. The second one is the reverence, respect, and awe of Him.
When we compare earlier translations and newer translations of the Holy Bible, we learn that ‘fear of God’ has started being replaced with other terms like “delight in honoring God” (Nehemiah 1:11), “worship God” (Acts 13:16), “reverence for God” (Ephesians 5:21, 2 Corinthians 7:1). This is an attempt to promote softer and more so-called positive understanding of the fear of God concept.
The origin and the meaning
Literally, The word ‘fear’ is derived from Hebrew words: (1) רְאָה – transliterated as “yir’ah’’ [yir-aw’] (Psalm 90:11) – which possibly mean dread, fear, and terror but can also mean respect, reverence, awe, piety, devotion and revere; (2) פַּ֫חַד – transliterated as “pachad” [pakh’-ad] (Psalm 119:120) which actually mean “fear,” “terror,” or “dread.”; (3) כָּבַד – transliterated as “Kabad” [kaw-bad’] (Ex 20:12, Proverbs 3:9) – which means reverence, respect or honor; (4) גּוּר – transliterated as “guwr” [goor] which can mean fear but can also mean abide, sojourn, dwell with, remain, dwell in or to stand in awe.
Some Greek words used to describe ‘fear of God’ in the New Testament were:
- φόβος – transliterated as phobos [foʊbəs/ FOE-bəs] (Mathew 28:4, 1 Peter 2:17, 2 Corinthians 5:11, 2 Corinthians 7:1 – KVJ) – which means fear, dread, or terror. It can also mean respect, in sense of awe, and reverence.
- tima/w – transliterated as Timao [tim-ah’-o] – which means honor or reverence (1 Peter 2:17)
For faithful Christians, Fear of GOD/LORD means
1. Having a deep reverence/respect for God’s authority, righteousness, great love and also judgements/justice.(Deuteronomy 10:12-13, 2 Chronicles 19:7, Psalm 19:9)
2. Having intimate relationships and fellowship with the LORD – to seek for and to listen to His guidances.
3. Resting our freewill in accordance to His will, and listening to and trusting in His guidances and unfailing promises.
4. Serving God with faithfullness and obeying His commandments. (Deuteronomy 10:12, 2 Chronicles 19:7)
5. Hating and departing from evil — repentance (Psalm 34:14, Pro 8:13, Proverbs 16:6)
6. Possessing knowledge and wisdom of God (Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 1:7)
The followings are some of the blessings we shall receive when we have fear of God:
- God’s protection (Psalm 34:7, Psalm 115:11, Proverbs 14:26)
- Praise, honors and life (Proverbs 22:4, Proverbs 31:30)
- Avoidance of evil, Deliverance from death and trouble (Psalm 33:18-19, Proverbs 16:6)
- Contentment and not lacking of any good thing(Proverbs19:23, Psalm 34:9)
- God’s covenant is made known to God-fearing people (Psalm 25:14)
- Long, lengthy life (Proverbs 10:27)
- Confidence, boldness (Proverbs 14:26; see also Psalm 112:7-8, Proverbs 28:1, Ephesians 3:12; Hebrews 4:14-16; 10:19)
- God’s mercy and compassion (Psalm 103:13-14; Lk. 1:50)
- Answered prayers and fullfilled desires (Psalm 145:19)
- A righteous government (II Samuel 23:3; II Chron. 19:4-7)
- Blessed family (wife, son, children, children’s children) and household (Psalm 103:17-18, Psalm 112:2, Psalm 128:3)
- Access to great treassure – a rich store of salvation and wisdom (Isaiah 33:5-6)
- Knowledge of God (Proverbs 2:5)
- Blessed by God (Psalm 112:1; 115:13)
- Acceptable to God(Acts 10:35)
- God’s guidance (Psalm 25:12)
- Healing (Psalm 25:12; Malachi. 4:2)
- Prosperity and rich inheritance (Psalm 25:13)
- The goodness of God (Psalm 31:19)
- God’s teachings (Psalm 25:12)
- Our name will be written in the book of remembrance (Malachi 3:16)
There are a lot more benefits of fearing God which are not mentioned above and yet we shall receive when we fear God.
Now, on contrary what happens to people who do not fear God?
Throughout history recorded in the Bible, there are many historical examples of what happened to people who were fearless of God. People experienced God’s judgements and punishments for their transgression and disobidience.
- Saul, who was God anointed King of Israel, failed to obey God’s commands and got thrown down from the throne and lost his kingdom.
- People of Sodom and Gomorra , did not fear God and were burnt alive
- People at the time of Noah did not fear God and all died by the great flood.
So, how do we have the fear of God?
The fear of God is a gift from God through the Holy Spirit which He puts in the hearts of the believers so that we will not depart from Him (Jeremiah 32:38-40). It comes from knowing God and having an encounter with God. The bible tells us about many occassions where people had encounters with God that impacted and changed their lifes leading to repentance and to having fear of God. For instance, Paul formerly known as Saul, before he met Jesus for the first time he was a murder of many Christ believers. After the life-changing encounter with God, Paul repented and built a very intimate relationship with God and became a God-fearing man whom God used to spread His messages.
We can experience an encounter with God through different methods. Some experienced visual sightings of God, some had heard God’s voice speaking to them and others had revelation through God’s words.
If we receive His words, and treasure His commands within us, So that we incline our ears to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; If you cry out for discernment, and lift up our voice for understanding, If we seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; Then we will understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:1-5)
So, if we have an encounter with God in any possible way and let that encounter turns into a growing fellowship and personal relationship with God, then we will have greater love for God hence we will have the greater fear of God and knowledge of God. Knowledge of God, let alone wisdom, and fear of God go hand in hand and are inseparable. We cannot have one without the other.
Psalm 34:11 says “Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.” This indicates that fear of the LORD is a result of God’s teachings when we actively come to Him and listen to His words. God will not impart the fear of Lord into us against our freewill. It will only work if, at our own free will, with an open heart and submissive attitude so that we can receive God’s teachings to obtain the fear of God.