Read: Proverbs 9:10-11
Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment. Wisdom will multiply your days and add years to your life. (New Living Translation)
“Be afraid! Be very afraid!”
That’s probably the most famous line from the 1986 movie The Fly. In the movie, as Jeff Goldblum, who plays a brilliant but quirky scientist, is turning into an insect—how cute!—he exhorts the lovely reporter, played by Geena Davis, not to be worried by his metamorphosis: “Don’t be afraid.”
That’s why Geena tells Jeff to bug off—if you know what I mean.
Fear! The word doesn’t conjure up very positive images does it? These days in our cultural context, parents don’t usually teach their kids to live in fear of anything and teachers don’t instruct their students to be afraid. So why should preachers stand in pulpits and preach the “fear of the Lord” to their congregations? That seems a bit incongruent with our image of a loving and gracious God.
The problem is that we misunderstand what the Bible means when it talks about the fear of the Lord. A better way to think of it is the old term used a generation or two ago: God fearing. That simply meant to have a deep reverence of God and a healthy respect for his laws. It did not mean to cower in terror because a capricious and vengeful Deity was fixing to squash you like a bug if you displeased him in the least. Rather, while acknowledging that disobeying God’s law would bring painful consequences—just try ignoring his universal law of gravity and see how that works for you—it recognized that obeying that very same law would bring life-giving benefits.
To live with a healthy and holy fear of God provided that foundation for a prosperous journey through this life as well as preparation for entering into the joy of the eternal kingdom in the life to come. The fear of the Lord was what enabled people to navigate daily challenges with good judgment and grace. And the icing on the cake for a fear-of-the-Lord approach to living was the promise that God would add years to our life—and better yet, life to our years.
Too many people today are trying to live a God-confident life without a God-fearing life. It can’t be done! Living without deep reverence for God and healthy respect for his laws, including awareness of the consequences of breaking them—will only produce the other kind of fear: fear that our past will catch up to us, high anxiety because of what we’re going through today, and terror of what might happen tomorrow.
If you don’t learn to have a healthy and holy fear of the Lord, my advice to you is, “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” But if you can wrap yourself around what it means to be God-fearing, this gracious God himself will not only add years to your life, he’ll give life to your years.
Those who fear the Lord have nothing to fear!
“Shame arises from the fear of man, conscience from the fear of God.”
Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
What kind of fear is your fear of the Lord? A healthy and holy fear, or one that is unhealthy and unholy? Spend some time today thinking about what it means to be a God-fearing person—and what changes you may need to make to be one.