BY JORDAN MAYER
“And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD…”
My year-long Bible reading plan recently had me in the wisdom literature, which consists of Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. Perhaps I am not the only one that is overwhelmed by all the wonderful verses and bits of wisdom contained in these books?
I am always fascinated by the unique perspective that each book offers. Proverbs highlights the ways of the wise, and the blessing and benefit that follows wise living. There is a simple cause and effect drawn out in the book. Conversely, Job and Ecclesiastes reveal the harsh realities of life, the ways in which things don’t always work the way we think they ought to. Far from simple and logical, life can often be perplexing, frustrating, and overwhelming.
But the thing I find most interesting of all is a particular theme that shows up in all three books (and the rest of Scripture for that matter): the fear of the Lord.
"The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man." (Ecclesiastes 12:13)
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction." (Proverbs 1:7)
"And he said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.’” (Job 28:28)
I find the fear of the Lord to be one of those phrases that immediately elicits a response. We’re not quite sure what to make of it, it sounds somewhat off-putting and abrasive. And yet, each of these books present it as the fundamental element of wisdom, true wisdom.
As we celebrated Father’s Day this past Sunday, I was thinking about how the father-son dynamic is such a helpful aid in understanding this idea. And that is no coincidence! God provides us many models for helping us understand the truths of His Word. When it comes to the fear of the Lord, there is much more wrapped up into this idea than what we might presume.
We often think of fear in the traditional sense, as in being afraid of someone or something. And to a certain extent, this is a healthy fear to cultivate. From a young age, I was taught to fear the consequences of my bad behavior and that became a prompt to pursue what was right. When it comes to God, we must all come to grips with our standing before Him and the terrifying reality of His wrath. This, too, becomes a prompt to seek salvation in the only one who can truly save, Jesus Christ.
But to leave it there is to miss the mark, for that is only one dimension of fear. I think it's the first thing that comes to our minds, but it is not the full picture. Fear is also respect and submission. I don't have to be a parent to know that these two things do not come naturally to children. I do have experience as a child, though, and can say with certainty that they do not! Thus, it is the role of parents to instill these things into their kids. To fear is to respect and submit to a higher authority. This is a fear that is taught and cultivated. It’s a surrendering of the will.
The Bible often uses examples from the lesser to the greater. Thus, if we are to fear our earthly fathers, how much more should we have the fear of the Lord? When we recognize and acknowledge His power and authority, we surrender and submit to His rule over our lives.
Even Jesus possessed a fear of the Lord! Prophesying about the coming Messiah, Isaiah writes, “And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD…” (Isaiah 11:2-3).
Notice this fear is a source of delight! What a wonderful insight into what the fear of the Lord is truly about. It’s not a fear that makes us turn and run, it is a delight to be in. How can this be? It's because this fear is ultimately motivated by love. As a son, the fear of consequences is overshadowed by the greater love and respect I have for my father. It is my love for him that prompts me to do that which pleases him. So it is to a far greater extent with my Heavenly Father. Fear leads me away from sin into a deeper relationship with Him. My greatest fear is to do what is contrary to Him. My desire is to honor and glorify His name. We need not shy away from this fear, rather we may fully embrace it, for we fear Him whom we love.