I came across a list on the internet of more than 500 phobias, indexed alphabetically. Some, like pteronophobia (the fear of being tickled by feathers) are rare and unusual. Then there are others, like atomosophobia (the fear of atomoic explosions), I think we should all have.
By definition, phobias are abnormal fears. But the Bible teaches it is normal for believers to fear God. In fact, God promises some incredible things to those who do. And when we do, we don’t have to fear anything else!
I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Psalm 34:4-7, NIV
Isn’t it ironic that the one fear the Bible consistently encourages us to have is one we sorely lack?
Here are just a few of the passages in the Bible that command us to fear God and depict godly fear as the correct, positive attitude towards God.
- The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them. Ps 25:14, NIV
- The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. Ps 110:10a, NIV
- Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who finds great delight in his commands. Ps 112:1, NIV
- He who fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge. Prov 14:26, NIV
- Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28
- Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. 1 Peter 1:17, NIV
I could list many more, but these few show that God does indeed expect His children to fear Him. And if you missed the promises in these verses, go back and look again!
Here is the definition (from the Online Bible Greek and Hebrew Lexicon) for the Hebrew word, yare’, that is translated as “fear” in these passages:
To fear, be afraid; to stand in awe of, be awed; to fear, reverence, honor, respect
Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words elaborates on the meaning of yare’. “Used of a person in an exalted position, [yare’] connotes ‘standing in awe.’ This is not simple fear, but reverence, whereby an individual recognizes the power and position of the individual revered and renders him proper respect.”
The Bible often equates the fear of God with living rightly and obediently before Him. (See Deut 4:9-14, 5:22-29, 10:12-13 for examples.) In fact, as you read through the Bible you will see that the fear of God and obeying Him are almost synonymous ideas.
In his book, The Joy of Fearing God, Jerry Bridges states that people who continue to live in sin and stubbornly refuse to obey God apparently have no fear of God or His discipline. “Anytime we sin with the thought lurking in the back of our minds that God will forgive us, we aren’t living in the fear of God.” I know I have been guilty of trying to take advantage of God’s grace in this way.
The proper fear of God is based on who He is. Based on my study and observation, I believe the primary reason we fail to fear God as we should is because our view of God is limited. Tomorrow, we will take a closer look at God’s holy nature and expand our view of God!
Have you ever been guilty of “taking advantage of God’s grace?”