Meditations on “Fear Not”: 3. The Fear of the Lord (2) – The Outworking
Ex 20:20 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.”
Before we examine some of the ‘fear not’ calls in the Bible, we are starting with the ‘fear of the Lord’, a deep awesome respect for God, which puts everything else in perspective. Having observed it in the previous study, let’s go on to see how important it is from an outworking point of view, having already suggested that for Israel that awesome respect should have come both out of the name of God and their history with God.
In Psalms and Proverbs we come across the heart of this: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” (Psa 111:10) and “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Prov 9:10) True wisdom starts with a proper appreciation of just who God is and when we have that it will generate this awesome respect within us and that in itself will impact anything and everything we do in life. For Christians that has been brought into even sharper focus with Jesus, God incarnate.
Now look up ‘wise’ and you find, ‘having or showing experience, knowledge, and good judgement,’ and ‘wisdom’ is ‘having the quality of being wise’, but when you are challenged by Biblical revelation we see that wisdom is knowing how everything works or should work in the light of God’s design for His world. Now note that I said two things there: first knowing how everything does work (in this Fallen world) and second, how it should work if brought in line with God’s perfect design. True wisdom sees everything in a ‘God perspective’, so be careful how you exalt ‘big people’ in our world. If they do not have this perspective, they are not truly wise.
The laws or rules of both Old and New Testaments should be appreciated for what they are, the revelation from heaven, and a wise person has that appreciation: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Prov 1:7) The wisdom and instruction referred to here by Solomon in Proverbs, is that revelation of how everything does work and also how it should work, but the fool rejects that revelation: “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” (Psa 14:1) What is fascinating is that you will find a footnote in your Bible that says, “The Hebrew words rendered fool in Psalms denote one who is morally deficient”, i.e. there always creeps in a moral dimension to these things. Wisdom that starts with acknowledging God, always has a moral outworking in the practicalities of life.
Two examples of that ‘practicality’ are seen in the history of Israel. First, “The fear of the Lord fell on all the kingdoms of the lands surrounding Judah, so that they did not go to war against Jehoshaphat.” (2 Chron 17:10) A recognition of God’s greatness kept Israel’s enemies in check. Second, “Now let the fear of the Lord be on you. Judge carefully, for with the Lord our God there is no injustice or partiality or bribery.” (2 Chron 19:7) Similarly a recognition of who He was caused Israel to act without partiality or bribery. When they turned away from Him, honesty and integrity left public life in Israel. In our starter verse, that same fear kept them from sinning. These things have very practical outworkings. May that be true of our lives as well.