This morning, I want to talk about something that the Word of God mentions quite a bit, and that is Yirat Adonai, the fear of the Lord.
When it comes to persons, there are two kinds of fear: a good, healthy kind of fear and a bad, unhealthy kind of fear.
The good kind of fear: You know someone is more powerful than you are and can make you suffer, but you also know that he is good and just won’t make you suffer needlessly. If he makes you suffer, it’s because it’s right that he makes you suffer. You trust him. You may even love him.
The bad kind of fear: You know someone is more powerful than you are and can make you suffer, but you also know that he is not good and he is unjust and might make you suffer needlessly. You don’t trust him. You don’t love him.
The good kind of fear results in not wanting to offend; in obedience; submission; devotion; respect; loyalty; trust; love.
A child who loves his parents and knows they are good trusts them to discipline him when he needs it, even though the discipline hurts. That is the good kind of fear. A slave who is tormented by a cruel master and fears him is an example of the bad kind of fear.
The Word of God repeatedly encourages us to fear the Lord.
What is the fear of the Lord? It’s an awareness of God’s reality. It’s the knowledge that God is powerful and wise and good and holy; that He is our superior; that He will be our Judge; that one day, each one of us will appear before Him on the Day of Judgment and account to Him for everything we have done, or didn’t do; that He will judge us; that He can make us suffer, but He won’t make us suffer needlessly; that if he does make us suffer, it’s because it is right that He makes us suffer, even kills us.
Job displayed the fear of the Lord when he said: Even though the Lord kills me, I will trust Him.
To motivate us to fear the Lord, the Word of God tells us about some amazing benefits that come to those who fear the Lord – and who doesn’t like great benefits?
The first benefit: blessedness: Psalm 128: Ashray – how blessed is everyone who fears the Lord. Those who fear the Lord are blessed. They are more blessed, happier, better off, more advantaged than those who don’t fear the Lord. I want to be blessed, happier, better off, more advantaged. Don’t you? Fear the Lord.
The next benefit: the fear of the Lord is essential to knowledge and wisdom. Proverbs 15:33: The fear of the Lord is the instruction for wisdom. Proverbs 1:7: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.
Wisdom is the ability to apply knowledge so that one lives according to the wise principles that the Lord has designed into this universe. Wisdom is very beneficial. It brings divine favor and blessing and success in this life followed by eternal life in the World To Come.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. A wise and successful life must start with knowing and respecting God. You are not living an intelligent life if you know Anthropology, Archaeology, History, Linguistics and Languages, Philosophy, Literature, the Arts, Economics, Political Science, Psychology, Sociology, Biology, Chemistry, the Earth Sciences, Physics, Space Sciences, Computer Sciences, Mathematics, Agriculture and Forestry, Architecture and Design, Business, Education, Engineering, Journalism, Media Studies and Communication, Law, Medicine, Military Sciences, Public Administration, Transportation – but do not fear the Lord, which is the beginning of knowledge.
This is a paraphrase of Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible on Proverbs 1:7: The fear of the Lord is the first of all areas of knowledge to be learned, and it’s the most important one. It is the basis and foundation of all the rest, on which they depend; and it is the head, the fountain, the root and source, from whence they spring; and unless a man knows God, knows God in Messiah, and worships him in his fear, in spirit and in truth, according to his revealed will, he knows nothing as he ought to know (his knowledge will always fall short); and all his knowledge will be of no avail and profit to him. Good thoughts!
You can’t not fear God the Father and Messiah the Son and be knowledgeable or wise or saved. You can’t be an agnostic or atheist and be knowledgeable, wise or saved.
I want wisdom and knowledge and salvation and eternal life. You want a truly smart, intelligent life, successful life? Fear the Lord.
Wisdom and knowledge. What great benefits come from fearing the Lord.
Another benefit that comes from fearing the Lord: a longer life: Proverbs 10:27: The fear of the Lord prolongs life. Fear and anxiety can harm our bodies. The fear of the Lord produces peace and right living which bring health to the body.
Consider this too: If we live the right way, we won’t do things that may shorten our life. We won’t be taking drugs, engaging in promiscuous sex which can result in a sexually transmitted disease, or committing crimes which may result in prison or even capital punishment. If we fear the Lord, we will not experience the Lord’s judgment which can shorten our life. The fear of the Lord means that, in general, we will live longer – and who doesn’t want to live longer? So, fear the Lord.
Another benefit that comes from fearing the Lord: security: Proverbs 14:26: Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge (NIV). This world can be a chaotic, unstable, insecure, dangerous place. People want to be safe. They look for security in money, in group affiliations, political parties, taking various precautions, in self-defense training and weapons. But ultimate security comes from fearing the Lord. Only then are people safe from the most dangerous threats – Satan and the demons, sin and the sin nature, death and Hell.
The security that comes to us when we fear the Lord not only benefits us, it benefits our children. Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge. Our children, if they follow our God-fearing ways, will also have a refuge from the greatest dangers of life. You want to be safe, and you want your children to be safe? Fear the Lord.
Other benefits: a better life; and the ability to avoid deadly situations: Proverbs 14:27: The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may avoid the snares of death. We need water to live. Without water, we die. Fearing the Lord is like drinking from a fountain that provides life-giving water. Those who fear the Lord will have a fuller and more meaningful and more abundant life.
And they will avoid the snares of death. There are situations, which, if you make a godless decision, can shorten or end your life. Getting involved with the wrong crowd so that you are dragged into criminal activity; getting involved in sexual immorality and getting a sexually transmitted disease; using or selling drugs; giving into despair and committing suicide – are some of these situations that can shorten a person’s life. I want a better life and the ability to avoid deadly situations. How about you? Fear the Lord.
Other benefits: Peace. Contentment. Satisfaction. Proverbs 15:16: Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and turmoil with it. Having a little, but enough so that one’s needs are met, combined with fearing the Lord is better than being very rich – which is often accompanied by a lot of problems. I want peace, contentment and satisfaction that don’t depend on money and wealth and material things. How about you? Fear the Lord.
Two other benefits: life and well-being. Proverbs 19:23: The fear of the Lord leads to life, so that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil. When we fear the Lord, we know that our lives are a success. That produces satisfaction. Contentment. Peace. A sense of well-being. We go to sleep knowing that even though people can harm us, even can kill us, they can’t prevent us from living forever with the Lord we fear; that our life in this world, and our death, are in the control of the Lord we fear.
Another benefit: the fear of the Lord is a deterrence from evil: Proverbs 8:13: The fear of the Lord is to hate evil. The one who fears the Lord knows what the Lord loves and what the Lord hates. The one who fears the Lord loves what the Lord loves and hates what the Lord hates. I want to love what the Lord loves and hate what the Lord hates. I don’t want to depend on the laws of men and the fear of being punished by men to deter me from evil. I want a built-in, internal deterrence from evil. How about you? Fear the Lord.
Proverbs 16:6: By the fear of the Lord one keeps away from evil. When we fear the Lord, we avoid doing bad things. So, if you want to keep away from evil, which God hates and which harms the one who does evil, and causes harm to others impacted by evil, remind yourself frequently that the Lord is a great and holy God and King whom you don’t want to offend; that He is your Judge; that He sees all and knows all; and that you will appear before Him on the Day of Judgment.
Other benefits that come from fearing the Lord: Proverbs 22:4: The reward of humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, honor and life. Most people want riches, honor and life. The best way to the best riches, which are spiritual riches; the best way to the best honor, which is to be honored by God and God’s people; and the best way to the best life, which is a God-honoring life in this world followed by eternal life in the World to Come – is the fear of the Lord. I want the best kind of riches, honor and life. How about you? Fear God.
Nations need to fear the Lord. At Mount Sinai, after the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the shofar and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. 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.
What happens to a nation that has no fear of God? It experiences an increase in sinning – immorality, crime, violence and murder. This is seen in this in the lives of Abraham and Sarah. For a while Abraham stayed in Gerar, and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” Then Avimelek king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her. But God came to Avimelek in a dream one night and said to him, “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.” … Now return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all who belong to you will die.” And Avimelek asked Abraham, “What was your reason for doing this?” Abraham replied, “I said to myself, ‘There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’”
Our nation has lost its fear of God. Not surprisingly, since the 1960s, when our loss of the fear of God accelerated, there has been a dramatic increase in evil in the United States: the breakdown of the family, divorce, births outside of marriage, suicides, drug use, sexual immorality, violent crime; more than 50 million babies killed in the womb. Our greatest need as a nation? To regain the fear of the Lord.
The fear of the Lord means that God comes before everyone and everything. The story of the binding of Isaac teaches us this: God tested Abraham. He said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac – and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” The fear of the Lord means putting God first – before the people or things you love the most, even your only son.
The fear of the Lord means putting the laws of God before the laws of the government – even if it results in punishment or death. When Pharaoh ordered the Jewish midwives to kill the newborn Israeli sons, they feared God, courageously defied the king of Egypt and did not do as he commanded them.
The fear of God is a requirement for the best leaders, which are needed for the best kind of society. Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, told Moses: you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens (Exodus 18:21). Leaders who do not fear God may lead their people well in some areas, but will lead them poorly in other areas, which are the most important areas.
Throughout the ages, many men and women have feared the Lord. One has out-feared them all. Isaiah 11:2-3: The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And He will delight in the fear of the Lord. Yeshua always honored God, always obeyed, always treated His Father with reverence and respect, always put Him first. Yeshua is what perfect fear of the Lord looks like.
The fear of God is so important, so essential to God Himself, that it is one of God’s names, and God’s names teach us who He is. Genesis 31:42: Jacob said to Laban: If the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the Fear of Isaac, had not been for me, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. The Fear of Isaac means “the God whom Isaac served with fear.” The Fear of Isaac teaches us that God is so real, so alive, so great, so holy, so pure, so perfect, so powerful, so just that He is worthy of our reverence, respect, awe, obedience, love and devotion – worthy of our fear.
How do we get the fear of the Lord? Know how valuable it is; how worthy God is of our fear. Then choose it. Pray for it.
You who are the Fear of Isaac, Your Word teaches us to fear You. To motivate us to do so, Your Word teaches us that many great benefits will come to us if we do: blessedness; knowledge and wisdom; a better life; longer life; security for us and our children; a deterrence from evil; the ability to avoid deadly situations; peace; satisfaction; a sense of well-being; riches, honor and life.
Lord, help us chose the fear of the Lord!
Help us give You the reverence, respect, awe, obedience, love and devotion You are worthy of.
Help us remind ourselves frequently that You are a great and holy God and King whom we don’t want to offend; that You see and know all; and that we will appear before You on the Day of Judgment.
Help us put You before everyone and everything.
Help us put Your laws before the laws of the government – even if it results in punishment or death.
Fear of Isaac, our nation has lost its fear of You and is suffering the consequences. Help us regain that fear.
Bless us with leaders who fear You.
Thank You for Yeshua, who revealed most clearly what the fear of the Lord looks like. Help us be more like Him.