“The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all they that do His commandments: His praise endures forever.” (Psalm 111:10)
“Blessed is the man that fears the Lord, that delights greatly in His commandments.” (Psalm 112:1)
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10)
What does it mean to fear God? Many Christians may view God as being “all love”, and as a result they may be incapable of fearing him. They say, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18-20); or “For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). Others may see the word “fear” and envision wrath, vengeance, hellfire, and brimstone. This may be because “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “fear” as “an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by the anticipation or awareness of danger”. However, it also defines fear as “reverence and awe especially toward God”. You may ask which is it? Can we have both fear for God and fear of God?
“Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? Shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD has not done it?” (Amos 3:6)
“The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.” (Proverbs 14:27)
“The fear of the LORD prolongs days: but the years of the wicked shall be shortened.” (Proverbs 10:27)
Yes, God Is Love; But He is Also the God of Wrath
Too often the word “fear” has negative connotations to people because they don’t realize it has two different meanings. I remember having a conversation with one of my cousins a few years ago, when the topic of fearing God came up. Of course, she views God as a loving God and thus fearing Him didn’t make any sense to her. We so often hear “God is love”; however, people never want to discuss the wrath of God. They simply ignore those scriptures about his great vengeance upon the earth, to their detriment. Some believe that because God is love, he doesn’t punish sin, because we are under grace. Shall there be evil in a city and the Most High have not done it? I have heard it said that “God hates the sin and not the sinner”, as if that is biblical, when “He hates all workers of iniquity” (Psalm 5:5).
“He that spares his rod hates his son: but he that loves him chastens him betimes.” (Proverbs 13:24)
“The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself brings his mother to shame.” (Proverbs 29:15)
“Correct your son, and he shall give you rest; yes, he shall give delight unto your soul.” (Proverbs 29:17)
“Withhold not correction from the child: for if you beat him with the rod, he shall not die. You shall beat him with the rod and shall deliver his soul from hell. (Proverbs 23:13-14)
The Most High Chastens Those Whom He Loves
Why would people believe that the Father doesn’t punish sin? The “Biblical” Israelites were punished/cursed due to sin. The Word says, “He shewed His word unto Jacob, His statutes and His judgements unto Israel. He has not dealt so with any other nation and as for His judgements, they have not known them” (Psalm 147:19-20). Moreover, “curses shall come upon them for a sign and for a wonder, and upon their seed forever” (Deuteronomy 28:45-46). Hebrews 12:6-7 tells us, “For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives. If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chastens not?” Furthermore, Proverbs 3:11-12 says, “Do not despise the chastening of the Lord, for whom the LORD loves He corrects; even as a father the son in whom He delights“. So, if you have not been disciplined/punished by the Father, you have a problem!
“Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening for the present seems to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” (Hebrews 12:9-11)
“Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” (Proverbs 22:15)
If Earthly Fathers Chasten Their Children, Why Wouldn’t the Heavenly Father Do So?
It’s like having loving, earthly parents who commend respect and command obedience from their children. They have rules in place, not to hurt their children or spoil their fun, but to protect them. The Word says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Their children are aware that there are penalties/punishments that go into effect when they break the rules. If penalties/judgements aren’t enforced, what is to prevent the rules from being repeatedly broken? Why would children fear, respect or obey their parents, if the fear of not doing so isn’t there? Similarly, the Almighty as a loving Father, has laws/commandments which have judgements, if transgressed. Why would people expect anything less from a God that expects His children to be holy/set apart/sanctified? How would that be accomplished if He did not punish sin?
“Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him” (Psalm 33:8)
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)
“My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:18)
“This people draw nigh unto me with their mouth and honor me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” (Matthew 15:8)
When You Fear God, Your Actions Speak Louder Than Words
To fear (revere/respect) the Almighty is to love Him and keep His commandments. However, to also fear his wrath means we trust in His Word and believe there are penalties for our disobedience. As flesh, I think we need both kinds of fear. If we only believe that He is all love, we may buy into the lie that there is no punishment for sin. We’ll think He is lawless like the One He warns us about. Then, we’ll not take sin as seriously, though the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). We may become so comfortable in our sin/iniquity that we believe repentance is not necessary. On the other hand, if we love Him only because we are afraid of Him, we miss out on a relationship with him. Too often people love God with their mouths, but their hearts are far from him (Matthew 15:8).
“And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.” (Job 28:28)
“Teach me your way, O LORD; I will walk in your truth: unite my heart to fear your name.” (Psalm 86:11)
They that fear the Most High will not disobey His word, and they that love Him will keep His ways” (Ecclesiasticus 2:18)
“If you love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)
“He that has my commandments, and keeps them, he it is that loves me: and he that loves me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” (John 14:21)
“He that says, I know Him, and keeps not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (1 John 2:4)
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7)