“Then you will understand the fear of the LORD
and find the knowledge of God.
For the LORD gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding”
The fear of the Lord can be a difficult concept to grasp. Consequently, there may be a tendency to minimize it in explanation to make it easier…but this can lead us to continue on with that simplistic description without ever really understanding it more clearly. When I was a child, fearing the Lord was equated with respecting Him. And I can understand that. We don’t want to scare children away from the God who loves them and desires that they will come to Him freely. What I’ve realized, however, is that my translation of respecting God didn’t quite get everything that I think “the fear of the LORD” is supposed to mean.
Take this statement in Deuteronomy 10:20-21, for example: “You shall fear the LORD your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear. He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen.” In Isaiah 30:27 and 33, the prophet writes, “Behold, the name of the LORD comes from afar, burning with his anger, and in thick rising smoke; his lips are full of fury, and his tongue is like a devouring fire…For a burning place has long been prepared…the breath of the LORD, like a stream of sulfur, kindles it.” Our God does great and terrifying things. He does all that He pleases and answers to no one. His justice will be satisfied and His righteousness will stand forever. His power is greater than any we can fathom.
Considering these verses (and others), fearing the Lord should not be made simplistic. It can be difficult to swallow. It may seem impossible to wrap our minds around. But this is spoken of so often in Scripture, it’s extremely important for us as those who have made a declaration to believe in and follow Him. And something truly wonderful will happen to our faith when we allow God to shape our view of Him and enable us to understand what it is to fear Him. It brings us to a greater awe that He has chosen us. Because this great, almighty God who can do unspeakably terrifying and wonderful things—He is for us. He is on our side. He has declared that He is our Father and we are His. He keeps us. He delights in us.
It is this God who has said, “I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul” (Jeremiah 32:40-41). Our fear of Him and His good to us go hand-in-hand.
Reading the beginning of Proverbs 2, I began to wonder how diligent we are at seeking out the wisdom that would enable to understand this mystery of the fear of the Lord. The knowledge of God, the fear of the Lord—these aren’t things we can reason out. They are grasped only in the wisdom which God Himself gives. He enlightens our heart. But He will not do so for the casual observer, one who is less than intent on seeking Him. Looking to verses 1-4, we are given a picture of the persistence we are to have.
We must receive His words and treasure up His commandments.
We make our ear attentive to wisdom.
We incline our heart to understanding.
We call out for insight.
We raise our voice for understanding.
We place high value upon it, seeking wisdom and understanding like silver and searching it out as hidden treasure.
There is no complacency seen here. There are no excuses given for the ear or the heart or the mind—the person is determined to seek out wisdom and understanding, calling out for it, searching with every bit of his might. Seeing our persistent dedication, the Lord gives wisdom. We are then made to understand the fear of the Lord, and we find the knowledge of God. So let us seek it out. Let us refuse to miss the wonder and glory and power of this mystery. It may hold for us greater rejoicing in the work of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in our lives.