What is the Fear of the Lord? It’s Not Like Real Fear, Is it?! #94

Happy Wednesday, friends! Today is officially episode 94, but only because I messed up yesterday and skipped a number. Therefore, episode #92 never officially existed. Or maybe it did, and had the 8 secrets of humanity on it, but the Illuminati got a hold of it and deleted it. The illuminati is always messing up things like podcasts, and the world and stuff. Alas. Speaking of numbers, today is day #15 of shelter in place for us central Californians. I heard lots of criticism around the country – some of it extreme and absurd – for that move when it happened, but it actually seems to have kept cases on a lower level here for now, which is actually a blessing. I never thought I’d see the day when I would defend a broad-reaching government order to stay sheltered in place, but the world has gone mad, so there you go.

I had the privilege of talking on the phone today to a first-responder/fire-fighter who is a daily listener to the show. Shout out to you, Rooster. Very interesting conversation! He told me all of the precautions and such that first responders are having to take now in the midst of this coronavirus catastrophe, and it was pretty extreme to hear. These are unnerving times for all of us. Pray for our first responders – our firefighters, medics and police officers. Pray for our nurses and doctors and other medical care and support staff too. Double shout-outs to all of you guys and ladies who are on the front lines of this scary situation. May the Lord bless you and keep you and shine His grace and favor on you! Thank you from the bottom of the hearts from the rest of us.

Today’s Bible readings are Leviticus 4, Psalms 1 and 2, Proverbs 19 and Colossians 2. Our focus passage today is actually a focus verse, which is found in Proverbs 19:

The fear of the Lord leads to life;
one will sleep at night without danger.

Proverbs 19:23

Let’s talk about the fear of the Lord, shall we? We haven’t focused much on Proverbs so far in the pod, but this is an excellent place for us to begin, and this is an excellent time for us to discuss the fear of the Lord. I suspect that, if you could measure the net amount of fear in the world by some sort of tangible measurement – perhaps a GigaPhobe, than I believe that the amount of fear in the world, and the amount of fear in the United States of America hasn’t been higher in my lifetime. People were shook during and shortly after the 911 attacks, but there was also great confidence that our nation’s military and leadership would be able to battle back against terroristic attacks, and better defend the country. People are more shook, I perceive, by this coronavirus threat – primarily because our best minds and our best leaders and all of our money has been of no avail to us at this point.

And yet, one of the most common and repeated commands of the Bible is to “fear not.” Conversely, one of the most commonly repeated commands of the Bible is also to fear the Lord! In this paradox, we find some important wisdom, that I believe Jesus beautifully, and terrifyingly sums up:

28 Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. 30 But even the hairs of your head have all been counted. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Matthew 10:28-31

To sum up – don’t fear murderers and scary things. Don’t fear diseases and illness. DO fear God the Father. But, overall – don’t be AFRAID. Interesting advice – and quite paradoxical at first glance. Looking back at our Proverb – it is also a little paradoxical, isn’t it? It seems a bit self-contradictory to say that the fear of the Lord will lead to life AND will help you sleep well at night! And yet, that’s precisely what the fear of the Lord does! That brings us to our main question – what exactly does it mean to fear the Lord? I’m glad you asked. I’ve heard preachers and pastors try to explain the fear of the Lord in terms of respect, or obedience, or reverence – and all of those are definitely aspects of the fear of the Lord, but are we actually supposed to be afraid of the Lord?

In answering the question, let’s begin with the Hebrew word used: יִרְאָה yirʼâh, yir-aw. It is a noun, but in terms of etymology, it is from a Hebrew verb which means, “to be afraid.” Most of the time when this word is used in the Old Testament, it is used in the context of the fear of the Lord, so those passages don’t exactly illuminate the type of fear of God that we are to walk in. Psalm 55:5, however does give us a good idea what the word itself means:

My heart shudders within me;
terrors of death sweep over me.
Fear and trembling grip me;
horror has overwhelmed me.

Psalm 55:5

Yiraw and trembling grip me, says the Psalmist – horror has overwhelmed me. I’d say that is a pretty good indication that the fear of the Lord means exactly what it sounds like it means. The fear of the Lord is also mentioned several times in the New Testament, such as in these passages:

So the church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers. (Acts 9:31)

Therefore, since we know the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade people. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your consciences. (2 Corinthians 5:11)

The Greek word there is phobos, and it is the same word used famously in Luke 2:9 of the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks, “The Glory of the Lord shone round about them and they were sore phobos/afraid.
At least grammatically, the word ‘fear’ in the phrase ‘fear of the Lord,’ means precisely what it seems to mean. Fear! How can this be a good thing to be afraid of God?! Let’s look at some Proverbs on the fear of the Lord and close up by talking about HOW the fear of the Lord is, in fact, a good thing AND a COMFORT to us.

Ten Verses of Wisdom on the Fear of the Lord:

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

The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the Lord are reliable and altogether righteous. Psalm 19:9

How happy is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways!… Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house, your children, like young olive trees around your table. In this very way the man who fears the Lord will be blessed. Psalm 128:1-4

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline. Proverbs 1:7

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Proverbs 9:10

The fear of the Lord prolongs life, but the years of the wicked are cut short. Proverbs 10:27

In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence and his children have a refuge. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning people away from the snares of death. Proverbs 14:26-27

Iniquity is atoned for by loyalty and faithfulness, and one turns from evil by the fear of the Lord. Proverbs 16:6

Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised. Proverbs 31:30

When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is this: fear God and keep his commands, because this is for all humanity. Ecclesiastes 12:1

That’s quite a bit of Scripture – do you notice how often the fear of the Lord is connected with fleeing from evil, and being protected by God?

Here is what I think is going on. Consider these four Proverbs:

11:4 Wealth is not profitable on a day of wrath,
but righteousness rescues from death.

11:8 The righteous one is rescued from trouble;
in his place, the wicked one goes in.

Proverbs 12:7 The wicked are overthrown and perish,
but the house of the righteous will stand.

14:11 The house of the wicked will be destroyed,
but the tent of the upright will flourish.

There are dozens and dozens and dozens more Proverbs like this. Beyond question, the teaching of the Bible is that God protects the righteous. In Christ, we are not made righteous by our own acts, but by the sinless perfection of Jesus. That doesn’t mean, however, as Paul is quick to note, that Christians have a license to sin – God forbid. Old Testament followers of God were called to righteousness and were protected when they obeyed and pursued the Lord. The same is true for New Testament believers. We are not saved by works of righteousness, but by Jesus. That said – SIN is still a deadly danger to Christians – one that modern, Western Christians have not paid nearly enough attention to. James is very stark in his warning:

14 But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desire. 15 Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.

James 1:14-15

As I have told you before, I do not know why this plague of coronavirus is shaking the world. I am confident, however, in how we should respond to it, and I believe that this is from the Lord. We must REPENT. Turn from our sins large and small. Consider our ways. Ask the Lord to search us and repent from anything He brings to mind. How does the fear of the Lord fit into repenting? Proverbs 16 tells us, “One turns from evil by the fear of the Lord. Proverbs 16:6 Brothers and sisters, as I’ve mentioned before, I believe the Lord has His church right now in a place of repentance. Turning away from sin and worldliness and turning to Him. Healing comes when we do that. Healing comes when our leaders do that. Pray for our leaders to repent. Our government leaders and our spiritual leaders. Great protection will come on our cities, states and countries when we and our leaders turn to God in the fear of the Lord.

5 House of Jacob,
come and let us walk in the Lord’s light….
11 The pride of mankind will be humbled,
and human loftiness will be brought low;
the Lord alone will be exalted on that day.

12 For a day belonging to the Lord of Armies is coming
against all that is proud and lofty,
against all that is lifted up—it will be humbled—

17 The pride of mankind will be brought low,
and human loftiness will be humbled;
the Lord alone will be exalted on that day.
18 The idols will vanish completely.

19 People will go into caves in the rocks
and holes in the ground,
away from the terror of the Lord
and from his majestic splendor,
when he rises to terrify the earth.
20 On that day people will throw their silver and gold idols, which they made to worship,
to the moles and the bats.

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