Monday, November 4, 2013

Wisdom through Fear?

Fear is a real, personal struggle for me.  Not the jump-out-at-me-and-make-me-scream type of fear, but the daily fight with anxiety that multiplies within me until it becomes full blown fear. Because of my ongoing struggle, it was difficult to wrap my mind around the distinction between my unhealthy fears and the healthy fear that we are instructed to have toward the Lord.  I’ve wrestled a lot with this notion.  Maybe you have too. 

What, exactly, does it mean to fear the Lord?  Bible scholars teach that it means holding Him in a position of reverence.  That’s a solid start to be sure, but I believe fearing the Lord involves more than revering Him.  

Recently, I completed a word study on the word “fear” as used in the Psalms and Proverbs where it states that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  While “reverence” is, indeed, a part of its definition, the term also carries the meaning that we’d expect as we use it in other contexts, such as, “I fear the worst will happen.” Or “What I fear most is _____.” 

According to the NAS Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon, the term fear as used in Psalm 111:10 means:  
fear, terror, fearing, awesome or terrifying thing (object causing fear), fear (of God), respect, reverence, piety, revered.

Keeping that definition in mind, if we fear the Lord are we to be frightened of Him?  Or are we to revere Him?  The answer to both questions is yes!  

The Lord provided a comforting revelation and helped me reconcile the two thoughts that seem to oppose each other.  I considered how I “feared” my earthly father while he was alive, and it brought a blurry concept into focus.

I was a daddy’s girl until the day the Lord took him to heaven. My dad taught me a lot about life, and he expected me to obey him – always and immediately.  When he told me to do something, he expected that I’d move to action before he took his next breath.  I’m certain that his dad expected the same from him.

I loved to spend time with my dad and would rather build a shed with him than play with friends or toys.   He taught me how to ride a horse, how to train a dog, which type of screwdriver to choose, how to use it, and where it belonged when I was finished.  He taught me to finish what I started, and to think before speaking. He taught me that God works everything together for good.  Dad helped me know that he was my biggest fan.  He was for me.  Always.  And he wanted the best for me.  I had great respect for my dad and I still do. He was one of the greatest men I ever had the honor of meeting.

However, my dad had a quick temper. When he was angry, he’d explode like a stick of dynamite with a short fuse.  As mad as I’d make him sometimes I never feared for my physical safety, but I was frightened of his terrifying anger.  I feared the loud volume that filled the air like an explosion. I feared the consequences of my mistake. I knew he could make my life miserable by adding chores or taking away privileges. I was afraid of being out of his good graces, even for a moment, and I dreaded disappointing him. It broke my heart when I knew he was upset with me because I had a strong desire to please him.  It made me happy to bring a smile to his face. 

In some measure, I feared my dad in the way that God’s Word commands us to fear the Lord.  While I did not worship my dad, I do worship the Lord, and I offer Him my reverence.  I have a great fear of disappointing the Lord and know that He will allow consequence in my life any time I am out of step with His Spirit.   He will allow my life to be miserable if I am hardheaded enough to require it (and I am sometimes), but He will work all things together for my good because He loves me (even more than dear old dad), and has called me according to His purpose.  He is for me.  Always.  He will not repay evil for good, and I can trust that He will supply all of my needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus. 

To fear the Lord means to love, revere and obey Him.  To fear Him involves a reluctance to disappoint Him and a strong desire to please Him.  When we fear the Lord, we are frightened of the wrath suffered by those who reject Him, and the consequences of those who disobey.  Fearing Him causes us to strive to do what is right in His eyes.

May our fear of God our Father bring the beginning of wisdom and the promises of Scripture.

The fear of the LORD is
the beginning of wisdom;
all who follow His instructions
have good insight.
His praise endures forever.
Psalm 111:10 (HCSB)

Your Turn:

Have you struggled with the thought of fearing the Lord?  

How is the Lord moving you toward greater reverence toward Him and a desire to please Him?

Thanks for sharing your stories!

Be strengthened today, by His Word,
Psalm 119:28

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