The Fear of God: What Is It and Why Is It Necessary?

Why are we told multiple times in the Bible to fear God? What is the fear of God? As women of God, are we literally supposed to be afraid of God, or is the fear of God merely showing Him reverence? 

Welcome to my study on fear, the fear of God, and what it means for us.

 

Fear

We experience the emotion of fear with a sense of unease, physical trembling and weakness, and sometimes, a sick stomach, or in extreme cases, fainting. Fear fills us with dread and is emotionally exhausting. It holds us back from going forward with our plans and keeps us in a negative or worrisome state about the future. Living in fear is like living in a dark and debilitating prison. No one wants to be stuck there.

We are told over and over again in the Bible not to be fearful. Not to fear harm, or loss, or ridicule from other people or situations, and not to fear the future. Fear is something that grips us and takes away our ability to reason and function with confidence. Whether coming from outside influences or inner conflict, fear is intrusive to our mental and spiritual growth. 

We fear so many things, don’t we? Mounding past-due bills, cancer diagnoses, natural disasters, death of a loved one, job loss, an ever-increasing corrupt government, not being mentally capable for a task, not being good enough in the eyes of others, not having enough physical provision. And one of the most elemental fears we women face is not being loved or chosen. But this is what our loving God tells us:

 

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. Isaiah 41:10

 

Fear can easily overtake us and dictate how we live, what choices we make, and whether or not we pursue a course of action. But faith in God and His will changes all that. When we accept that God is in complete control of what happens in our lives, fear can’t wield the same power over us. When fear crops up (and inevitably it will), rely on prayer and a staunch determination to trust God, refuse to give in to fear’s pull, take a deep breath, and hand it over to God instead.

In 2 Timothy 1:7, God said He did not give us a spirit of fear. This fear is timidity (Strong’s reference #G1167). Spiritual timidity is

  • Being afraid of obeying God for fear of what other people will think, say, and do.
  • Being afraid of submitting wholeheartedly to our husbands.
  • Being afraid that we’ll miss out on this life if we follow God all the way.
  • Being afraid of distancing ourselves from unbelieving family, worldly social influences, and the crowd mentality because we want to fit in. 
  • Being afraid of evil spirits, giving them more power in our minds than they deserve.

God does not want us to live wimpy, nervous, and half-hearted lives. He wants us all-in, strong, and unafraid.

In Mark chapter five, a distraught father came up to Christ begging Him to heal his dying daughter sick at home. But along the way to his house, servants intercepted them, telling the father it was no use, don’t bother the master, his daughter was already dead. Can you imagine the sinking feeling, the hopelessness, the devastating news that you were too late? That poor man. But Christ immediately turned and told the grieving father, “Be not afraid, only believe.” Jesus Christ knew how our brains work, how our perception of reality negates the possibility for miracles, how the mere mention of one reality (in this case, the daughter’s death), could affect a person’s ability to be open-minded and believe in something greater, like God’s reality.

Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. Isaiah 8:13

We know we’re not supposed to live a life of fear, yet we are told repeatedly we should fear God. We are told to fear the glorious and fearful name the Lord thy God (Deuteronomy 28:58). Don’t fear, and yet do fear God. This seems like a contradiction.

Yet, according to Deuteronomy 10:12, God requires we fear Him. “And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul.” Fear comes before love. We must have a healthy trembling, a consciousness of the power and righteous judgment of God before we can relax into God’s love and love Him back.

Many people say they love God. They view Him as a warm and friendly personal God who provides for them and makes them feel good, and that’s it. Their love is surface love devoid of fear. They’ve been conditioned to believe that all fear is bad and something to be avoided, that only weak people feel fear. They do not see God as worthy of fear, because how could they be afraid of their kindly God who gives them stuff? Sadly, they have a one-sided view of who God is. They don’t want to think about a righteous God who created hell. That doesn’t fit their mindset. To them, God is only love. How could a loving God end life?

When we pursue a more mature view of God, we realize that a loving God will not allow any trace of evil or rebellion in his coming kingdom. His loving righteousness won’t have any qualms about forcing the “fearful and unbelieving” into the lake of fire (Revelation 21:8). These “fearful” are those afraid of losing power, reputation, and monetary gain by following God. The “unbelieving” could have embraced the one true God, but chose the world and Satan’s lies instead. For God to end these lives that stubbornly refuse His love is the ultimate love to all of us looking forward to His kingdom of peace and joy, all of us who fear Him now.

But how are we supposed to fear Him? What does that look like? If grown men mightier than we could faint from terror at the sight of an angel, what of God? Shaking on weak legs face to face with His holy brilliance, witnessing the sheer power and majesty, the brightness and righteousness of God, shaking from the knowledge of how puny we are and morally corrupt by ourselves (without Christ in us, we are unholy) would be frightening to say the least. God’s holy eyes boring into our consciousness seeing all our flaws, our barriers to fully loving others, our selfish thoughts and inexcusable actions over a lifetime. There would be no escape, no clever words to hide behind, no facade of accomplishments to hold up to the Maker of all things. We could do nothing but fall to our knees in sheer obeisance.

For us who know God, or rather are known by God (1 Corinthians 8:3; Galatians 4:9), our fear should not be based on doubts of His love, or a wrong view of God’s character. He is not a man who vacillates between good and evil. He does nothing out of selfishness or preference. If we love and obey God in our daily lives, we have no reason to believe God would harm or punishment us later because He has assured us throughout the Bible that if we repent—turn away from our carnal thinking and turn toward God in obedience—we are covered by His Son, Jesus Christ. This mercy is the ultimate love. So why fear Him? What are we fearing? This is what Christ told us:

And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him. Luke 12:4–5

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:31

If we become lazy and forget the goodness of God, forget all good things come from Him and not from our own efforts,

if we turn away and embrace the world because we want what we want right now,

if we refuse to grow any further because we’re comfortable where we’re at, and repentance is too much work,

if we hold lightly the sacrifice of God’s Son and choose to overlook the mercy extended toward us in our utter wretchedness,

then the fear of God, being “afraid of God,” becomes tangible, and the judgment of God imminent. Eternal separation from God is a terrifying thought! Nothing should draw more absolute fear from us than that.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences. 2 Corinthians 5:10–11, emphasis added

 Thou, even thou, art to be feared: and who may stand in thy sight when once thou art angry? Psalm 76:7

If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. Psalm 130:3–4

 

One of the many righteous character traits of God is He forgives those who repent! Otherwise, we could never stand in His presence. Fear of God is based on a deep thankfulness for who He is. We would have no future without the mercifulness of God.

Christian women should not live a life of fear, but fearing God is required. Learn what fearing God means, and how to do it well. #fear, #godlyfear, #humbleness, #kjvbiblestudy

What is the fear of God?

Godly fear (Strong’s reference #G2124 and #G2126) means caution, circumspection, reverence, and even dread.

 

  1. Caution: Being aware, alert to spiritual danger, guarding your mind from evil influences
  2. Circumspection: Being humble and not fooled by your emotions and desires, being considerate of all consequences, thinking wisely
  3. Reverence: In your humility, adoring God, glorifying His name in how you live
  4. Dread: Extreme awe, knowing that without God, there is only blackness.

 

God’s Word says that the fear of God is equivalent to hating evil, pride, and arrogancy (Proverbs 8:13). Pride and arrogance are the opposite of humility. Without being humble and knowing our great need for a savior, we can’t properly fear God. Fear of God is giving Him glory and honor (Revelation 14:7; 15:4). We glorify God by praising Him, thanking Him, trusting Him, and living in obedience to His Word, as an example for others to see.

Did you know the fear of God is clean (Psalm 19:9)? This means it’s the only fear of all the fears that we are subject to as human beings that is pure and uncontaminated; the fear of the Lord is holy.

Fear of God is also wisdom (Job 28:28). The only way to be truly wise is to first fear God. Both Psalms and Proverbs tell us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10; Psalm 111:10). Yet, according to Proverbs 2:5, seeking wisdom from God gives you understanding of the fear of God, which in turn helps you find the knowledge of God. It’s a gloriously divine loop.

 

What man is he that feareth the Lord? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose.

His soul shall dwell at ease; and his seed shall inherit the earth.

The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant. Psalm 25:12–14

 

We cannot walk honestly, morally, or uprightly, as the KJV says, without fearing God (Job 1:8; 2:3; Proverbs 14:2). Those who fear God can trust in His name and lean upon Him (Isaiah 50:10). If we fear God and do what is right, He accepts us (Acts 10:35; Ephesians 1:6)—what a humbling and awe-inspiring thought!

 

Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long. Proverbs 23:17, emphasis added

 

Fear of God is simply honest fear standing in the presence of perfection and knowing that without God, there would be nothing. No love, no joy, no beauty. No world, no body, no thought. Nothing to see or feel or breathe. The fear of the Lord is recognizing that God, through His righteous judgment, has the power to destroy the soul He created if that soul refuses His love. Clean, holy fear gives glory to God for the gift of creation, the gift of salvation, the gift of eternal life with Him.

Fear of God is knowing He alone set the rhythm of our hearts, drew the blueprint of our cells, strung the beads of our intellect, and blew the kiss that forms our very breaths. Fear of God (even with our limited understanding) is knowledge that He is all-knowing, ever-present, perfectly just, that His judgment is true and final, and nothing can or will exist without Him.

 

God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him. Psalm 89:7

 

The benefits of fearing God

The Bible has much to say about what fearing God leads to and what we gain by fearing God.

  • the protection of angels (Psalm 34:7)
  • our souls shall dwell at ease (Psalm 25:13)
  • our children shall be mighty (Psalm 112:2)
  • our days shall be well with us (Ecclesiastes 8:12)
  • for our good (Jeremiah 32:39)
  • for our prosperity (Jeremiah 33:9)
  • for a blessing (Psalm 112:1; 115:13; 128:1, 4)
  • for our food (Psalm 111:5)
  • for instruction of wisdom (Proverbs 15:33)
  • gives us the means to depart from evil (Proverbs 16:6)
  • gives us riches, honor, and life (Proverbs 22:4)
  • is our treasure (Isaiah 33:6)
  • is the fountain of life (Proverbs 14:27)
  • is strong confidence (Proverbs 14:26)
  • prolongs our days (Proverbs 10:27)
  • leads to life (Proverbs 19:23)
  • salvation (Psalm 85:9)
  • the secret of the Lord (Psalm 25:14)
  • God’s eyes upon us (Psalm 33:18)
  • God’s goodness (Psalm 31:19)
  • God’s honor (Psalm 15:4)
  • God’s mercy (Luke 1:50; Psalm 103:11)
  • Gods pleasure (Psalm 147:11)
  • God will fulfill our desires, hear our cry, and save us (Psalm 145:19)
  • we women shall be praised (Proverbs 31:30)
  • we shall be blessed and happy (Psalm 128:1–2)

The fear of God makes you a happier person!

The conclusion of the whole matter

The Bible is clear we were meant to love God, the giver of life and all good gifts (Deuteronomy 6:5; John 14:21). Christ said we should love God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind (Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27). The command to love God is easier for us to grasp than the command to fear Him. But both are required. Both are intertwined. We cannot have one without the other.

Fearing God is a holy and positive act. It sits not on the opposite end of the spectrum from loving Him, but alongside it, complementing our love. When we fear God, we celebrate all aspects of who God is, not just the creator, the provider, the merciful forgiver. But also the righteous judge, the grand determiner who set the rule for life and death, who made two permanent destinies. One place of love, peace, and joy where no pain or tears exist—there will be laughter and exuberant singing. And another where evil turns to ash in the maw of fiery hell. Those who wanted their own way, who loved a lie, who refused to repent will be no more—there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. Ecclesiastes 12:13–14

As women of God, our pursuit of a holy life needs to be coupled with the fear of God (2 Corinthians 7:1). Loving God is obeying and staying faithful to Him, no matter what. Fearing God is being deeply humble, glorifying Him in all that we think and do, and dreading an eternity without Him. 

Fearing God and loving God work together. When we do both, we grow in grace, knowledge, and right discernment, living a life well pleasing to God, and honoring His glorious and fearful name.

Abiding in the Vine, 

~ Gleniece

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About Gleniece

Writer/Editor at Desert Rain and Desert Rain Editing. Happy wife, homeschool mom, Bible study-er. Lover of wine and chocolate. Ever thankful for the gift that is Christ.

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