Let’s talk about fear. When we think fear, often we think Freddy Kruger, Friday the 13th, and Thriller. We think of being timid and hesitant, and lacking confidence. To have fear in the context of the world, of the flesh, is negative. But in the scriptural context as it relates to God our Father, the fear of the Lord is a positive reference. Now if this doesn’t make sense, think about English words and how when they are used in different contexts and how the same word can mean two totally different things. Even sometimes how you say it, how the word rolls off your lips, changes the meaning. For example, think of the word fat. It can mean two totally different things depending on how you use it. You can say, she is “phat”, versus she is “fat”.” Sounds the same, but how we say it matters. One way means she is hype, cool, dope – while the other version means that she is overweight.
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“Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it (the church) increased in numbers.” – Acts 9:31
Let us look at the original Greek and Hebrew translations for the word fear. The Hebrew verb “yare” can mean to fear and respect, to have reverence. The Hebrew noun “yirah” refers to the fear of God and has a positive connotation. In Greek, the noun for fear is “phobos” and is often referred to and understood as the reverential fear of God. One reference that sums this up well is Nelson’s NKJV Study Bible, 1997, note on Psalm 128:1 – “The fear of God is an attitude of respect, a response of reverence and wonder.” It goes on to say that, “It is the only appropriate response to our Creator and Redeemer”. More references in the scripture include Proverbs 1:7 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” Also – Psalm 111:10, Psalm 34, 11, 13-14.
A healthy fear of God includes consequences of disobedience. If we disrespect him and don’t obey, it will break His heart. Like any good child we should respect Him, else pay the consequences. It is going to “hurt Him more than it hurts us”. So a healthy view on God helps us to take Him and His beneficial laws seriously. Also, when we are going through trials and temptations, we can lean on this healthy fear to help us walk in His ways. All things are lawful but not beneficial. (1 Corinthians 10:23)
Another way to look at it is that it is our way of being trained to be like Him. It’s like when we are training to do something well. We follow certain rules and guidelines to become good at whatever it is that we are working to master. Like martial arts, you don’t become a black belt overnight. It takes practice following certain disciplines. God our Father wants us to be like Him. We are His children and we are to train to be like Him. Like when we are raising our children, it is important to have a healthy respect of our father. It is not until we are older that we truly understand why a good father would have us follow all of these rules and do all of these chores. We are being trained in righteousness and virtue. At the time it doesn’t make sense but the next thing you know you are a seasoned martial arts black belt because you have obeyed and practiced in His ways. Wax on and wax off. And like Aikido you are in harmony with the spiritual laws, with God’s laws, that govern the universe.
The second Greek word for fear that is the negative connotation is “Delia”, which means “cowardice, timidness, fearfulness”. God doesn’t want us to fear in this negative way. Jesus himself instructs us to not fear (Mark 5:36, Matthew 14:27, Mathew 28:10). “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” – (2 Timothy 1:7). But we all fall short, we all fail sometimes, we all fear sometimes in this negative way. And that is where forgiveness comes in, and surrendering to Him – (Psalm 130:3-4). John puts it best when he says “Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the days of judgement; because as He is, so are we in this world.” How perfect is that? So God wants us to move past fear and be motivated by a deep love and respect for God and His Word.
Other great references that help us understand that love is the foundation of healthy fear of the Lord and our key to walking in God’s Will, and following God’s commands because we want to out of love and respect because we want to and because we trust Him and not because we have to:
- 1 John 4:18 – “There is no fear in love; but love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.”
- 1 John 5:3 – “In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome”.
- Romans 13:9-10 – “The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
- Matthew 22:37-40 – “Jesus replied: “‘Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
There are tons of other references to “phobos”, the positive connotation of the fear of the Lord. But let us not confuse this with the unhealthy version of fear “dahlia”. Let us be perfected in “phobos” and a healthy fear of the Lord that is born in love and respect of our good good Father who created us and wants us to be like Him. Let us eliminate the negative “dahlia” fear in our lives as we embrace “phobos” and the healthy fear of the Lord as we are perfected in love and encouraged and empowered by the Holy Spirit and walk in His ways!
Dear heavenly Father, help us to have a healthy fear and respect of You that we might want to be like You Lord and obey Your commands, which are to love You first and foremost with all of our hearts and all of our souls and all of our minds. Help us to love our neighbors as ourselves. You said through your Son Jesus Christ that these are the greatest commandments. This is what it means to obey you, and to respect You Lord. Help us walk in this love, that we will be pleasing to you Lord, and that our faces might be radiant like Moses (Ex. 34:29-35) and that others will see your goodness. We give all honor and glory to You, and receive your Promise through the mighty name of Jesus, Amen.
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