To fear God is to live as a biblically minded person. We cannot come to know God until we also have come to fear him. We argue and strain under this, thinking God is a gentle Father who treats us as baby lambs. This may be true, but the Israelites did not experience that. “For this great fire will consume us. If we hear the voice of the Lord our God any more, we shall die.”
Wisdom springs from the fear of the Lord (Psalm 111:10). None other than Jesus himself, the Son of God and the Messiah of Israel, experienced the fear of the Lord, and it was a “delight” to him (Isaiah 11:1-2). The church also is to live in the fear of the Lord (Acts 9:31).
This is reverence, certainly (Ephesians 5:21). We think highly of God. We understand him to be all-powerful. We recognize he holds our eternal future in his hands, and he demands we worship him alone and not the material things of this world. It is not lost on us, as it was not lost on Job, that God gives life – and he can take it away (Job 1:21).
For the ancient Israelites, the fear of the Lord drove them to obedience. “Go near and hear all that the Lord our God will say … and we will hear and do it.” This pleased God. “Oh that they had such a heart as this always.”
Of course, they did not. The fear of the Lord, holy reverence for the One True God, faded from view for the people of Israel. They no longer found their delight in this sacred fear, and their obedience suffered. Those who fail to fear God will face discipline.
The early church walked in this fear of the Lord. They also had the Holy Spirit – a gift that had not yet been given to the Israelites in the wilderness. And they walked both in the fear of the Lord and in the “comfort of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9:31). This is the Holy Spirit who writes the law of God on our hearts and shows us the way of obedience to his commands (Jeremiah 31:33).
To experience the fear of God means you are almost there, just knocking on the door of salvation. All that’s left is to trust in Christ. That is when the comfort comes. Are you holding those two things – the fear and the comfort – in balance?