What is the fear of the Lord?
The phrase appears on the pages of Scripture nearly 30 times. Yet quantifying it seems to be somewhat difficult. This is especially true when we consider passages like 1 John 4:18 where we are told perfect love casts out all fear. How then are we to understand the idea of an ongoing fear of the Lord, and yet a full comprehension of His love?
The answer seems best answered in the context of Proverbs 1. A fitting passage I think for what has been termed in our culture “April Fool’s Day.” Here is wisdom for all of us “April’s fools”.
The Writer of the Proverbs opens his powerful and majestic book with a preface describing what he was after in penning it: “To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity.” (vss. 2-3) And then as a summary of his stated direction, and to put in one phrase what he is going to explore throughout the following chapters he tells us: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
In short, if I am catching his drift rightly, he is giving us a worldview of staggering proportions in an amazing economy of words. In essence, I believe he is simply stating, that the fear of the Lord, is to live life in God, fully aware that we are all held to an absolute standard of righteousness, which will be judged and administrated in absolute justice, which will end in absolute fairness wrought out in the context of righteousness and justice. In other words, it is to recognize that God’s standard of righteousness – is the standard of righteousness all are judged by. That in His righteousness, justice must be done, and cannot be perverted or neglected – there are no plea bargains. And that all of this is carried out on an absolutely level playing field – in perfect fairness to all involved, without perverting justice or lowering the standard.
Fools want to live in a universe that has a curved standard, a flexible justice, and fairness perceived mainly in relationship to themselves. But the wise man, sees the universe God’s way – through the lens of God’s own righteousness, justice and equity – and thus flees to God for mercy in Christ – where all of these are met in Him. Fools do not fear God. They dismiss these concepts. The wise – fear the Lord. Not living in terror, but in the mercy and grace that fear leads them to in our Savior.