THIS IS THE WHOLE DUTY OF MAN
A short series of studies ON THE FEAR OF GOD
Pastor Martin R. GABRIEL
“Words taught by the Spirit” (1Cor.2:13)
An Email Ministry for the Glory of God
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecc.12:13).
I have dealt, in the past, with the subject of “The fear of God”, three times, given that I consider this spiritual virtue of highest importance! Each time from another point of view, based on a different Bible verse! This time, some extremely serious and most painful spiritual events brought back to my mind the same theme, but based on a different Bible verse. Parts of my previous spiritual messages have been included in this one.
It is well known and recognized that the Word of God, the Bible, is given by God’s inspiration and that it is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness (2Tim.3:16). The verse that we are going to examine is extremely meaningful! In few words, it expresses a great truth and establishes important spiritual guidelines.
God is not pleased with our beautiful words, our great activities and activism or our talents and natural endowments, which He Himself has put in us. He finds pleasure in the fear of God in us, in our sincere repentance, in our unfeigned faith in His words, and in our unreserved trust in His character. He wants us to have Him sanctified in our hearts and be our fear and our dread (Isa.8:13)! Our search in the Sriptures helps us understand Him and respect Him! He also takes pleasure in our faith when it is successfully tested in fiery trials, in our merciful and truthful character and in our humility and, in general, in the fruit that the Holy Spirit produces in us. In other words, in our “… charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned” (1Tim.1:5). Above all, God is pleased when we fear HIM and keep His commandments; when our obedience proceeds out of love and godly fear which puts God above everything and everyone we love. Yes, when the fear of God pushes us to obey in all His commands, no matter how hard and painful they are! Example: God told Abraham: “[…] Lay not your hand on the lad, neither do you any thing to him: for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son from me” (Gen.22:12). His act of obedience proved his Godly fear!
When people speak of “the fear of God” or of “the holy fear”, they understand the affectionate reverence or “the godly fear” which is due to God! They are right! This is what I believed for quite a long time… But, later, I understood that these words do not reflect fully the notion of the expression of the “fear of God” as it is used in the Bible. We must, also, be “afraid” of God when we sin and do not repent because “our God is a consuming fire…” (Heb.12:29 and Ps.73:18-19). This is the reason why the Lord Jesus Christ declared: “I tell you, No: but, except you repent, you shall all likewise perish” (Lu.13:3, 5). Paul, the apostle, did not write in vain: “And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall mourn many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed” (2Cor.12:21). What does the verb ‘mourn’ mean? Who do you mourn for?
It also means that we are aware of His divine Presence around us all the time and, at the same time, of our littleness. We are also aware within ourselves that the eyes of the LORD our God are always on us from the beginning of the year even to the end of the year (De.11:12). How expressive is the phrase, “I have walked before you in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in your sight […]” (2Kgs.20:3). We also are aware that each and every choice we make may have eternal consequences! We are equally aware that our disobedience will cost us more than our obedience! At the same time we are aware of the love and care of God for us which encompasses us and that He makes all things work together for our good (Rom.8:28)!
The awareness generated by the fear of God Who keeps an eye on us continually pushes us, or better, obliges us to warn and persuade people to give their heart to HIM, to repent sincerely, producing “works” worthy of repentance and of diligent obedience in whatever HE commands! If one fears the Lord and obeys faithfully, he is delivered from all other fears! And not only that, but that we are aware that all we do and say is written in His book! It is written: “Then they that feared the LORD spoke often one to another: and the LORD listened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought on his name” (Mal.3:16). “O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!” (De.5:29). Oh! If God, our heavenly Father, was placed in our heart above everyone and everything we love! Yes, if we loved Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30), then our love, respect and obedience would have made us the happiest people in the world! However, this is not the case for many! Do you remember what the apostle Paul said: “For I have no man like minded, who will naturally care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s” (Phil.2:20-21)?
Definitions and characteristics of the fear of God
- “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogance, and the evil way, and the fraudulent mouth, do I hate” (Prov.8:13);
- “The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honor is humility (Prov.15:33);
- “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov.1:7);
- “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding!” (Prov.9:10)
Consequently, the wise and intelligent man is the one who, because of the fear of the Lord in his heart (from all points of view), hates evil, departs from all kinds of evil and does wholeheartedly the will of God. The immediately above mentioned verses and certain other scriptures (Pr.15:16 and Isa.33:6), as well as the general spirit of the Bible prove that the greatest treasure of the believer is the fear of God, which generates knowledge and wisdom, which, in their turn, lead to salvation, incite man to purification (Ps.19:9) and make him agreeable to God! Then, God fills the pure and obedient heart with His Holy Spirit! (Act.5:32). It is better to have less material goods, but more fear of God, peace and stability (Prov.15:16). May the Lord, make stronger this spiritual principle in us!
The Word of God goes further: It says that “The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death” (Pr.14:27). How many times, prudence, which is the fruit of godly fear, protects us from the snares of Satan and of physical death! Yes, but we must humbly confess that it is not our prudence that has always protected us, but it is God’s protecting hand of love for us foolish people, who commit very often foolish actions… Let us stop and reflect on our past for a while… and of God’s interventions…
The fear of God is a mixture of fear and trembling, but at the same time of attraction and love. It is the affectionate reverence towards God, the Great and Almighty God, Governor of the universe, Who is, nevertheless, a devouring fire, exempt of all favoritism… but, Who is, at the same time, a God of love and mercy! The Bible says: “Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling” (Ps.2:11). He invites us to fear Him and Him only and call upon Him for our salvation, for it is He who can destroy both soul and body in Hell, but who also has loved us so much that He gave His only begotten Son so that whosoever believes in Him should escape eternal damnation and receive eternal salvation. Unfortunately, there are many “believers” who are afraid of men and seek men’s glory, but they do not fear God, neither for their life on earth, from all points of view, nor at the Judgment Day! HIM, it is that we must fear and hallow in our hearts because it is HE who can condemn us or justify us, who can save us and kill us and who can provide us the power to live the life He requires of us. Sincere repentance, worthy of its name, can save, before it is too late! Without repentance there is no salvation!
A misunderstanding concerning the origin of godly fear
It is written that the fear of God in our heart comes from God! Here is the proof: “And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me” (Jer.32:39-40). Alleluia! Isaiah said: “LORD, you will ordain peace for us: for you also have worked all our works in us” (26:12) and Paul, the apostle, proclaimed: “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things after the counsel of his own will” (Eph.1:11). Then, someone might object, saying: “Then, man is not responsible if he is deprived of the fear of God!” NO, ABSOLUTELY NOT! He is responsible not only for the lack of the fear of God in his heart, but he is also responsible for the lack of all the other divine virtues in his life! The responsibility belongs to us! It is written, and what is written remains:
- “… How often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you would not!” (Mat.23:37);
- “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient” (Rom.1:28)
- “And you shall seek me, and find me, when you shall search for me with all your heart.” (Jer.29:13).
Each and every exhortation of the Word of God constitutes for us a certain responsibility!
Conclusion: God will put His fear in us as well everything else that contributes to our salvation and edification PROVIDED we desire them with all our heart and consent that He puts them in us!!! PROVIDED we love truth above everything else and every other person! So, it is for our good and that of our children, as well as for granting us an intimate and eternal relationship with Him that He puts His fear in us! HE the author and HE the guarantor!
I open a parenthesis: God the Father, Jesus Christ His Son and the Holy Spirit should be the only object of our godly fear and trembling and not the «saints» and/or their dry bones or their icons!!! This is why it is written: “Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread” (Isa.8:13). May the Lord help us to live in this way so that His name be sanctified in us. Do we sanctify our Lord Jesus Christ when we turn our heart to other human beings such as the dead saints and even in the holy Mother of Jesus, to save us and to bless us or to give us grace or to help us in our needs as if they were omnipresent and all powerful? Were they crucified for our sins? The spiritual leaders as well as the believers, have they never read that there is one God, and ONE MEDIATOR between God and men, the man CHRIST JESUS? (2Tim.2:5). The spiritual leaders, as well as the believers, have they never read what Jesus declared: “… Truly, truly, I say to you, Whatever you shall ask the Father IN MY NAME, he will give it to you”? (John 16:23). Such leaders are men, who “hold the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom.1:18). Such spiritual leaders shut up the kingdom of heaven against men. They neither go in themselves, neither suffer those that are entering to go in (Mt.23:13-14). Unfortunately, they belong to that category of spiritual leaders that Paul named as “deceiving, and being deceived”. Those who would dare resist and reprove them – because they want to live godly in Christ Jesus – will suffer persecution directly or indirectly (2Tim.3:12-13).
The Bible says: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1Pet.3:15). Such an attitude will lead us, first, to defend ourselves with gentleness and respect toward every man (De.14: 23; Jos.4: 24; Pr.23:17) and second be able to help our children and other people to fear no-one else but God alone and acquire a listening ear! (Ps.34:11). From the first day that I understood the importance of the fear of God in my life, I have not stopped praying God to put His fear in my children’s heart…
Fear God and not men
Yes, we should fear God and not men, not only in order to be given His blessings, but also to avoid the consequences of His warnings! This is the reason why the fear of God is our “treasure”. This is why, when we pray, we must ask God to put His fear into the hearts of those we pray for, whether it has to do with our children, our parents, our relatives or with friends or even our enemies. Yes, the fear of God leads to life but the fear of men lays or brings snares! The only way to get rid of the fear of men and of “calamities” is to fear God and to pay attention to all the “Thus says the Lord”. Someone said: “We fear men so much because we fear God so little”. The fear of men renders us weak in front of difficulties. Can there ever be happiness and power when the servile fear of flesh exists? We should not therefore fear those who kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul, but rather Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Mt.10:28). Jesus spoke often about Hell! Do we? Or do we avoid it systematically? Are we more gentle and compassionate than Jesus? Let, therefore, pray God to teach us to number our days, so that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom and understand the fear of God (Ps.90:12).
The opposite of the fear of God
On the contrary, unbelievers who do not fear God are afraid of other gods (2Ki.17:38) and are fearful and tremble where there is no reason to be in fear (Re.21: 8; Ps.53:5). In addition, they fear other men, even the annoying and threatening voice of members of their family. May the Lord protect us and not permit that we be “driven” by their voices and do things that are disagreeable to God! May He help us, on the contrary, to do all that is useful for our fellow men and the members of our family for the salvation of their soul and for their “real” prosperity! Let never the fear of men have the upper hand on us! (1Sam.15:24 and Joh.9:22). Fortunately, the wrath of God is not intended for those who have humbly accepted the forgiveness and the grace of God (Isa.2: 19; Lu.21: 26; Re.6: 16-17; Heb.10:27). “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus…” (Rom.8:1)
Another thing that makes people to be in a state of unholy fear is a guilty conscience! How true! Guilty conscience, the “nakedness” of our conscience, pushes us to hide in the circumstances of life or in the “darkness” or in isolation. They fear the light which makes their works manifest! In the book of Genesis 3:10, we read: “And he said, I heard your voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself” (See also Gen.4:14). How true the Word of God is when it declares: “There is no peace for the wicked” (Isa.48: 22; 57:21) and that “The fear of the wicked, it shall come upon him: but the desire of the righteous shall be granted” (Pr.10:24)! What a promise, what a blessing! Then, our desires, our holy desires, will be given us! Thank you, Lord!!! (Pr.10:24). And how comforting is His Word, which says:
- “But whoever listens to me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil” (Pr.1:33).
- “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Ps.27: 1; Rom.8: 31-35; Isa.8:12)
So, we conclude that when we trust God, we are preserved from unholy fear… The Bible confirms that the transgression of the wicked proves that there is no fear of God before his eyes (Ps.36:1).
Heavenly Father, teach us to number our days aright, that we may apply our heart unto wisdom, and understand the fear of the Lord (Ps.90:12). Help us, Lord, to use well our time, the time that you have loaned us before eternity, and to apply our heart to acquire the fear of the Lord. Lord, keep us from feelings and intentions of avenging ourselves or of rewarding evil for evil! Are we in Your place? The right of vengeance and of recompense belongs only to You! Do not permit that we be overcome by evil, but that we overcome evil with good (Gen.50: 19; Rom.12:17-21). Let your fear be in us and in our children so that our homes may prosper! (Exod.1:21) Amen!
“Words taught by the Spirit” (1Cor.2:13)
An Email Ministry for the Glory of God
“Oh, how great is your goodness, which you have laid up for them that fear you; which you have worked for them that trust in you before the sons of men!” (Ps.31:19)
Additional reasons we should fear God
The basic reasons why we should fear God have already been mentioned, but I would like to add some more:
- We do not have to do with a “little God” or with a “little Jesus” but with “… the LORD our God who is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regards not persons, nor takes reward (De.10:12-17).
- The creation of the world: God is the Creator of the world, of the universe! Stop and think of it! Man can produce plastic leaves or flowers, but cannot give them life! He can produce robots, but cannot give them life! Only God can give life. HE is the only source of life! Man can produce many things, but can also destroy everything that has life in it, given by God! Stop and think!
- His love for us: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (Joh.3: 16); and
- The forgiveness of our sins: “But there is forgiveness with you, that you may be feared” (Ps.130:4). How is it possible not to fear Him? What are we going to become if He does not forgive our sins?
Make us, Father, we pray, in the name of our Lord Jesus, what You want us to be!
The fear of God is of basic importance
The Bible says: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb.10:31) and “[…] God is a consuming fire” (Heb.12:29). The respect and awe for God influence our lives. The fear of God and the love for God are not mutually exclusive. Children, as a rule, fear their parents, but, at the same time they love them. If these two elements coexist children grow normally and have a healthy physical, psychic and mental development. This is also true with our heavenly Father. Then, HE can bless us from all points of view. True believers teach their children the fear of God and the love of God because, “[…] the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love” (Ps.33:18).
With such thoughts in my heart, I wrote, many years ago: I believe that the Lord answered my prayer in a strange and unexpected way: I believe that the Lord responded to me in a strange and unexpected way: As I was reading the Bible intensely and repeatedly, I saw the judgments or the blessings that have followed a word, an act or a thought of men in respect of which the Bible speaks, my soul has been seized by a profound sense of godly fear. The first thing I did when I understood the importance of the fear of God was to wonder if I could suffer similar consequences due to a bad or incorrect choice, word, act or thought. That is why I asked God to show me how he sees me – who I am to Ηis eyes. It is a request that I often repeat: “That which I see not teach you me: if I have done iniquity, I will do no more” (Job 34:32). I was taught the fear of the Lord (Ps.34:11), in the same way the Police teaches drivers to drive prudently by means of images of accidents along the highways…”
Here are some examples:
Israel’s act of unbelief at Kadeshbarnea: For an act of unbelief at Kadesh, the people of Israel erred for forty years in the desert and did not enter God’s rest! Let us therefore fear, lest we miss a promise being left also for us of entering into His rest, any of us should seem to come short of it… (Heb.4:1-6).
Nadab and Abihu, Aaron’s sons, were put to death because each took his censer, added incense and put ‘strange fire, unauthorized fire, before the LORD, contrary to His command’ (Lev.10:1)…
Different Kings of Israel: How severely they were treated by God, who at the moment of danger, asked for the help of other heathen kings and/or concluded alliances with other wicked kings or sent to inquire of the gods of other nations to find out whether they were going to be cured from their sicknesses etc. (2Ki.1:2-8)!
David, who suffered – in grace, because God had forgiven him of his grave sin and was not put to death – a multiple punishment… (2Sam.12:5-13). We should not also forget that David was afraid of God that day when the LORD poured his wrath on Uzza for an unimportant reason, in our eyes! David did not dare bring the ark of God in his home (1Chr.13:11-12).
The lord counselor of the king who was trampled to death in the gate by the people because he did not believe that God could give food and deliverance to the people under siege (2Ki.7:1-20).
Esau, who could not find a place of repentance, although he sought it carefully with tears, because for one morsel of meat he sold despitefully his birthright (Heb.12:16).
Nebuchadnezzar, who ‘paid’ with seven years of craziness a megalomaniac and arrogant thought… (Dan.4:30-33).
Zachariah, who stayed dumb for months… because he did not believe the words of the angel which would be fulfilled “in their season” (Lu.1:18-20).
Ananias and Sapphira! What a horrible end did they have because they told a lie and pretended to be spiritual! A lie which, in our eyes, is but a simple lie, but in God’s eyes, was a lie to the Holy Spirit! (Ac.5:1-11).
The people of Israel how they were chastised for their sins! And what about the word it said: “… His blood be on us, and on our children” (Mt.27:25 and 23:35). The people “paid” for their sins along the past centuries. And in the 20th century, with the holocaust that Hitler committed. God will judge us for every idle word… but he will also reward us even for a cup of cold water given to one of his little disciples just because he is His disciple… Who can, therefore, despise the day of small things? (Mt.12: 36-37; 10:42 and Zec.4:10).
Conclusion: Where the fear of God does not exit, there exist:
Pride, lies, violence, injustice, unbelief, conspiracy, malice, meanness, discord, etc. It is written in the Word of God: “These six things does the LORD hate: yes, seven are an abomination to him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, an heart that devises wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaks lies, and he that sows discord among brothers » (Prov.6:16-19).
In addition to the aforementioned cases I would like to mention a case of special importance: That of Moses: Moses: I saw the way the Lord treated him when he made a mistake. He was angry with him (De.1:37) because, instead of speaking to that rock, as he was ordered to do, he struck the rock with his staff twice. Also, because he spoke to the people as if they, Moses and Aaron, and not God, were going to make the rock bring out water. There was no mention of the name of the Lord for the miracle (Nu.20:8-12)! God deprived him of the blessing to enter into the Promised Land. Was Moses an unbeliever or a wicked man? However, God was so austere with him! He did not obey diligently God’s instructions (Ps.119:3). I humbly confess that I do not understand fully the true seriousness of his act and God’s severity. The fact that I do not understand them makes me to be more fearful…
Abraham: Abraham’s godly fear led him to great faith and brought him to an act of obedience without precedent: To accept and take the decision to sacrifice his only begotten son (Ge.22:12)! As a result of Abraham’s godly choice sprang from him, who was as good as dead, so many descendants as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable. He became the father of faith and of all the faithful (Heb.11:8-12).
Joseph did not dare to commit a great wickedness and sin against God, though young and tempted in such a provocative way by the Egyptian’s wife! He feared God! (Gen.39:9). And he did know that! He said it one day to his own brothers who had come to Egypt for buying food! (Gen.42:18). Then I said in my heart: “We sin against You, Father, for things of much less importance. How is then Your fear in us? Help us, Lord, we pray!”
Phinehas, for his act of zeal, justice and holy indignation against evil has remained as an eternal memorial… He was given a reward: A covenant of peace and of everlasting priesthood… (Num.25:7-13).
Nehemiah, who, though a governor, did not ever want to be chargeable unto the people; he acted this way because of the fear of God! Godly fear and piety go together! What a mentality! May we, Lord, become men who are not chargeable or oppressive neither to our neighbors nor to the members of their family! May we become men of such spiritual dignity! Oh, if we had such politicians and spiritual leaders! (Neh.5:15). God examines the heart… But, let us not forget that there are people who do what is right, but not with a perfect heart… (2Chr.25:2). May our Lord Jesus, help us to be careful the way we live and build…! (1Cor.3:10).
Job: The source of blamelessness, uprightness and of shunning evil of that man of God, as well as the sensation that he was living in God’s presence and “under” His eyes, was but the fear of God in his heart (Job 1:1, 8)! May such a character be formed in us also!
Cornelius: The source of the piety of this devout man, of his continuous prayers and his alms to the people were but the fear of God (Ac.10:2). May the same attitude be reproduced in us, Lord!
The woman, who poured on Jesus the ointment and who wiped his feet with her hair! Her act remained as a memorial of her! (Mt.26:13) God examines the heart!
The early Christians, who, walking in the fear of the Lord, were edified and the Church grew in the comfort of the Holy Spirit (Ac.9:31). The fear of the Lord in their heart did not only constitute the beginning of their wisdom and piety but also of their continuation. When we obey God’s will in the Lord’s fear, then the Holy Spirit comes to help us to develop… and fills us with wisdom and spiritual power!
After all these above-mentioned bad and good cases, of bad and good choices respectively, and having in mind all the relevant WARNINGS for those who do not fear God as well as the wonderful PROMISES on behalf of those who fear God, I prayed our heavenly Father and wrote, inter alia, in my agenda: “Let your fear be in me so that I hate sin! Put Your fear in me and in my family so that we may prosper spiritually! Lord, do not ever allow that peace and prosperity reign in my home without Godly fear. Lord, help me so that where I rule, I rule justly, ruling in the fear of God, especially in the context of my family. Make me, Lord, a man full of Your fear so that I may heed all my ways, my acts and my words, so that I may not be reproached by my enemies or by members of my family and give any offense to anyone and in nothing that our ministry be blamed; on the contrary, that in all things be approved as a faithful steward of divine truths… Lord, let my godly fear make me a diligent and faithful man… May my godly fear and my confidence in YOU be transmitted to others! Father! Even the simple hearing of your Word makes people fear You. Help, therefore, me and my family to study daily and diligently your Word! Father, having such excellent commandments and promises, help us to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
“Words taught by the Spirit” (1Cor.2:13)
An Email Ministry for the Glory of God
“He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you but to do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God?” (Mic.6:8)
What the LORD requires of you…
If we compare Deut.10:12, which says: “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul,” with the one of Ecclesiastes 12:13 which says: “Let us hear the end of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole of man”, we arrive at the interesting conclusion that what is good for man is but THE FEAR OF GOD in him.
The fear of God is described as:
- “Hatred of evil”: “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogance, and the evil way, and the fraudulent mouth, do I hate” (Pr.8:13);
- “Wisdom”: “… Behold, the fear of the LORD, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding” (Job 28:28; Pro.1:7). In addition, he who has the fear of God, has a good understanding and a sound reasoning, given that: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments…” (Ps.111:10).
But why is the fear of God our “good”?
It is our good because it brings us to salutary wisdom and salvation: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge» (Pr.1:7). John Bunyan said: “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, and they that lack the beginning have neither middle nor end”. Let us also mention some other reasons:
- The fear of God renders us prudent and protects us from traps of men and from the snares of the Devil. The Bible says: “The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may avoid the snares of death” (Pr.14:27). Acts which are not based on God’s fear are deprived of understanding and he who wanders from the way of understanding will rest in the assembly of the dead (Pr.21:16);
- The fear of God pushes man to avoid iniquity and hate sin. The Bible says: “By mercy and truth, iniquity is purged, and by the fear of the LORD men turn away from evil” (Pr.16:6). Have you ever seen someone who does not avert of his sins, but repeats them and does not confess them? Do not waste your time looking for the reason and the explanation: I can tell you on the authority of the Word of God… the fear of God is not yet in his heart: “The transgression of the wicked says within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes” (Ps.36:1);
- The fear of God is the source of numerous precious blessings. Yes, of so many blessings, which could not be compared with blessings of other promises, which are given as an answer or as a reward to other virtues. Here are some that God holds in reserve for those who fear Him:
- The secret (or the friendship) of the LORD is with them that fear Him… (Ps.25:14);
- The Lord teaches the way man must choose… (Ps.25:12);
- He takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in his steadfast love (Ps.147:11);
- He gives wisdom and knowledge to those who fear Him (Pr.1:7);
- His mercy is on those who fear him… (Luke 1:50);
- He protects and covers those who fear the Lord, even if they walk in darkness and have no light… (Isa.50:10);
- He listens to their discussions and writes them in a book of remembrance (Mal.3:16). God keeps minutes of their discussions! What an honor, but also what a responsibility!!!
Consequently, the wise and intelligent man is the one who, because of the fear of the Lord in his heart, hates evil and departs from all kinds of evil. The immediately above mentioned verses and certain other scriptures (Pr.15:16 and Isa.33:6), as well as the general spirit of the Bible prove that the greatest treasure of the believer is the fear of God, which generates wisdom and knowledge, which, in their turn, lead to salvation, drive a man to purification (Ps.19:9) and make him agreeable to God who fills him with His Holy Spirit (Ac.5:32). It is better to have less material goods, but more fear of God, peace and stability. May the Lord, make stronger this principle in us! The Word of God goes further: It says that “The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death” (Pr.14:27). How many times, prudence, which is the fruit of godly fear, has protected us from the snares of Satan and of physical death? Yes, but we must humbly confess that it is not our prudence that has always protected us, but it is God’s protecting hand of love for us foolish people who do very often foolish actions… Let us stop and reflect on our past for a while… and of God’s interventions…
Relation between godly fear and sin
Godly fear is not only necessary for the service of God, but it is also necessary to avoid sin. It is written: “… Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that you sin not.” (Ex.20:20). Yes, “… that you sin not”! Why not sin? So that the infinite love of God may bless them and do them good! Those who do not have His fear before their eyes have the tendency to sin… and it is the fear of God that makes us avoid sin! (See also Ps.36:1 and Pr.16:6). Let His fear hinder us from sinning and grieving and quenching the Holy Spirit! (Eph.4:30 and Thes.5:19). The father, in the parable of the prodigal son, was always waiting for him impatiently and had no bitterness in his heart against his prodigal son, but it was necessary that his prodigal son to come to himself and say to his father: “I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight, and am no more worthy to be called your son” (Luc 15 :17, 21). Then, the tender relation between the father and the son was re-established!
Godly fear is also necessary to lead a righteous government: “… He that rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God” (2Sam.23:3). I understand, therefore, that he who rules in the fear of God rules necessarily with justice, because of his godly fear. (2Sam.23:3). May the Lord help us to rule in our family and behave in His Church with justice and in the fear of God! And not only that, but it is also indispensable for the impartial administration of justice (Né.5: 9; 2Chr.19:7). May He give us abundantly His fear in our heart so that we may take heed on our acts and act faithfully and with a perfect heart (2Chr.19:6-9). With such an “arsenal” of excellent commandments and promises, filling our hearts and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we will be able to “enjoy” the cleansing of ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2Cor.7:1). We must, however, admit that there are people who do what is right, but out of love and respect either towards God or towards their parents. Very typical is the case of the sons of Jonadab the son of Rechab who wanted to respect the desire/prohibition that their deceased father had commanded them never to drink wine (Jer.35:1-16).
Relation between godly fear, service and worship
The Bible says: “Then they that feared the LORD spoke often one to another: and the LORD listened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought on his name” (Mal.3:16). It also says that where two or three gather together in the Name of the Lord Jesus in godly fear and willing to honor Him, He is there in their midst (Mt.18: 20); HE is there to listen to them and to bless them! What an honor to be visited by Him and be blessed by Him! These two scriptures as well as many others tell us that the church, the church life of Christians is not a monologue but a rotating dialogue… (1Cor.14:29-32). Should we forget what the Bible says: “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2Cor 3:17)?
The Bible commands: “Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him” (Ps.2:11-12). We understand from this verse that the joy of the saints and their service for Jesus Christ are and should be accompanied by a feeling of fear and of trembling, as it was the case of the women who visited the sepulcher of Jesus and who, being seized by fear and joy (Lu.24:5) departed quickly from the sepulcher and, with fear and great joy ran to serve Him by bringing the news to the disciples (Mt.28:8). I do believe that, when their words appeared to the disciples as idle tales, and they did not believe them, they must have been seized again by fear, trembling and sorrow for the account of the disciples. May our Heavenly Father inspire us with the spirit of joy, of fear and of trembling in the eternal presence of the Resurrected One!
These Bible verses and the fact that we are before the Lord and in His audience bring to my mind the sad feeling I have when I see Christians – I do say those believing in Christ and His work, men, women, official and unofficial, and youth, and not just sympathizers or unbelievers – who during the Church services or worship hours appear before the Lord either with indecent apparel or chewing-gum or whistling and behaving as if in a football match. I was wondering: Would that be their way if they were invited by the Prime Minister or the President or the King of their Country? How would they present themselves and how should they behave? How much more before the King of kings and the Lord of lords? The Lord our God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints and to be in reverence of all them that are about Him (Ps.89:7). It is true that the Lord, in the eyes of the saints, God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be revered by all those that are about him (Ps.89:7), but in the eyes of the great mass of the so-called Christians, He is always the “little Jesus” just as during the Christmas season.
And what can be said about seeing the youth of the church, dancing in a programmed and organized way, dances (ballets) and pretending that they are “spiritual dances”. They compare them with the spontaneous and full of joy and reverent dance of King David when he was bringing the ark of God in the middle of the street! And what should we say about ballets danced by ballerinas or future dancers and pretending that their Christian artistic activity is in line with Scripture and the approval of the Holy Spirit!!!
David’s dance was purely spontaneous and spiritual, springing out of the abundance of the joy of his heart for the ark of the Lord. He was a man totally devoted to God’s will and glory. He was a simple man and he was not a trained “dancer”. When God visited me with a great blessing I jumped and danced for hours in my room! Such arguments water down the Word of God and make the church deviate when such activities take place in the context of worship of the church! The church is THE HOUSE OF PRAYER, of worship and of fellowship (Isa.56:7). The Word of God is against strange, unauthorized or profane “fire” before the Lord, which He has not commanded us (Lev.10: 1)… Clapping of hands by the congregation does not mean God’s approval… The fact that many like dances IN the Church does not mean that they are spiritually minded or that the dancers IN the Church are Biblically supported. If people want to see ballets, etc. let them go to other places, but not IN the Church of God and especially on the Sunday morning services!
Does the Bible say that our Lord Jesus Christ and His disciples danced? Have they ever seen the Apostles or the first Christians, who have turned the world upside down, with their preaching on repentance, faith and the resurrection of Christ from the dead (Acts, Chapters 2-3, 1Corinthians, Chapters 1-2, 2Corinthians, Chapters 1-2 etc., etc.) organizing such spectacles? Have they ever found anything about dancing IN the Old Testament Temple, IN the synagogues and IN the early Christian Churches? Such things take place in modern Churches where the worldly spirit has invaded them… Such Churches are doomed sooner or later to spiritual blindness. Have we ever heard that such artistic dances have contributed to spiritual revivals? True spiritual revivals come only through repentance and brokenness (2Chr.7:14).
The only thing that is sure and certain is that such activities become a source of offense and provide “food” for damaging, if not destructive criticism… The Bible says: “Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died” (Rom.14:15). The Bible also says: “Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense. It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak” (Rom.14:20-21). Also, “Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble” (1Cor.8:13). Furthermore, it is written: “… woe to that man by whom the offense comes!” (Mt.18: 6-7; Lu.17:1-2). We have not the “liberty” to offend people who come from different backgrounds or are not mature in the faith and upset their weak conscience, which might be either defiled or emboldened to do inappropriate things! (1Cor.8.13; Mt.18: 6-7; Lu.17: 1-2; Rom.14: 13; 14:20-21 etc.).
The best way of pleasing God and of worshipping our Lord is to obey His voice in fear and trembling; the best way to please the Lord is to worship Him in spirit and in truth; the best way is to offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name and never to forget to do good and to communicate.
We conclude, therefore, that “godly fear” is necessary for worshiping God. One of God’s children said: “But as for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy: and in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple” (Ps.5:7). There is but one way to serve Him acceptably: Show Him our gratitude for the kingdom that we have inherited, for the infinite grace that we have received as well as through a holy life (Ps.116:12-14). It is not sufficient to organize in the church a beautiful service, very presentable and agreeable to assist; it is reverence and holy fear that count… Our real service to our Heavenly Father is to give thanks always for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and by submitting ourselves one to another in the fear of God (Eph.5:20-21).
Yes, Lord, we are aware that it is thanks to the multitude of your mercy that we enter into the edifice of your grace (your salvation), into your house (your church) and we will enter into your kingdom. Help us, Lord, therefore, to live each and every moment of our life, seized by a profound feeling of godly fear.
Promises to those who fear God
As I have already mentioned, the genuine fear of God constitutes the source of the most numerous and important promises of God in favor of those who accept Him and obey the spiritual laws with which God endowed man when he created him and which were “exposed and He amplified” by Jesus Christ! It is impossible in the context of this short series on the fear of God to mention all God’s promises! Here is a small sample of them:
- “But in every nation he that fears him, and works righteousness, is accepted with him” (Acts 10:35);
- We see in this promise that are accepted by Him all those, who, irrespective of national origin, color, etc. fear God, love the truth and work righteousness! God is not a racist! God is not a respecter of persons. HE loves all the world unconditionally, but especially those who are upright, love the truth and justice and put into action His will! With such people the lost communion and “friendship” are reestablished!
- “What man is he that fears the LORD? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose” (Ps.25:12).
- We see in this short verse the wonderful promise that the LORD teaches, guides and leads the man or woman who fears Him to do the right and the best choice in order to be guided to do the right things for themselves and for their fellow men: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Rom.8:14)! Those who fear God are guided by Him! They are given light and direction! That means that they are “governed” by the Spirit and are the children of God (Rom.8:14). In addition: He will fulfill the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them (Ps.145:19) and “The fear of the LORD prolongs days […] (Prov.10:27). Amen!
- “Like as a father pities his children, so the LORD pities them that fear him” (Ps.103:13).
- We see in this wonderful promise the love and protection of the heavenly Father! In all their affliction He is afflicted! The angel of his presence saves them! In His love and in his pity He redeems them! He bears them, and carries them all the days (Isa.63:9)!
- “The LORD takes pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy” (Ps.147:11).
- Incredible but true! If the Lord takes pleasure in all those who fear HIM and keep hoping in His mercy, irrespective of all the adversities of life, what is He going to do for them, how is He going to treat them? Those who fear Him and hope in His mercy can be compared with those who seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness! How will He treat them? Is He not going to add to their life all the best arsenal of His blessings? (Mat.6:33). Alleluia!
- “Who is among you that fears the LORD, that obeys the voice of his servant, that walks in darkness, and has no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay on his God” (Isa.50:10).
- When I first read and understood this promise, I became indescribably joyful and encouraged! Peace flooded my soul! My inner man was radically changed! It is, therefore, possible to walk is darkness and have no light, although he fears the Lord and obeys His voice! Let not him be troubled. God loves him and makes all things work together for his good! Let trust Him unreservedly, because He will take care of his problem and will guide him to a safe port. It suffices to fear Him and obey His voice! “Commit your way to the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass” (Ps.37:5)
“And this is the record, that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (1John 5:11)
“Why we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Heb.12:28)