In this first study of selected themes from Proverbs, we will consider the main emphasis of the book: The Fear of the Lord. We come across this phrase, or variations of it, over and over again in Proverbs and throughout scripture.
In the key-verse, for example, which is a point of departure for this subject, two classes of people are mentioned – those who fear the Lord and the foolish ones who do not. In New Testament language the contrast is between the believer and the unbeliever, the saved, and the lost. To whet our appetites, notice:
1. God longs that we should fear Him – Deuteronomy 5:29.
2. To fear Him will always be for our good – Deuteronomy 6:24.
3. It is possible to fear the Lord all the time – Proverbs 23:17.
4. Obedience is the proof of fearing the Lord – Genesis 22:12.
5. Church members should fear the Lord – Acts 9:31.
6. Those who fear the Lord are rewarded – Proverbs 13:13 KJV.
7. Here is the secret of all blessings! – Psalm 112:1.
But, what is it to fear the Lord? Is it to be afraid of God? No! It is not slavish fear or apprehension or fear to do with punishment (1 John 4:18; 2 Timothy 1:7). It is not to be associated with terror or suspicion, the kind of fear which makes a man run and hide from God or act as a cringing slave.
The fear of the Lord is the fear of a loving child or a dutiful servant: it is such a reverence for God that the one who fears Him is gripped by a holy desire to please Him. The best way to see what it means to fear the Lord, to see what people who fear the Lord are like, and to discover the results of fearing the Lord, is to gather together some of the scriptures where this is mentioned.
When a man fears the Lord it implies that he has started to know the Lord.
Please refer to Proverbs 1:7; 9:10; 15:33; Psalm 111:10. Knowing the Lord (not just about Him) is a matter of degree. We may know Him a little or we may know Him very well indeed and in a close and very personal way. A man only begins to fear God when he starts to know Him, and he only gets to know Him as and when he fears Him.
When a man realizes who God is and what His attitude is towards all people, then he begins to fear the Lord. It is important to notice that this fear has to be sought (Proverbs 1:29-30); it has to be learned (Deuteronomy 4:10; Psalm 34:11); there has to be a desire for this (Nehemiah 1:11); it requires obedience (Ecclesiastes 12:13), and some people fear God more than others (Nehemiah 7:2).
When a man fears the Lord he will turn from sin and live a holy life.
Please refer to Proverbs 3:7; 8:13; 14:2; 16:6; Psalm 19:9. All these references make it clear that when anyone really learns the fear of the Lord his whole manner of life is affected – look up 1 Peter 3:1-2; this includes the way he dresses, talks, spends his money, his time, what he hears, the places he goes to, the pleasures he seeks and the books he reads. Even his friends are different (Malachi 3:16).
When a man fears the Lord he is filled with deep assurance.
Please refer to Proverbs 14:26; Ecclesiastes 8:12-13. One reason for the confidence that is gained by fearing the Lord is that the one who fears Him lives on very intimate and personal terms and in close fellowship with the Lord Himself (Psalm 25:14). This makes him sure of God’s protection (Psalm 34:7); His provision (Psalm 34:9-10); and His purpose (Psalm 33:18). When we fear the Lord we are led into full assurance of faith (Hebrews 10:22); we know that our sins are forgiven (1 John 2:12); we know the truth of Romans 8:28 and we can say 2 Timothy 1:12!
When a man fears the Lord he experiences true joy and satisfaction.
Please refer to Proverbs 13:13; Proverbs 22:4; Proverbs 28:14; Psalm 145:19. Even though a man is poor in a worldly sense, if he fears the Lord he will be wonderfully rich and truly satisfied (Proverbs 15:16; Proverbs 19:23). The man who fears God has immense satisfaction and joy in knowing that all is well, not only for time but for eternity – look up Psalm 31:19 and Psalm 61:5.
When a man fears the Lord he will reap the benefits of a disciplined life.
Please refer to Proverbs 10:27; 14:27; 19:23 and Ecclesiastes 8:12-13. How logical all this is! If we are disciplined, getting the right amount of rest, food, sleep, and exercise, serving others, and above all giving the Lord His rightful place, we shall be freed from anxiety and we shall live out our appointed span.
When a man fears the Lord he will serve Him whole-heartedly.
Please refer to Psalm 2:11; 2 Chronicles 19:7,9; Hebrews 11:7; Hebrews 12:28. What an amazing thing it is to be in the service of God and to be humbly waiting on Him for His guidance and empowerment! This is what it means to “serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling”.
When a man fears the Lord he will be like the Lord Jesus Himself.
In Hebrews 5:7-9 we read that our Savior, as Man, lived in the fear of the Lord, and it was in this way that He offered Himself on the cross to secure our “eternal salvation”. If we would really be like Him we shall always seek to live and work to do everything in the fear of the Lord all day long. Look up Job 1:9-10 and make Psalm 86:11-12 your daily prayer.
Conclusion: Do you fear the Lord? We must fear the Lord. Not only is it right and necessary, but it is also good for us so that we will enjoy a good life.
How do we learn the fear of the Lord? It is something that happens in our understanding – we need to know who God is. It is something that happens in our will – we need to obey Him. It is something that happens in our hearts – we need to trust Him.