In the next few installments of this department I would like to deal with the subject of the FEAR OF GOD. This subject has been dealt with before, both directly and indirectly, in this department. Furthermore, according to the title of this rubric, all the articles of this department are meant to deal with an aspect of the FEAR OF GOD. Yet I believe that is would be very worthwhile to direct our attention in some detail again to this mot important theme itself of the Word of God, the FEAR OF GOD. We shall call to mind some of the things that have been said in the past and hopefully also shed some new light on this subject. The very essence, or as has been said, the very soul of true godliness is the FEAR OF GOD. The godly man in the scriptures is described as the GOD-FEARING man.
It does not take much observation of the Christianity around us to see that if there is one thing lacking in the vast majority of Christians it is the FEAR OF GOD. InRomans 3, after the apostle Paul has described in detail the depraved and corrupt state and condition of the natural man, he concludes by saying, “There is no FEAR OF GOD before their eyes.” It does not surprise us therefore when we observe that there is no fear of God in the godless and wicked world in which we live. What is most tragic however is that, even in so much of what calls itself Christendom, and among those who profess to believe in God, there is very little if any real FEAR OF GOD.
It is obvious why there is such a lack of the FEA.R OF GOD in the modern church. Surely this goes hand in hand with the current apostate vain conceptions of who and what God is. One could bring up many examples. Modern Christianity presents God as a wonderful benevolent God of love. It is said that God loves all men and has a wonderful plan for the lives of all men. The love of God is characterized as nothing more than a-sickly sentimental emotion that is just as cheap and devoid of any spiritual attributes as the so-called love of men. There is little or no understanding of the spiritual perfection of the love of God, that it is a holy and pure and just and righteous love. The God of modernism is a God Who never hates anyone, never is moved with holy wrath, never in righteous and holy justice condemns the sinner in his iniquity, never thunders with His terrible curse even over the most wicked man. He is a God Who only loves, Who only blesses, Whose grace and favor are upon all men. Furthermore the God of Whom we hear from many pulpits is completely bound by the will and fancy of men. He is dependent upon man and upon history for the realization of His purpose. He is not the Eternal, Sovereign, Almighty God Who does whatsoever He pleases and does all things in perfect justice and righteousness. He is not a God of awful sovereign reprobation but One Who can act only in dependence on and after the actions of man. When men stand before God in prayer He is spoken to and addressed in the most common and familiar of terms. Men can stand in His very presence without the least regard for His infinite transcendent holiness and majesty. There is no need for the sinner to be humbled deeply, to cast himself down in the dust, to plead with God for mercy, because God is hardly any greater, more holy, or more just than man is. Is it any wonder that there is no fear before such a god? Surely this god is a vain idol of man’s imagination. He need not be feared. But this is not the God that is revealed in the Holy Scriptures to us.
God is the awe-inspiring sovereign, infinite, eternal, almighty, holy, glorious, majestic, transcendent God of heaven and earth. To fear God means, as we shall see in detail later, to know Him in all His infinite greatness and glorious perfection.
But a much more important concern than observing how devoid the world is of the true fear of God is to ask the question, are we truly GOD-FEARING people? Do we have in our hearts and souls a profound, all-pervasive sense of the FEAR OF GOD? Do we really know what that fear of God is? Is the fear of God the all dominating and controlling spirit and motive of our lives? Are we known in the midst of the world, by all our confession, our conversation, and our conduct, as a people who FEAR GOD?
Scripture abounds with references to and exhortations for us to FEAR GOD. Even if we were to consider only the passages in which we find the phrase “the fear of God” or “the fear of the Lord” space would not allow us to make mention of them all. The theme of the fear of God is predominant throughout the scriptures. One can well consider the many passages of scripture in which the fear of the Lord is mentioned and discover the many aspects of that fear of the Lord and its implications. It is hard to believe that a theme so predominant in the scriptures as this one could be so neglected and forgotten in modern Christianity.
God is a God to be FEARED. “Let all the earth FEAR the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe before Him.” Psalm 33:8. “God is greatly to be FEARED in the assembly of the saints, and to be held in reverence of all them that are about Him.” Psalm 89:7. “For the Lord is great, and greatly to be praised; He is to be FEARED above all gods.” Psalm 96:4. In the book .of Revelation we hear the redeemed saints asking the rhetorical question, “Who ‘shall not FEAR thee, O Lord, and magnify thy name?'” Revelation 15:4.
The Lord must be worshipped and served with FEAR. “Serve the Lord with FEAR and rejoice with trembling.”Psalm 2:11. To worship the Lord in His holy temple we must come with FEAR before Him. “But as for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy; and in thy FEAR will I worship toward thy holy temple.”Psalm 5:7. “O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness and FEAR before Him all the earth.” Psalm 96:9.
Moses in his masterful discourse to Israel, recorded in the book of Deuteronomy, over and over exhorts the people of Israel to FEAR the Lord. Furthermore it is striking how often Moses joins together the fear of the Lord with the keeping of the Lord’s commandments and how he emphasizes that the only way of prosperity and blessing for the people of Israel is to FEAR THE LORD. “Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which the Lord your God commanded to teach you, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go to possess it: that thou mightest FEAR THE LORD YOUR GOD, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged.”Deuteronomy 6:l-2 “And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to FEAR THE LORD OUR GOD, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is this day.” Deuteronomy 6:24.
After having gone through all of life and discovering by experience the utter vanity of all life without God, the writer of Ecclesiastes comes to the profound and wonderful conclusion, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: FEAR GOD, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”Ecclesiastes 12:13.
Over and over scripture joins together the bestowal of the blessings and favor and goodness of the Lord with the FEAR OF GOD. “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that FEAR Him and delivereth them.” Psalm 34:7. “But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that FEAR him, and His righteousness to children’s children.” Psalm 103:17. “He will bless them that FEAR THE LORD both small and great.” Psalm 115: 13. The knowledge and blessedness of the covenant of God is joined with the fear of God. “The secret of the Lord is with them that FEAR HIM; and He will shew them His covenant.” Psalm 25:14. The Lord remembers those who fear Him. “Then they that FEARED the Lord spake often one to another; and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that FEARED THE LORD, and that thought upon His name.” Malachi 3:16.
The writer of Proverbs’ states that the beginning; the principal part of all knowledge is the FEAR OF THE LORD. “The FEAR OF THE LORD is the beginning of knowledge; but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”Proverbs 1:7. Having set forth this theme Solomon again and again speaks of the benefit of the fear of the Lord. “The FEAR OF THE LORD is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.” Proverbs 14:27. “Better is a little with the FEAR OF THE LORD than great riches and trouble therewith.” Proverbs 15:16.
The emphasis on the FEAR OF THE LORD is not unique to the Old Testament. There are those who present the God of the Old Testament as being a completely different God from the God of the New Testament. These same people would perhaps say that the fact that God has to be FEARED was something that was true in the dark days of the Old Testament. Those were days of the threatening of the wrath of God and the thundering of His curse. Today, however, in the New Testament era, God need not be FEARED any more. Today we can draw near to God with boldness, with- familiarity, and without regard for the FEAR of Him. This is surely a mistake, however. We find the same emphasis on the FEAR OF THE LORD in the New Testament. Ephesians 5:21 tells us, “Submitting yourselves one to another in the FEAR OF GOD.” Paul tells us in Philippians 2:12-13, “Work out your own salvation with FEAR AND TREMBLING. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” Again in II Corinthians 7:1 we are exhorted, “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the FEAR OF GOD.” According to the apostle Peter in I Peter 1:17 we are to pass the time of our sojourn here in FEAR.
In the book of Revelation in chapter 14 we read that the angel having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth says with a loud voice, “FEAR GOD, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come; and worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.” Revelation 14:7.
Godly men in the scriptures are very often described as those who fear God. This is the testimony that we have of Job: “And the man was perfect and upright, and one that FEARED GOD, and eschewed evil.” Job 1:1. This testimony we read also of Cornelius in Acts 10:2: “A devout man, and one that FEARED GOD with all His house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always.” The conclusion of the description of the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31 is, “Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that FEARETH THE LORD, she shall be praised.”
We have given a very brief overview of some of the many references to the FEAR OF GOD, and the various aspects and implications of the fear of God as revealed in the scriptures. It is clear that this theme cannot be emphasized strongly enough. Our intention is, the Lord willing, in our next installment, to go into the discussion of the subject itself, setting forth what according to scripture it really means to FEAR GOD.