Understanding the Fear of the Lord

Reverence and awe before the majesty of God

4 min

“Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord. He shall not be afraid of evil tidings. His heart is established, he shall not be afraid.” (See Psalm 112:1, 7, 8.)

“So the Church, walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, was multiplied.” (See Acts 9:31.)

The Scriptures use the word “fear” in a twofold way. In some places it speaks of “fear” as something wrong and sinful, and in the strongest terms it forbids us to “fear.” (See Genesis 15:1; Isaiah 8:13; Jeremiah 32:40; Romans 8:15; 1 Peter 3:14; 1 John 4:18.) In well-nigh one hundred places occurs the word: “Fear not.” In many other places, on the contrary, fear is praised as one of the surest tokens of true godliness, acceptable to the Lord, and fruitful of blessing to us. (See Psalm 22:24, 26; 33:18; 112:1; 115:13; Proverbs 28:14.) The people of God bear the name: those that fear the Lord. The distinction betwixt these two lies in this simple fact: the one is unbelieving fear, the other is believing. Where fear is found connected with lack of trust in God, there it is sinful and very hurtful. (See Matthew 8:26; Revelation 21:9.) The fear, on the other hand, that is coupled with trust and hope in God, is for the spiritual life entirely indispensable. The fear that has man and what is temporal for its object, is condemned. The fear that with childlike confidence and love honours the Father, is commanded. (See Psalm 33:18; 147:11; Luke 12:4, 7.) It is the believing, not slavish, but filial, fear of the Lord that is presented by the Scriptures as a source of blessing and power. He that fears the Lord will fear nothing else. The fear of the Lord will be the beginning of all wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the sure way to the enjoyment of God’s favour and protection. (See Psalm 56:5, 12; Proverbs 1:7; 9:10; 10:27; 19:23; Acts 9:31; 2 Corinthians 7:1.)

There are some Christians who by their upbringing are led into the fear of the Lord, even before they come to faith. This is a very great blessing: parents can give a child no greater blessing than to bring him up in the fear of the Lord. When those who are thus brought up are brought to faith, they have a great advantage: they are, as it were, prepared to walk in the joy of the Lord. When, on the contrary, others that have not this preparation, come to conversion, they have need of special teaching and vigilance, in order to pray for and awaken this holy fear.

The elements of which this fear is composed are many and glorious. The principal are the following:

There are holy reverence and awe before the glorious majesty of God and before the All Holy. These guard against the superficiality that forgets who God is, and that takes no pains to honour Him as God. (See Job 42:6; Psalm 5:8; Isaiah 6:2, 5; Habakkuk 2:20; Zechariah 2:3.)

There is deep humility that is afraid of itself, and couples deep confidence in God with an entire distrust in itself. Conscious weakness that knows the subtlety of its own heart always dreads doing anything contrary to the will or honour of God. But just because he fears God, such an one firmly reckons on Him for protection. And this same humility inspires him in all his intercourse with his fellow-men. (See Luke 18:2, 4; Romans 11:20; 1 Peter 3:5.)

There is circumspectness or vigilance. With holy forethought, it seeks to know the right path, to watch against the enemy, and to be guarded against all lightness or hastiness in speech, resolve, and conduct. (See Proverbs 2:5, 11; 8:12, 13; 13:33; 16:6; Luke 1:74.)

And there are also in it holy zeal and courage in watching and striving. The fear of displeasing the Lord by not conducting one’s self in everything as His servant, incites to being faithful in that which is least. The fear of the Lord takes all other fear away, and gives inconceivable courage in the certitude of victory. (See Deuteronomy 6:2; Isaiah 12:2.)

And out of this fear is then born joy. “Rejoice with trembling:” the fear of the Lord gives joy its depth and stability. Fear is the root, joy the fruit: the deeper the fear, the higher the joy. On this account it is said: “Ye that fear the Lord praise Him;” “Ye that fear the Lord, bless the Lord.” (See Psalm 22:24; 135:20.)

Young disciples of Christ, hear the voice of your Father, “Fear the Lord, ye His saints.” Let deep fear of the Lord and dread of all that might displease or grieve Him, fill you. Then shall you never have any evil to fear. He that fears the Lord and seeks to do all that pleases Him, for him shall God also do all that he desires. The childlike believing fear of God will lead you into the love and joy of God, while slavish, unbelieving, cowardly fear is utterly cast out.

He that fears the Lord and seeks to do all that pleases Him, for him shall God also do all that he desires.

O my God, unite my heart for the fear of Thy name. May I always be amongst those that fear the Lord, that hope in His mercy. Amen.

  1. What are some of the blessings of the fear of God? (See Psalm 31:20; 115:13; 127:11; 145:19; Proverbs 1, 7, 8, 13, 14, 27; Acts 10:35.)
  2. What are the reasons why we are to fear God? (See Deuteronomy 10:17, 20, 21; Joshua 4:24; 1 Samuel 12:24; Jeremiah 5:22; 10:6, 7; Matthew 10:28; Revelation 15:4.)
  3. It is especially the knowledge of God in His greatness, power, and glory that will fill the soul with fear. But for this end, we must set ourselves silent before Him, and take time for our soul to come under the impression of His majesty.
  4. “He delivered me from all my fears.” Does this apply to every different sort of fear by which you are hindered? There is the fear of man (Isaiah 41:12, 13; Hebrews 13:16); the fear of heavy trial (Isaiah 40:1, 2); the fear of our own weakness (Isaiah 41:10); fear for the work of God (1 Chronicles 28:20); the fear of death (Psalm 23:4).
  5. Do you now understand the word: “Blessed is the man that fears the Lord. His heart is established, he shall not be afraid”?

This article is taken from chapter 36 of The New Life: Words of God for Young Disciples by Andrew Murray. Text is in the public domain. Andrew Murray (1828–1917) served as a missionary and minister in South Africa. A prolific teacher on the subjects of prayer and a Spirit-filled life, he authored more than 240 books, including Humility and Absolute Surrender.

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