Fearing God (7)
Then you will understand the fear of the LORD,
And find the knowledge of God. Proverbs 2.5
Called to fear God
We have been considering the much-neglected doctrine of the fear of God, considering what it means for us to fear Him, and how our lives might be changed if we do. We have seen that God commands us to fear Him, and that fear and love, rather than being opposed, create a harmonic tension in our soul which leads to knowledge and wisdom, out of which righteousness and good works resound.
We have further seen that fearing God grows where people delight in His Law and hope in His steadfast love, so that, increasingly, they attain to the knowledge of truth and the wisdom of God which is embodied in the life of Christ.
Can there be any lingering doubt concerning whether the followers of Christ are called to fear God? The concept may still seem strange, even suspect to you; but we must agree, I think, that Scripture and the Lord Jesus Christ plainly instruct us to fear the Lord, even as we love Him.
Nurturing fear of God
But we have also seen that such fear of the Lord must be nurtured. We don’t come by it naturally; indeed, we seem to have something of a spiritual aversion to relating to God out of fear. So we will need to learn how to develop this affection and to keep it tightly bound to our love for God as we do.
Solomon’s advice to his son in Proverbs 2.1-5 lays out a kind of roadmap, marking out the way to the fear of God.
We can see this in verse 5, the end of the passage, when Solomon says, “Then you will understand the fear of the LORD…” Then? When? When will we understand the fear of God, and begin fearing Him as He requires?
We need to back up to verse 1 and make our way down to verse 5 to discover what is involved in arriving at the fear of God.
Right this way
First, of course, we must allow ourselves to be taught: “My son, if you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you…” (v. 1). Gaining the fear of od requires new insights and understandings, together with a whole different way of looking at our relationship with God. So we must submit to Scripture and wise teachers who can counsel and guide us in understanding both why this affection is so necessary and how we may begin to nurture it within our souls. We must receive sound instruction, and treasure it, so that we refer to it often, and deepen our experience of it by every means.
As we are being taught we must listen carefully to discern wisdom and bend our hearts toward understanding: “So that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding…” (v. 2). Thus we are able to internalize and personalize the teaching we are receiving about the fear of God. We must not study so important a subject in merely abstract terms, as if adding some new insights or ideas to our brain vault is sufficient for true learning. Rather, we want to know for ourselves what it means to fear the Lord and how we can begin to attain to this. From our reading and study of Scripture, we want to acquire the fear of God and realize its many benefits in our own lives. We want to take it personally, and make the best use of our time working out our salvation in fear and trembling before the Lord (Eph. 5.15-17; Phil. 2.12, 13).
At the same time, we must envelop our study and learning in prayer to God, crying out to Him to help us understand and gain that fear of Him which He requires: “Yes, if you cry out for discernment And lift up your voice for understanding, If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures…” (vv. 3, 4). Solomon describes the way we should pray that makes obtaining understanding and wisdom the most important thing any of us can do. We must cherish, long for, and seek the acquisition of these precious commodities as the highest priority in our lives, pleading with God day by day to nurture the fear of Him in our souls. God alone gives the wisdom and knowledge that flow from fearing Him (v. 6), and He will only give these, as we have seen, to those who approach Him for them, praying earnestly to acquire them, out of love and fear for Him.
This combination of study and prayer is an ongoing, daily, lifelong calling. We must not be reluctant to nurture the fear of God in our heart. This way lies much blessing, even power to enhance our witness for the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5.11).
Set yourself a course of daily study, faithful obedience, and earnest prayer along the way to the fear of God, and see if the Lord doesn’t meet you there, enriching your knowledge of Him and His truth, and clothing you with the wisdom and power of Jesus Christ for your everyday life.
And helping you to increase in love for and fear of Him.
1. What is learning? How can we know when we have truly learned something? Is this just a matter of the head, or are the heart and life involved as well?
2. What are you presently doing to receive the instruction you need to increase in fearing God? Can you think of anything you might do to enhance this?
3. Why is prayer so important to learning and to fearing the Lord? Do you think Christians today take prayer as seriously as Jesus does? Explain.
Next steps: Study, prayer, and daily obedience: These outline the way to the fear of God. What have you learned about the fear of God from this study? Share what you have learned with some Christian friends, and ask them to pray for you, join with you, and hold you accountable as you take more deliberate steps to grow in fearing God.
T. M. Moore
The studies in this series, Fearing God, are available in a free PDF, suitable for personal or group use (click here).
What does it mean to know the Lord? How does knowing the Lord relate to fearing Him, and to enjoying full and abundant life in Him? Our book, To Know Him, addresses these and other questions concerning our relationship with God. Order your copy by clicking here.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.