The Fear of the Lord is a concept that the church generally seems to struggle with, yet it appears to be quite comfortable with messages of God’s infinite love. A lazy approach to theology has difficulty reconciling a God who wants us to fear and love Him. Like a lost, ancient language, the notion of fearing the Lord has largely disappeared from the church’s vernacular.
Although separated by thousands of years, all of the writers and prophets of Scripture possessed a common predisposition of fear, awe, and reverence toward God. When these leaders spoke and wrote, they did so with innate awe of God that colored everything they said and did. Like someone unaware of his verbal accent, these leaders spoke and wrote with a godly, reverential bias, often without even being aware of it.
In Scripture, the Hebrew and Greek words, phobeo, yirah or yare, and eulabeia are translated as “fear, awe, and reverence,” depending on the context. Primarily, they are translated as “fear.” However, fear of the Lord is not so much a word defined in a dictionary but a personal predisposition toward the God of the universe. It is an ingrained attitude that outwardly manifests itself at different times as we display fear, awe, and reverence for God. Awe and reverence, however, differ from fear. They are not substitutes for or synonyms of the fear of the Lord. Instead, awe and reverence are outward expressions of the fear of God.
The fear of the Lord is a paradigm we have toward God. Condensing it down to a specific definition cannot be done any more than words can adequately describe the beauty of a sunset. So that we craft a well-rounded, scriptural understanding in these devotionals, I will develop the concept of the fear of the Lord using all three terms. However, the predominant term “fear” will be used in keeping with Scripture and Jesus’ instruction when he admonished his disciples.
But I will show you whom you should fear [phobeo]: Fear [phobeo] him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear [phobeo] him. Luke 12:5