Monday, May 18, 2009

What does it mean to "fear the Lord"?

We all know that the "fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Prov. 9.10). But what does it actually mean to "fear the Lord"? I think the answer is provided by Deuteronomy 10:

Deuteronomy 10:12-13 - "And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD's commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?"

Deuteronomy 10:20 - "Fear the LORD your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name."

In sum, the fear of the Lord is to follow, love, obey, and serve him!


smijer said...

From Strongs:
1) to fear, revere, be afraid
a) (Qal)
1) to fear, be afraid
2) to stand in awe of, be awed
3) to fear, reverence, honour, respec
I have to say revere or stand in awe of is the better definition.

"Fear" is paired with these other commands in Deuteronomy, but that doesn't necessarily imply that it is synonymous with these other commands. Do we think that "love" means "to honor and obey" because it is paired with those in the wedding vows?

Josh said...

I agree with B. Waltke that "fear of the Lord" is both subjective and objective. Most understand only the subjective sense of "fear"; reverential awe and respect, as you've mentioned. However, other texts affirm that "fear" involves a subjective sense, referring to the word of God in Scripture. A good example of this comes from Ps. 19:9, where "fear" is synonymous with law, testimony, precepts, and commandments.

Fun stuff!

- Josh

David Reimer said...

Wot? An NT blog with no reference here to Luke 12:4-5??

Unknown said...

All of you are more highly educated in these matters than I. I am teaching a small group on the Rule of Benedict, and we have been dealing with fear of the Lord. I compare it to the sublime--beauty and terror.

The Tornado is beautiful to see, and it is a terror both to behold, and to experience.

Gordon Kennedy said...

The more often I come across this phrase in Scripture I think it reads like a shorthand way of saying something like, 'this is how you are to live together with God this life he has given you under the sun'.

udernation said...

I've got to say, Michael, that your logic doesn't really follow.

Deuteronomy 10:12-13 clearly separates fear of the Lord from walking in his ways, loving him, serving him and obeying him. It states that fear of the Lord is not these things, but something separate. I see no evidence that these are repetitions of the same concept.

Deuteronomy 10:20, similarly. Fear the Lord AND serve him. Two separate commands; not a definition.

Geoff Arnold said...

While the points above are good (noticing the list of commands) I don't know if Strong's "afraid" works either. It seems that it would be very similar (if it is not) to following, obeying, and serving the Lord. The issue I take with describing the fear of the Lord as being afraid of him is that Paul says there is no fear in love. Strong's definition of being afraid seems to contradict Paul's statement.

ghallead said...

Anyone care to comment on the Hebrew and Greek roots? My sense is that they have different nuances... Certainly perfect love casts out all fear but...that stands in contrast to the command to love the Lord your God... and fear the Lord your God.