Learning How To Walk In The Fear The Lord
The fear of the Lord is an awareness that you are in the presence of a holy, just, and almighty God and that He will hold you accountable for your motives, thoughts, words, and actions. To fear God is to desire to live in harmony with His righteous standards and to honor Him in all that you do.
We do not naturally seek to honor God, because our sinful natures lead us to pursue selfish pleasures instead of delighting in God and discovering the joy of knowing and loving Him. We must choose to walk in the fear of the Lord. The psalmist David prayed, “Teach me thy way, O Lord; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name” (Psalm 86:11).
Throughout the Bible, many promises are given to those who fear the Lord, such as Proverbs 22:4: “The fruit of humility is the fear of the Lord, riches and glory and life.” It is wise to be governed by a healthy fear of God!
The following disciplines will help you comprehend more of His greatness and more of your dependence on Him, thereby learning the fear of the Lord.
Consider God’s Creation
When we look around at God’s creation—the majesty of towering mountains, the expanse of oceans with their high tides and low tides, the intricacy of delicate flowers, the brilliance of the sun, and the glory of our galaxy—we can catch a glimpse of how awesome our God is!
The psalmist David often expressed his awe of God by meditating on God’s handiwork. He wrote, “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; what is man, that thou art mindful of him?” (Psalm 8:3–4).
When God gave His Law to the nation of Israel, He first revealed His mighty power through nature so that the people would learn to fear Him. "And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the sound of the trumpet, and the mount smoking: and being terrified and struck with fear, they stood afar off, Saying to Moses: Speak thou to us, and we will hear: let not the Lord speak to us, lest we die. And Moses said to the people: Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that the dread of him might be in you, and you should not sin.” (Exodus 20:18–20).
The Apostle Paul also recognized that God reveals His power to mankind through His creation. “. . . Because that which is known of God is manifest in them. For God hath manifested it unto them. For the invisible things of him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made; his eternal power also, and divinity: so that they are inexcusable.” (Romans 1:19–20).
Respect God’s Word
Saint Hilary, from his treatise on the psalms, said this:
"For us the fear of God consists wholly in love, and perfect love of God brings our fear of him to its perfection. Our love for God is entrusted with its own responsibility: to observe his counsels, to obey his laws, to trust his promises. Let us hear what Scripture says: And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you except to fear the Lord your God and walk in his ways and love him and keep his commandments with your whole heart and your whole soul, so that it may be well for you?
The ways of the Lord are many, though he is himself the way. When he speaks of himself he calls himself the way and shows us the reason why he called himself the way: No one can come to the Father except through me.
We must ask for these many ways, we must travel along these many ways, to find the one that is good. That is, we shall find the one way of eternal life through the guidance of many teachers. These ways are found in the law, in the prophets, in the gospels, in the writings of the apostles, in the different good works by which we fulfill the commandments. Blessed are those who walk these ways in the fear of the Lord."
Having a high regard for the Bible, the written Word of God, is an essential part of growing in the fear of the Lord. When we take time to read the scriptures, listen to it being proclaimed to us and commit to applying its universal, non-optional truths, we learn more about the nature of God, His ways, and our role as His creatures.
All the people of Israel were to gather to hear the Word of God so that they would learn to fear Him. “And the people being all assembled together, both men and women, children and strangers, that are within thy gates: that hearing they may learn, and fear the Lord your God, and keep, and fulfill all the words of this law: That their children also, who now are ignorant, may hear, and fear the Lord their God, all the days that they live in the land whither you are going over the Jordan to possess it.” (Deuteronomy 31:12–13). (See also Deuteronomy 4:10, 6:24, and 8:6.)
The kings of Israel were required to write out a copy of God’s Law and to spend time each day reading it so they would learn to fear God. “Thou shalt set him whom the Lord thy God shall choose out of the number of thy brethren. Thou mayst not make a man of another nation king, that is not thy brother. And when he is made king, he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor lead back the people into Egypt, being lifted up with the number of his horsemen, especially since the Lord hath commanded you to return no more the same way. He shall not have many wives, that may allure his mind, nor immense sums of silver and gold. But after he is raised to the throne of his kingdom, he shall copy out to himself the Deuteronomy of this law in a volume, taking the copy of the priests of the Levitical tribe, And he shall have it with him, and shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, and keep his words and ceremonies, that are commanded in the law;” (Deuteronomy 17:15–19).
Today, Christians are “kings and priests unto God” (Revelation 1:6). We are to understand the worth of Scripture and to study it and apply it to our lives. “All scripture, inspired of God, is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice, That the man of God may be perfect, furnished to every good work” (II Timothy 3:16–17).
Learn From Scriptural Examples
God’s glory and holiness call for our worship and submission. When the Saints encountered God, they instinctively demonstrated a deep reverence for Him. We can learn from these examples in our quest to fear God as we should.
The thought of God’s judgments on sin should strike fear into every heart:
David used strong language to describe God’s judgments. “Thy fierce wrath goeth over me; thy terrors have cut me off” (Psalm 88:16).
The Apostle Paul spoke of God’s judgment as a motivation to preach the Gospel. “For we must all be manifested before the judgement seat of Christ, that every one may receive the proper things of the body, according as he hath done, whether it be good or evil. Knowing therefore the fear of the Lord, we use persuasion to men. . .” (II Corinthians 5:10–11).
Supernatural demonstrations of God’s power often left people trembling with fear:
The Babylonian King Belshazzar threw a party and served his guests with the gold and silver vessels from the Temple in Jerusalem, but he soon received a message of warning from God: “In the same hour there appeared fingers, as it were of the hand of a man, writing over against the candlestick upon the surface of the wall of the king's palace: and the king beheld the joints of the hand that wrote. Then was the king's countenance changed, and his thoughts troubled him: and the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees struck one against the other.” (Daniel 5:5–6).
On the morning of Jesus’ resurrection, an angel appeared and rolled back the stone from the door of the tomb: “And his countenance was as lightning, and his raiment as snow. And for fear of him, the guards were struck with terror, and became as dead men.” (Matthew 28:3–4).
When Godly men of the Old and New Testaments heard God’s voice and saw His glory, they were filled with the fear of the Lord:
The prophet Isaiah responded with fear when He saw a vision of God in the temple. “And I said: Woe is me, because I have held my peace; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people that hath unclean lips, and I have seen with my eyes the King the Lord of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5).
When the prophet Daniel saw a vision, he testified that he had no strength and fell down prostrate: “And I being left alone saw this great vision: and there remained no strength in me, and the appearance of my countenance was changed in me, and I fainted away, and retained no strength. And I heard the voice of his words: and when I heard, I lay in a consternation, upon my face, and my face was close to the ground. And behold a hand touched me, and lifted me up upon my knees, and upon the joints of my hands. And he said to me: Daniel, thou man of desires, understand the words that I speak to thee, and stand upright: for I am sent now to thee. And when he had said this word to me, I stood trembling.” (Daniel 10:8–11).
At the time of the Apostle Paul’s conversion, he was astonished at Christ’s message to him on the road to Damascus. The revelation of God’s reality and glory overcame all previous misconceptions about Jesus’ identity: “Who said: Who art thou, Lord? And he: I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. It is hard for thee to kick against the goad. And he trembling and astonished, said: Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?. . .” (Acts 9:5–6).
When the Apostle John received the revelation about the end of the world and saw Jesus on the Isle of Patmos, he was filled with the holy fear of God: “And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. . . . And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not . . .” (Revelation 1:12, 17).
When we encounter a power that is far greater that we are, we often respond with fear. This response was demonstrated by people who witnessed the supernatural power of Jesus Christ:
The disciples were afraid when Jesus stilled the storm: “And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:41).
When Jesus cured a man possessed by many demons, the people feared Him: “And all the multitude of the country of the Gerasens besought him to depart from them; for they were taken with great fear. . . .” (Luke 8:37).
Jesus’ disciples were frightened when He appeared to them after His resurrection: “Now whilst they were speaking these things, Jesus stood in the midst of them, and saith to them: Peace be to you; it is I, fear not. But they being troubled and frightened, supposed that they saw a spirit.” (Luke 24:36–37).
Welcome God’s Chastening
When we rebel against God’s holiness, we will surely face consequences. God’s chastening of sin is painful, yet it is the expression of a loving Father’s care for His children.
Scripture instructs us to embrace God’s discipline and learn from the reproofs of life: “My son, reject not the correction of the Lord: and do not faint when thou art chastised by him: For whom the Lord loveth, he chastiseth:and as a father in the son he pleaseth himself.” (Proverbs 3:11–12).
The Body of Christ is challenged to receive God’s chastening and become more holy: “Persevere under discipline. God dealeth with you as with his sons; for what son is there, whom the father doth not correct? . . .Moreover we have had fathers of our flesh, for instructors, and we reverenced them: shall we not much more obey the Father of spirits, and live? And they indeed for a few days, according to their own pleasure, instructed us: but he, for our profit, that we might receive his sanctification. Now all chastisement for the present indeed seemeth not to bring with it joy, but sorrow: but afterwards it will yield, to them that are exercised by it, the most peaceable fruit of justice.” (Hebrews 12:7, 9–11).
David expressed the pain of past failure in Psalm 51 and humbly sought God’s mercy and cleansing: “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. . . . Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. . . . Create in me a clean heart, O God: and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:4–10).
Recall the Chief Duty of Man
Israel’s King Solomon is renowned as the wisest man who ever lived, yet he made serious mistakes. Solomon forsook the fear God. Even though he received tremendous blessings from God, he disobeyed God’s Law in numerous ways and eventually worshiped false gods. God held Solomon responsible for these sins and brought judgment to the nation of Israel and to Solomon’s family because of them. (See Deuteronomy 17:14–17, I Kings 4:26, and I Kings 11:1–13.)
In the Book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon records his observations about the meaning of life. In the end, he states that the “conclusion of the whole matter” is the fear of the Lord. Let’s heed these words of warning from a man who knew the justice and judgment of God!
“Let us all hear together the conclusion of the discourse. Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is all man: And all things that are done, God will bring into judgment for every error, whether it be good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13–14).