The Fear of 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 investigating the much-neglected doctrine of the fear of God. Fear of God is the starting point for rightly ordering all our affections (Ps. 86.11) and keeping our hearts with all diligence. We may not like the idea of fearing God, but God does; and in the end, what God likes and desires is designed to bring us fullness of life in Jesus.
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 the pleasure of God, knowledge, and wisdom; and out of which come righteousness and good works.
When we fear God, we love His Law, and all His Word, and hate everything which is contrary to Him and His purposes (Ps. 97.10).
We have further seen that the fear of God grows where people delight in His Law and hope in His mercy and steadfast love, so that, increasingly, they attain to the knowledge of truth and the wisdom of God, which are found in the treasury of our Lord Jesus 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 based on 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 we have met the conditions set forth in the previous verses. 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.
So let’s have a closer look.
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). The Scriptures clearly teach that God requires us to fear Him, and that for our own good. We have seen this over and over. Gaining the fear of God 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 their teaching eagerly and treasure it whole-heartedly if we want to know this most important affection working in our heart for the proper strengthening of our soul.
As we are being taught, we must listen carefully to discern wisdom and bend our hearts toward understanding: “…incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding…” (v. 2). This will enable us to internalize and personalize the teaching we are receiving from God’s Word. We must not study the Scriptures in merely abstract terms, content only to gain new insights or deeper understanding; rather, we want to know for ourselves what it means to fear the Lord and how we can begin to attain to this. We want to acquire the fear of God and realize its many benefits in our own lives. We want to wrap our heart around the fear of God and have it lodged firmly and unfalteringly there.
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 (vv. 3, 4). Solomon describes praying in a way 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 out of love and fear for Him, earnest in their desire to increase in all His promised blessings and boon.
And we must persist in prayer as if gaining the fear of God were the most important, most valuable, most precious asset we could acquire (v. 4).
This combination of study, obedience, and prayer is an ongoing, 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). Our duty as followers of Jesus Christ is to set aside every obstacle that stands in our way, and to devote ourselves to bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God (2 Cor. 7.1).
Set yourself a course of study, obedience, and prayer, with the fear of God as your ultimate objective, and see if the Lord doesn’t meet you there, enriching your knowledge of Him and His truth, and clothing you with the wisdom, power, and holiness of Jesus Christ for your everyday life.
The fear of God is the starting-point and end-point for keeping our heart with all diligence. And a strong, well-ordered heart is the foundation and sine qua non of a strong soul.
1. How has your understanding of and attitude toward the fear of God changed as you have read through these lessons?
2. Would you say that your life is now on course to grow in the fear of God? Can you expect to keep your heart with all diligence if this is not the case? Explain.
3. How can you see that fearing God is a positive and even indispensable affection for you to nurture in your heart?
Next steps – Transformation: Study, prayer, and daily obedience: These are the way to the fear of God. What have you learned about the fear of God from these studies? What steps are you taking to increase in the fear of God and all the blessings that come with that?
T. M. Moore
Your soul in the Kingdom of God
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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.