“The fear of the Lord,” has been an allusive term for me through much of my life. I had always heard it expressed and felt like I maintained a secure definition simply as a defining “respect” for God and his greatness. But I have found this view to be shallow and only grasping at a hope of true knowledge of God. Instead that true knowledge of God comes once we understand the fear of the Lord (Prov. 2:5).
To fear the Lord, certainly as expressed in the wisdom literature of the Bible, is to not only know God and his guidelines for life but to actively respond to him through obedience. Knowledge is meaningless without action in light of God’s will. The fear of the Lord then for us is both the spiritual and rational reaction to that will. Through the lens of covenant with God we over and over again see a demand for obedience and since the wisdom literature was written in this context we can rightly assert that our obedience is a direct reflection of our fear of the Lord.
What then does this obedience look like? For the answer we look to scripture. Job 28:28 shows that the fear of the Lord is “to depart from evil;” Proverbs 16:6 directs that “by the fear of the Lord one keeps away from evil;” and again in Psalm 111:10 we read that “fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom, a good understanding have all those who do his commandments.” Obedience then is doing God’s commandments and turning from evil, even going so far as to “hate evil” as prescribed in Proverbs 8:13.
For me, gaining a right understanding of the fear of the Lord has been like opening my eyes for the first time. I am finally capable of not only theoretically knowing God’s greatness but now living in it through obedience. My mere respect for God is no longer an excuse to keep me from living obediently.
I now approach my own fear of the Lord longing to live obediently. I seek biblical wisdom so that I might obey correctly and turn from sin and evil where I confront it. This might mean removing distraction from my life and seek more of God and for me I think it requires a relentless pursuit of God’s truth and relationship with him.