So as promised here are my thoughts on fear and I have many but for the sake of this exercise, here are my thoughts on fearing the Lord. Because if I’m going to attempt to work through this biblical journey and strive to be a woman who God finds praiseworthy I need to uncover what fearing the Lord actually means. Many of us who have grown up in the Church may have been taught or unconsciously given the impression that this means to actually be afraid of God. I have to admit that there are times when I’ve been afraid of what God thought about my actions and I have struggled with fear in relation to death. So, fear is something that I am very familiar with. My history coupled with the ominous sounding phrase “fear of the Lord” can bring to mind images of Ten Commandment epic proportions of a holy finger of judgement coming down from heaven.
That may reflect many people’s image of fearing the Lord. The burning bush, prostrate before the Holy One of Israel, image of God and our holy reverential fear that is in response to that. Now, the next thing I’m going to say I have to be careful about because this image of God has been used improperly in the Church through history to strike fear in the hearts of the congregation and motivate them in some way. I think that is inappropriate and has been hurtful and detrimental to many people through time. However, and now here it is, when I read the phrase “Fear of the Lord” I do think an important part of that is this holy reverence. Don’t get tense, let me explain.
I’ll need to wind this around a little bit so please stay with me, it’s all coming back to living this life that is praiseworthy to God. When a person encounters God, the knowledge of him, the experience of him, or just hearing about him, some kind of response happens. It might be brushing it off, it might be anger, but hopefully a seed is planted of curiosity, of gratitude, of worship. God elicits some kind of response. Your experiences and your personality will color that response but I strongly believe that if you are walking toward God, striving to get to know about him and to know him better certain responses are inevitable. One of these responses is gratitude. Gratitude for the love and grace God shows each person through Jesus dying on the cross. Gratitude that no matter who we are or what we’ve done God can and does forgive and renew.
Gratitude is not the only response, though, and this is where I’m trying to make thread things together. As we seek to know God better, as we look in the Bible, we cannot help but see his majesty, his power, his holiness. I can’t stop at gratitude when I read about and begin to experience this God. He is the Holy One of Israel, the one who created everything; the one who is holy and powerful enough that he is the only one who can forgive us from sin. As I get to know God, I realize that it is his holiness and power, as well as his love, that needs to elicit something from me. I need to revere him, not to see him as a white Wonder Bread god, but a God who is powerful enough to back up his promises.
So (I feel like the Apostle Paul when I start a paragraph that way), what do I do with this knowledge of God and this reverence/fear that I have for him? I can’t just hug this information to myself, to gleefully chuckle over my good fortune that My God is powerful enough and loves me enough to change my life. I actually have to let my life be changed. Fearing the Lord means that my knowledge of who God is, his love and his holiness, needs to change not only my outlook, but my actions. I need to be motivated by who God is and let that guide my decisions, everyday and monumental.
Fearing the Lord means heart and action. My heart is changed by who I know God to be and my actions reflect that knowledge. The Proverbs 31 woman allowed this knowledge of God to change her character and we see how that played out in here everyday life. She was compassionate, honest, wise, hardworking, and used the gifts God had given her in ways that pointed to his love. All of these attributes and actions listed in Proverbs 31 point to a good woman, a woman tries to do good in the world. The culmination is in verse 31:30. There are good people in the world but what made her different, what made her stand out was her motivation. She knew her God, knew of his goodness and greatness and in response, allowed that to color all areas of her life. She desired that her Lord would be pleased with her, that she would honor him with her actions as well as her heart.
How can I fear the Lord? I get to know him. I spend time trying to understand his might and his love. I allow that knowledge to change me. I actively seek to show God my gratitude and my worship of him by changing my actions to reflect not the kind of person I am but the kind of God he is. It is a good and healthy fear.