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TEXT: Proverbs 1:1-7
SUBJECT: Proverbs #3: The Fear of God
THE "FEAR OF THE LORD": ITS IMPORTANCE.
"The fear of the LORD" is an expression rarely heard among modern Christians. Thus, you might suppose that it is a trivial matter. But such an assumption is misleading, and if taken to its logical conclusion, damning. Its significance is so plainly taught in Scripture, that to dismiss it requires nothing less than the repudiation of Revealed Religion. Its importance is maintained in a thousand ways, only seven of which I can mention.
Our text (and its parallels) suggest something of its importance, 1:7, 9:10). The reasoning from such verses is fairly simple:
The chief end of man is to acquire the knowledge or wisdom of God, cf. 4:7 with John 17:3.
But such an endeavor cannot even begin apart from Godly fear.
If, therefore, you hope to fulfil your end in life, you must fear the LORD.
Every part of Scripture commands this Godly fear.
The Law of Moses. These precepts, of course, were issued at Mount Sinai. They related to every detail of the Jewish life, from the worship of God to the washing of clothes! But its sum and substance can be boiled down to two words: "Fear God". Exodus 20:20, "And Moses said to the people, "Fear not, for God has come to test you, and that His Fear may be before you that you may not sin."
Historical Books (Joshua--Esther).
At the coronation of Saul, Samuel gave the requirements of a successful kingdom, "If you fear the LORD, and serve Him, and obey His voice, and do not rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then both you and the king, who reigns over you, will continue following the LORD your God." (I Samuel 12:14).
At the miraculous crossing of the Jordan, a representative from each Tribe was to pick up a stone and set up a monument. And for what reason? "That you may fear the LORD your God forever". (Joshua 4:24).
In his great prayer, Nehemiah described the faithful remnant as "Your servants who desire to fear Your Name". (Nehemiah 1:11).
The Hebrew Hymnal (which was, of course, the Psalms).
"Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling", 2:11.
"In fear of You I will worship toward your holy temple, 5:7.
"O fear the LORD ye His saints, for there is no want to those who fear Him", 34:9.
"Establish Your word to Your servant, who is devoted to fearing You", 119:38.
The Wisdom Literature is perfectly summarized as follows, "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter, fear God and keep His commandments for this is the whole duty of man." (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
The prophets simply reiterated this theme:
Malachi, speaking as an Oracle of God, expostulated with the Jews, "If I am a father, where is my fear?"
The obvious objection, of course is a dispensational one, i.e., "Fear of the LORD is part of the Old Testament religion and is beneath the dignity of New Testament believers. We, in short must love God, not fear Him! But this is a lie! For Godly fear is just as necessary under the New Covenant as the Old, for example:
Our LORD demanded it, Matthew 10:28. If you look at the context, you will discover that these words were not addressed to the Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, and their ilk--but to the twelve apostles, eleven of who were certainly, New Covenant believers.
But of course, there were a few ceremonial ideas found in the Gospels (e.g., tithing of mint, anise and cumin). Thus one might (through incredible dexterity of thought) reason this duty away. But the church is certainly a New Testament institution. Observe how it is described: Acts 2:43, "Then fear came upon every soul". This was no time of spiritual declension, but the Day of Pentecost!
The Apostles uniformly commend it to the various Christian assemblies:
Paul: "Submitting to one another in the fear of God", "Perfecting holiness in the fear of God".
Peter: "Pass the time of your sojourning in fear" and, most succinctly, "Fear God".
God's last words to His People assume their fear:
11:17-18: The twenty-four elders proclaim, "We give you thanks, O LORD God Almighty, the One who is and who was, and is to come. because you have taken your greatr power and reigned. The nations were angry and your wrath has come, and the time of the dead that they should be judged, and that you should reward your servants the prophets and the saints, and those who fear your Name, both small and great".
The constant objection to such a doctrine lies in the nature of the fear. The Ancient Fear was one of awe and dread, the modern fear is to be purely filial, and amount to nothing more than a general respect which is all but interchangable with "love".
But this too is a devilish device, for it stands written, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling".
If, therefore, the Bible (in its entirety) teaches anything at all, it teaches, "THE FEAR OF THE LORD IS THE BEGINNING OF KNOWLEDGE".
The holiest men have been most marked by their fear of the LORD. One example will suffice, though many could be adduced. His name is Job. His life is capsulized in one sentence, "Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and eschews evil?"
The wicked are bereft of this attitude. Depraved humanity, be it Jewish or Gentile, refined or barbarian, is described too in a single sentence, "There is no fear of God before their eyes". (Romans 3:18).
The fear of the LORD is so integral to saving religion, that it is sometimes used interchangably with it, 1:29.
The fear of the LORD is also equivilent to "Faith in God". Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac is very interestingly narrated. In Hebrews 11:17, it is described as an act of faith, "By faith, Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac..." But in the original account, it is described as an act of fear, Genesis 22:11-12. Thus, "the fear of God is equivilent to faith in God". But no one can be saved without faith. Therefore, we must assume that no one will be saved without fear.
So essential is fear to worship, that God styles Himself, "THE FEAR OF ISAAC". (Genesis 31:53).
8. Indeed, to have no such fear is a sign of insanity, Jer. 10:6ff.
B.Therefore, make no mistake about it. "The Fear of the LORD" is no trivial matter. It is of the greatest importance, without which, no man shall see God.
THE FEAR OF THE LORD: ITS MEANING.
"The fear of God" is employed variously in the Scripture. But its cardinal meanings can be subsumed under two main heads.
There is a criminal fear of God.
Such a fear, of course, traces its origin to the first criminal, Adam.
This fear terminates upon the judgments of God only. Cain exemplified it perfectly when he responded to God thusly, "My punishment is greater than I can bear!" This is the sort of terror which marked the lives of Pharoah, Balaam, King Saul, Ahab, Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Haman, and Simon the Sorcerer.
This terror, however, arises from a hatred of God, and issues in a lifetime of bondage, and finds its full expression only in hell.
It scarcely needs to be said that this terror is not "the beginning of wisdom". For the Holy Spirit is given to God's People in order to deliver them from such a fear.
An Awesome fear.
Such a fear, of course, terminates upon God Himself. It is briefly set forth in Psalm 33:8, "Let all the earth fear the LORD, let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe".
It is wonderfully exemplified in the experiences of, e.g.:
Jacob at Beth-el.
Moses at Mount Sinai, Hebrews 12:18-21.
This cannot be confused with the criminal fear, for angels too fear in this fashion, Isaiah 6. Indeed, our Lord Jesus Christ owned an unequalled fear of God, as it is written, "His delight is in the fear of the LORD". (Isaiah 11:3).
THE FEAR OF THE LORD: ITS DEMONSTRATION.
The fear of the LORD leads to conscientiousness, Leviticus 19:14, Colossians 3:ult.
The fear of the LORD leads to sincere worship.
Deep humility, 15:33
Practical obedience, 14:2
Courage before man, 29:25
HOW TO INCREASE.
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