Fearing God


Fear is something that God has ordained for His glory.  When man perverts this, consequences result.  In Proverbs 1:7 it says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline." 


A. Should we fear God?

            Someone may say, "Well, God does not 'really' want us to fear Him does He; we should just love and worship Him right?"  Why then would God tell us to fear Him, walk in His ways, love Him, serve Him, and obey Him?  God is not unjust in requiring this.  Fearing God brings life, peace, victory and security.  Below are Scripture that discuss why and how we should fear God.  We are instructed in God’s word to “Find out what pleases the Lord.”  We do not know automatically how to please God in all of our ways unless we seek Him.  We also must seek out His truth concerning the way we are to live our Christian lives in this generation.


Deuteronomy 10:12-13 - "And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord's commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?"  Now do we truly believe that we are His children?  Then two commandments have been given to us: we are to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love our neighbor as ourselves.


Nehemiah 1:11 - "O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name."  Who are God's servants?  Those who delight in revering God are His servants.


Psalm 31:19 - "How great is your goodness which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you."


Proverbs 3:5-8 - "Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and do not lean on your own understanding; {6} In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.  {7} Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.  {8} This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones." 


Proverbs 14:26-27 - "He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge.  {27} The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death."  I can be secure in the Lord if I fear Him and continue to do what is right.


Proverbs 19:23 - "The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble."


Revelations 11:18 - "The time has come for judging the dead and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great--and for destroying those who destroy the earth."


            So in these verses we also see that fearing God is not the only thing that is necessary for us to be blessed; we need to trust the Lord with everything and obey Him, too (whether we have monetary blessings or not).


(See also Psalms 33:18; 60:4; 61:5; 128:1,4; Proverbs 10:27; 22:4; 28:)


B. Fearing things other than God is almost always a direct result of lack of faith or doubt that God (1) exists, (2) rewards us according to what we have done, and (3) is watching everything that we do

Fearing things other than God also causes, or is a direct result of, sin.  Maybe it is a fear of looking bad, a fear of death, a fear of our enemies, or a fear of man.  At any rate, fear of external things and circumstances is not walking as Christ walked.


Genesis 18:13-15 - "Then the Lord said to Abraham, 'Why did Sarah laugh and say, "Will I really have a child, now that I am old?"  {14} Is anything too hard for the Lord?  I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.'  {15} Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, 'I did not laugh.'"  This act of Sarah's started with doubt of God's word (that she would have a son) and then led to a fear of looking bad and ultimately to lying to God.


Genesis 20:11 - "...There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife."  Not fearing God leads to unrighteousness and ruthlessness.


When the spies, not including Caleb and Joshua, delivered their report about the promised land to Moses, it was tainted with the fear of man ( because giants called the Nephilim lived in the land).  As a result the Israelites became afraid and would not go up and take the land that God was giving them.  They also grumbled against Moses and Aaron.  God was angry enough to completely destroy the Israelites, but He relented for His name's sake realizing what the nations would think if He brought His people out of Egypt and then destroyed them in the wilderness.  For the complete account see Numbers 13:1 - 15:21.


A pendulum hangs suspended in air and swings from one extreme to the other.  In the same way, the person who does not fear God will be like a wave of the sea, always at one extreme or another because Ecclesiastes 7:16-18 says:

"Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise--why destroy yourself?  {17} Do not be overwicked, and do not be a fool--why die before your time?  {18} It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other.  The man who fears God will avoid all extremes."


 Leviticus 19:17 - "Do not hate your brother in you heart.  Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt."  And again, "Open rebuke is better than hidden love." (The Book of Proverbs)


1 Samuel 15:24 - "Then Saul said to Samuel, 'I have sinned.  I violated the Lord's command and your instructions.  I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them.  Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord."  Holding on to our self image is a dreadful sin.  It is manifested by complete concern for personal wants or desire before a concern for God's will.  It leads to unrighteous acts and manifestations of the sinful nature.


Proverbs 29:25 - "Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe."  Just think.  Trying to please parents, peers, employers, neighbors, and acquaintances out of fear of what they think is impossible!  The way of the wicked is definitely difficult.


Malachi 3:5 - "'So I will come near to you for judgment.  I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers, and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me,' says the Lord Almighty."  Every wicked thing abounds when there is no fear of God.  I did not fear God at one time, just as it says in Romans 3:18, and I was held captive to all kinds of sins and evil desires.  Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift of freedom through His Son, Jesus Christ.  He renewed my mind and showed me the truth of His word.  If thoughts spring up that have their roots in the sinful nature, God gives me the strength to put them to death.


Matthew 25:24-27 - "Then the man who had received the one talent came, 'Master,' he said, 'I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed.  {25} So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground.  See, here is what belongs to you.'  {26} His master replied, 'You wicked, lazy servant!  So you knew that I harvest where I have not scattered seed?  {27} Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.'"  The worthless servant was thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth--this is no surprise.  Fear kept him from doing his master's will.  If fear keeps us from doing God's will, it will not go well with us either.


Matthew 26:69-75 gives the account of Peter's denial of Jesus resulting from his fear of man.


Mark 4:40 - "He [Jesus] said to his disciples, 'Why are you so afraid?  Do you still have no faith?"


Luke 8:24-25 - "The disciples went and woke Him [Jesus], saying, 'Master, Master, we're going to drown!'  He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm.  {25} 'Where is your faith?' He asked His disciples."


C. Don’t be afraid, fear God

There are many instances in the Bible where people had to do things that were not always "easy" to accomplish.  The people needed to have faith in God and have a righteous fear of Him.  A good example of this is in Hebrews 11:7 - "By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.  By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith."  Noah could have easily taken on the attitude of the people around him: Aw, God's not really going to flood the whole earth and destroy every living thing that lives on the land.  Nothing like that has ever happened before.  God is merciful; He will not punish me if I don't fear Him and walk righteously before Him all of my days.  This would have had produced catastrophic results for Noah.


            A very big emphasis is also placed on not fearing man, death, circumstances, etc.  "Wait for the Lord, be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." (Psalm 27:14)  There is no reason to fear man if I fear God and know that He is my strength, shield, and deliverer.  I will not fear.  What can man do to me?  The most he can do is destroy my physical body.  If that happens, I have a better place awaiting me: the home of righteousness.


Matthew 10:28 - "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell."


            God has equipped us with everything that we need in order not to fear.  God's will for us as Christians is not to be afraid but to find courage and strength in the Lord.  We should fear and worship Him only (Deuteronomy 6:13; 2 Kings 17:7-8).  We should also encourage one another to be bold, courageous, and not  fearful.  If we have fear, we should turn to God for strength and deliverance.


Exodus 14:13-14 - "Moses answered the people, 'Do not be afraid.  Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.  The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.  {14} The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.'"


Deuteronomy 7:21 - "Do not be terrified by them [the inhabitants of Canaan], for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a great and awesome God."  This applies to any area in our lives.  The Lord is to have complete dominion so there is nothing to fear by stepping out in faith and overcoming all things through the grace of Jesus Christ (see 2 Corinthians 9:8 and Titus 2:11 on grace).


Joshua 8:1 - "Then the Lord said to Joshua, 'Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.  Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai.  For I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city and his land."  Man musters the forces, but it is God who gives the victory!


2 Chronicles 15:7 - "But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded."


Psalm 3:5-6 - "I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.  {6} I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side."


Isaiah 12:2 - "Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.  The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation."


Jeremiah 42:11-12 - "Do not be afraid of the king of Babylon, whom you now fear.  Do not be afraid of him, declares the Lord, for I am with you and will save you and deliver you from his hands.  {12} I will show you compassion so that he will have compassion on you and restore you to your land."


Ezekiel 2:6 - "And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words.  Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions.  Do not be afraid of what they say or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious house."


Mark 13:7 - "When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed.  Such things must happen, but the end is still to come."


Acts 18:9-10 - "One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: 'Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent.  For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.'"


Hebrews 11:27 - "By faith he [Moses] left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger, he persevered because he saw Him who is invisible."  He was obedient to the Scripture in 2 Corinthians 4:18 that says to set our eyes not on the things that are visible but things that are invisible (because was is seen is temporal, but what is unseen is eternal).


Hebrews 13:5-6 - "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'  So we say with confidence, 'The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?'"


            There are certain times where it could appear that men were fearing other men rather than God but actually were not.

1 Samuel 27:1 says, "But David thought to himself, 'One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul.  The best thing I can do is to escape to the land of the Philistines.  Then Saul will give up searching for me anywhere in Israel, and I will slip out of his hand."  Some people may misconstrue this as David fearing man therefore he fled.  However, God had a more important purpose for David (to walk after God's own heart), and God gave him wisdom so he would not perish by the hand of Saul.


            In the face of great trials, we are to stand firm because we have these promises.  They are like an anchor that keeps the soul steadfast and immovable until He returns to transform our lowly bodies into glorious ones.


D. Fearing God is not optional

God demands every living thing to fear Him.  If we choose to fear God He does not have to make us fearful.  By not fearing God and by being disobedient to His commands, we become captive to all kinds of sins and store up for ourselves wrath on the day of judgment.


Deuteronomy 28:58-59 - "If you do not carefully follow all the words of this law, which are written in this book, and do not revere this glorious and awesome name--the Lord your God--{59} the Lord will send fearful plagues on you and your descendants, harsh and prolonged disasters, and severe and lingering illnesses."


Isaiah 66:3b-4a - "They have chosen their own ways, and their souls delight in their abominations, so I also will choose harsh treatment for them and will bring upon them what they dread."  This tells us that those who delight in abominations are not fearing God but practicing sin and fearing things other than God.


Proverbs 10:24 - "What the wicked dreads will overtake him; what the righteous desire will be granted."  Does this verse really say that we will have God's interests in mind if we are righteous?  Yes, for it is written, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17)


1 John 4:18 - "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear because fear involves punishment and the one who fears is not perfected in love" ("This is love for God: to obey His commands.  And His commands are not burdensome, {4} for everyone born of God overcomes the world.  This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. - 1 John 5:3-4).


(See: Isaiah 13:7-8; 19:1; Ezekiel 7:17-18,27; 21:14-15; Nahum 2:10; Joel 2:1; Micah 7:17 for more promises on the fear that will overcome the unrighteous on the day of judgment .)


E. God uses many vehicles to bring fear to Himself and His name 

Here are some of the things that are designed to bring about the fear of God:

Working of miracles - Joshua 4:24; Ezekiel 26:15-16; Daniel 5:5-6; Matthew 27:54; 28:5-8; Mark 9:5-6; Luke 1:12-13, 29-30; Acts 5:5,11; 19:13-17

Purification from sin - Jeremiah 33:9

Answered prayer - 2 Chronicles 6:33

Punishment of the disobedient - Deuteronomy 13:6-11

Forgiveness and judgment - 1 Kings 8:39-40

The commandments and the law - Deuteronomy 6:1-2; 17:18-20; 31:12-13; Psalm 86:11

Monuments of remembrance - Joshua 22:25

His works - Job 37:24; Psalms 33:8-11; 64:9; 102:15; Habbakuk 3:2

The steadfastness of His word - Ecclesiastes 3:14


            Anybody who discounts that fear should be a part of the life of a believer or an unbeliever should realize this: "But who are you, O man, to talk back to God?  Shall what is formed say to Him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?'  {21} Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?" (Romans 9:20-21)


            How is it evident that I fear the Lord?  "He whose walk is upright fears the Lord, but he whose ways are devious despises Him." (Proverbs 14:2)  That's right!  I walk in uprightness, not sinning daily in thought, word and deed.  If I am in the light I have nothing to hide because the light (Jesus) makes all things visible.  How is this possible--to walk holy?  "Moses said to the people, 'Do not be afraid.  God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning." (Exodus 20:20)  Jesus also made it very clear that with man this was impossible, but with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).  God gives His Holy Spirit to those who obey Him (Acts 5:32) so it empowers us to do what is right continually when we step forward in faith, eager to do what is good.  Victory over this world is an aspect of faith and grace too (1 John 5:4; Titus 2:11).


F. Other things that pertain to fearing God


            Through the fear of God, I am able to make righteous judgments (Nehemiah 7:2).  If I fear man, my judgments will reflect my desire to be spared from their wrath, I will accept bribes which pervert justice, and I will have no concern for the punishment that God will inflict on me for rebelling against His statutes or condemning the innocent and freeing the guilty.  It is clear that many of America's leaders and lawmakers obviously have no such fear of God.

Actions will accompany my fear of God (1 Samuel 11:7; 1 Kings 18:3,13; Ezra 10:3-4; Haggai 1:12).  As it says in James 2:24, "You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone."


            Fear also brings along with it attention to detail (1 Samuel 14:26; 2 Chronicles 19:7).  If Moses had not feared God and been a humble man, he would have seen no purpose in building the temple of God exactly as he had been commanded on the mountain.


            Fearing God is my delight (Psalm 89:7; 112:1-2; Isaiah 11:2).  It should not be something horrible and terrifying.  That is the fate of the wicked, not the righteous.