The rubric “Education” covers a vast territory. It deals with the entire bringing up of the child from the moment, practically, that it is born until it reaches the age of maturity and is prepared to take, its own individual, responsible place in life. True, even then man continues to be educated, to receive instruction. Speaking generally education does not cease until the end of life itself. All a man does, all he ever sees and hears, all his reading and recreation, all the contacts he makes in the world educate him in one way or another, to the good or to the bad. However, in the more specific and restricted sense wherein the word is meant to be taken in this rubric, “Education” deals with the child and its preparation for life, its physical and mental and spiritual development. The rubric covers the period of infancy and early childhood, those wonderful years of boyhood and girlhood as well as that trying period of adolescence. It embraces the entire calling and influence of that threefold agency that the Creator has ordained for the bringing up of the child, the home, the church and the school. It requires a study of the child to be taught, its physical, psychological, mental and spiritual makeup, as well as of them who have the responsibility of performing this task, the parent, the teacher and the preacher. It includes all the instruction of our children, direct and indirect, by word of mouth and by example, in doctrine and in practice, in theory and in life, in the knowledge of the truth and revelation of the Word of God as such and its application to all of life. All this must be “in His fear”.
The phrase that heads this department and expresses its general theme is exceedingly well chosen. “In His fear” means, of course, “in the fear of the Lord” the Lord being the object here of the action contained in the word “fear”. It is certainly true, that the Lord is also the subject, the fountain and source, of this same fear. It must come from Him as well as be directed to Him. Also in this sense it is His fear, the fear of the Lord. With a view to our subject this must be well understood. This means that our children must be trained, educated in that fear that they have received from the Lord. To educate means literally and basically “to bring, lead out”. It is that fear that is graciously instilled into the minds and hearts of our covenant children by God Himself that must be brought out. This means, furthermore, that unless God Himself grants His fear in the hearts of us and our children there can be no positive fruit and benefit unto salvation in the education we give and they receive. In fact, without this work of divine grace there can be no true education at all, since in Scripture only that is true instruction that has the fear of the Lord as its center and aim. Nevertheless, as the phrase is consistently used in Holy Writ and is to be understood in this rubric “the Lord” is not the subject of the fear, but its object. The fear is not from, but unto the Lord. Thus the meaning is that our children must be educated, instructed, trained in all that belongs to the fear that has the living God for its object. That is the burden of the phrase: In His Fear. That is the meaning of the phrase in Scripture. And that, constitutes the heart and soul of all education.
That the phrase is taken directly from Scripture and expresses a wholly Scriptural thought is not difficult to demonstrate. Basic as is the fear of the Lord to all Godliness and constituting as it does the entire duty of man, Scripture speaks of this fear, times without number. Synonymous as it is with religion itself there is no concept in all the Word of God that is brought to our attention more frequently and more forcibly both in the Old Testament and in the New.
The word most frequently used in the O. T. Hebrew is the word “yirah”, meaning “fear, reverence”, and “yare”, meaning “to be afraid, to fear, to reverence”. Both refer almost exclusively to the fear of God, not of men or things. It is this word that the sweet psalmist c-f Israel uses when he prophesies shortly before his death, “The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue. The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of the Lord.”. The judges of Israel must let the fear of the Lord be upon them, and in that fear of the Lord they must judge, faithfully and with a perfect heart. . To the nobles and rulers of the people Nehemiah spoke in no uncertain terms, “It is not good that ye do: ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the heathen our enemies?” . “Unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.” . It is also the beginning of wisdom, and a good understanding have all they that do His commandments. . Here the fear of the Lord is synonymous with doing His commandments. Also, “the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.” . The fear of the Lord, therefore, is synonymous with the keeping of His judgments. It assures us of all we need, “for there is no want to them that fear Him.” . “Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” . And then he goes on to say, “Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.” vs. 13, 14. The fear of the Lord is also the beginning of knowledge, , and they that do not choose the fear of the Lord hate knowledge, vs. 29. Of all the latter Jehovah says, “I will also laugh at your calamities; I will mock when your fear cometh. When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me.” vs. 26-28. To fear God is to hate evil as and because God hates evil. . The fear of the Lord prolongeth days, ; in it is strong confidence and they that know it always have a place of refuge, ; it is also “a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death”, ; it is the instruction of wisdom, ; it “tendeth to life, and he that hath it shall abide satisfied and shall not be visited with evil, ; and by it are riches and honor and life, . Proverbs, the book of wisdom, as is to be expected, is full of this “fear of the Lord”. Also for Christ Himself the fear of the Lord is everything, for of the rod that should come forth out of the stem of Jesse it is said, “And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord; and shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord.” . “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man : In all these passages the word used is “yirah”, “fear, reverence.”
Also used in the O. T. is the Hebrew word “pachad”, meaning “fear, terror, dread.” Here the element of terror, rather than that of loving reverence is on the foreground. You feel the difference the moment you turn once again to Scripture. Of the wicked it is said, “that there is no fear of God before his eyes,”; and in the psalmist confesses, “My flesh trembleth for fear of thee; and I am afraid of thy judgments.” The difference between the two words is clearly illustrated in . “I will mock,” says the Lord, “when your fear (pachar, dread) cometh; as desolation, . . . . . For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear (yirah, reverence) of the Lord.” Isaiah says of the wicked, “And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the Lord and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.” . Other Hebrew words are likewise translated “fear”, but they are used less frequently, add little or no significance to the general meaning of the term, and are not used in Scripture with application to God.
The Greek words most frequently used in the N. T. are phobos, “fear, fright, awe”; the verb phobeo, “to put in fear, frighten”; the adjective phoberos, “fearful, terrible”; and the related ekphobos, meaning “frightened out (of one’s senses, no doubt), greatly terrified.” There are also the words deilia, “timidity fear”, and eulabeia, (properly “caution, circumspection” and used also for “godly fear, reverence, awe.” As far as the significance of the concept is concerned, the N. T. has nothing to add to the old.
From all this it should be clear what is implied in that all-important concept “fear”, the fear of the Lord. Its deepest ground is that truth of all truths: God is GOD, the immeasurable Maker of the heavens and the earth, the infinite comprehension of all perfection, the eternal, infinite, omnipresent, omnipotent, independent, immutable, incomprehensible GOD. The “fear of the Lord” has that God as its object, is directed to Him, seeks Him, acknowledges Him as God alone. Never does it seek itself or the mere creature. It is all that the creature feels in the presence of the only, living GOD. It is the acknowledgement with one’s whole being and life that God is GOD. It is reverence, awe, terror, dread, all that and much more; everything that follows from the acknowledgement of God and the consciousness of His nearness in all His divine power and majesty. Yes, it is also terror, dread—dread of such greatness and holiness and might, dread of ignoring His precepts and incurring His awful and consuming wrath. But it is much more. Rather it is reverent regard for the living God tempered with awe and fear of the punishment of disobedience. It is awe of what God IS rather than dread of what He might DO. It is the reverence and awe that is born of and permeated with love. It implies that we know our God, know Him as He is and as He reveals Himself in His Word, know Him in all our lives. To fear the Lord means that we seek Him, serve Him, worship Him and scrupulously consecrate our whole lives to that single end. As such it is “the whole duty of man”.. Without it the rulers cannot rule and the judges cannot judge. It alone is wisdom and without it is only the utter foolishness of the natural man. It is the beginning, the principle of all wisdom and without it the latter is impossible. It is the beginning of knowledge and without it, whatever the so-called education of the world may accomplish, is only consummate ignorance. It manifests itself as departing from evil, keeping one’s tongue from evil, hating evil as and because God does, doing God’s commandments, keeping His judgments, doing good and seeking peace. It alone endures forever, while all else is vanity and as a shadow than declineth. It satisfies every needso that they who know it shall know no want, while without that fear of the Lord there is only calamity and desolation and destruction as a whirlwind. It prolongeth one’s days, gives prosperity and riches, honor and life, hut apart from it is only misery, poverty, adversity, dishonor and death; not, perhaps, according to the standards of sinful men, but according to truth. It alone gives blessedness and joy, for “blessed is every one that feareth the Lord; that walketh in His ways”, ; it alone guarantees the friendship of the highest, for “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him; and he will shew them His covenant”, ; and it alone gives the promise of everlasting life, for “Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him; that glory may dwell in our land.” .
What all this means in the sphere of education should be obvious to all. In that fear of the Lord our children must be brought up. Nothing else matters. “Fear” is the keyword in all that can be said about the instruction of our covenant seed. May we know its significance and may “the fear of the Lord” be our sole aim and consideration in all the training of our covenant seed.