There are a number of meanings of the word fear in both the Old and New Testaments, but in my early years with the Lord I thought there was only one: Pachad; dread, fear, terror. It took a long time until I discovered the meaning that changed things for me. I discovered it by accident in a book that I honestly have not spent much time in: Yare; reverence, revere.
Deut 10:12-13 And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear [yare] the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, 13 To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?
Notice that it is not a halfway proposition. We are commanded to “revere” and “love” Him with all our heart and soul. Fear and love go hand in hand and are complementary as well as inseparable. Look at what Moses told Israel that God required in “fearing” Him:
- Fear The Lord Your God—We must adore his majesty, acknowledge his authority, stand in awe of his power, and dread his wrath.
- Walk In His Ways—Walk in the ways He has appointed for us.
- Love Him—Be pleased that He is ours, delight in Him, contemplate Him, and have communion with Him.
- Serve Him—Devote ourselves to His honor, advance His kingdom, and be zealous in all that we do for Him.
- Keep His Commandments and His statutes—We must be obedient to His revealed will for our lives, holding on to the belief that it is for our benefit.
For the natural man this is impossible, but as the bride of Christ, who has received the precious gift of redemption, it should be our natural response. Our fear of the Lord comes when we recognize that while next to His holiness, we are naturally unholy, God sees us as Holy in Jesus. When we understand His mercy, it stirs up that love within us that becomes evident in our loving and serving Him with all our heart and soul. And with that attitude comes the desire to keep His commandments, the very commandments that are meant for our own good.
Luke provided us with the contrast between “dreading” God and “reverencing” Him:
Luke 12:5-7 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear [be in awe of; reverence] him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear [be in awe of; reverence] him! 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not [do not dread; be frightened]; you are of more value than many sparrows. ESV