Scripture Reading: Numbers 4:1-5:10 / Luke 1:57-80 / Psalm 34:11-22
Psychologists define fear as an anxious feeling, caused by our anticipation of some imagined event or experience. Webster defines fear as “a feeling of anxiety and agitation produced by the presence or nearness of danger, evil, pain, etc.” We understand the fear of an oncoming speeding car, a burglar or a slithering snake.
But when it comes to “the fear of The Lord”, we often become confused and don’t want to believe that our relationship with God is based on “terror or dread”. God does not wait for us with clenched fists but with open and welcoming arms. David desires to clarify and explain fear when he writes, “Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” (Psalm 34:11)
The Hebrew word used here for fear is “Yirah”. According to Jewish tradition, there are 3 levels or types of “Yirah”. The first level is a fear of unpleasant consequences or punishment. This type of fear anticipates pain and desires to flee from it. The second level is the anxiety over breaking God’s law. It is being fearful of God’s righteous wrath and judgment on sin. The third level is a fear that produces profound reverence and awe. It is a fear that causes us to stand in awe and reverence a holy God.
I believe that all these types of fear are applicable to David’s teaching. David writes, “the face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth.” (vs.16) Man should fear the wrath and the everlasting judgment of God. Unrepentive man will face God, answer for their sin and experience eternal hell.
Fear is also to govern our lifestyle and morals. “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” (vs.13,14) People who say they fear The Lord yet do not live according to God’s Word, truly do not fear God’s wrath upon sin. God does not wink at sin and we should live accordingly because we are accountable for our lives. We should fear when there is sin inside our hearts.
Fear is not something that is simply learned but it must be grasped and lived. When we respond in repentance and obedience, the light of God’s grace, forgiveness and mercy fills our hearts with an overwhelming reverence for Him. We live what David wrote, “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry. The righteous cry out and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (vs.15,17,18) We are not driven by a fear of damnation but by a moral reverence of surrender and devotion. Oswald Chambers wrote, “The remarkable thing about fearing God is that, when you fear God, you fear nothing else; whereas, if you do not fear God, you fear everything else.” Whom do you fear…a temporary world or an eternal God?