I’ve always been a bit fascinated with fear. When I was little, when the mildest frights could send me running, I still looked forward to October and to Halloween, the decorations, the costumes, and the spooky movies on the Disney channel each captivating my interest. In literature, I loved reading Edgar Allan Poe with his mastery of the macabre. Even in Batman cartoons and video games, I found myself enjoying the stories with Scarecrow more than the stories with many of the other villains. Fear, in a way, has been a lifelong interest.
Today, I presented a research paper on the fear of the Lord. This wasn’t my first encounter with this topic (see here), and this research didn’t drastically change my understanding of the motif. I have a better understanding now, however, of how the fear of the Lord applies to my life.
My research led me to conclude that the fear of the Lord is a necessary component of true humanity. By this I mean that God created us to fear him, to recognize his lordship over us and to embrace life on his terms. Those who truly know God, who walk in right relationship with God, necessarily fear God. We can see this explicitly in Scripture:
The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.
The summation of life as God intended us to live it is a life of fear and obedience to God.
As I read from Jewish scholars on the subject of the fear of the Lord, I became aware that the fear of the Lord encompasses all of life. It keeps us aware of God’s presence with us, it guides us in ethical choices, and it motivates us to live lives of love and good works. The fear of the Lord frees us to live as God designed us to live: in right relationship with him. Of course, we can only fear the Lord rightly when we come to him through Christ (John 14:6). Jesus frees us from sin and enables us to live lives that honor God, leading Paul to exhort believers to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13). Christ has freed us to fear God rightly.
I am by no means an expert on the fear of the Lord, and I am still growing in my understanding of its impact on life. But I pray that I would grow to fear the Lord more and more through these studies, increasing in wisdom and in love and in obedience to God daily. I pray that I would walk in step with him more faithfully. And I pray that the world would see in us the marks of relationship with God and would glimpse in us, however imperfectly, the purpose for which we were created.