What does it mean to ‘fear the Lord’?
Job 28:28 is the first time Job hears the words of God in this long and heavy book. Job has suffered greatly, more than what most could imagine, and finally God speaks. And he says ‘The fear of the Lord – that is wisdom’. Thanks!
When a person rejects or does not want to have anything to do with the Lord, that is called unbelief and there is no comfort in unbelief. It always amazes me how people would feel more ‘comfortable’ in unbelief than in believing in something. Fear is the negative, almost logical, result.
But, when a person accepts and longs for the Lord, that is called belief and there is great comfort in belief. When you place your trust in the one who does know all and has all in his hands, then there should be great comfort. So why does Job 28:28 (and 28 other references from 1 Samuel to 2 Corinthians) call us to ‘Fear the Lord’?
‘The fear of the Lord’ is less about being afraid of God and more about wanting to live for God.
‘Fear’ to an unbelieving world is a bad thing. It suggests that a person is at risk of being ‘hurt’. When you consider the just judgement of the Lord, then that indeed could be a consideration – especially for the person of unbelief who has no other comeback before the Lord. But that is not what God is saying when he speaks of ‘the fear of the Lord’.
To a believer, ‘the fear of the Lord’ is a wonderful thing – it is a demonstration of faith. It is a fear that we want to possess. It is when one gives due respect. It is a fear understood as an awestruck wonder of the holy God. And as Job 28 says, it is a fear that shows the wise person to be one who recognizes that God knows better, loves more, and understands more completely than they might or that the world suggests. To fear God is to seek him.
Let me see if I can illustrate. Imagine holding something or great value – a newborn baby, a faberge egg, an ancient text – it is because of its value that you take special care. You ‘fear’ that you might break it, so you hold it with special purpose. There is no risk that it would damage you, but rather that you could damage it. For the believer, ‘the fear of the Lord’ is about taking special care, not because you might break God, but because he deserves to be treated as most valuable.
To fear the Lord is to seek him – and give him the respect that is due.
So, what it mean to fear the Lord?
Job 28:21-27 helpfully shows how God is all knowing and that his knowledge can be expressed in his ability to create and control nature. The force of the wind, the extend of the waters, the effects of the rain, and the path of the thunderstorm are all examples of how God knows and uses his creation to tell us something about his nature (this is often called ‘general revelation’). But notice also, that nature does not give us answers to why God does what he does – it does not help us discern his will.
To know that, you really would need to be wise! And friends, that is why God says ‘the fear of the Lord – that is wisdom’. Wisdom that is true and right will only come from God. To understand will be to seek him where he most clearly explains himself – and that is in his Word (which is why it is often called ‘special revelation’).
What does fearing the Lord look like?
It is shown in the person who seeks to please God more so than the World.
It is shown in the person who reads God’s word and tries to understand and put it into practice.
It is shown in the person who speaks to God in prayer and hands over to him what he already has under his command.
This of course is tested at times of great suffering (as we have seen in the way Job has endured). If God indeed does know all, and as creator is more informed and more in control, then it would be better to rely on him (even when unsure why things are happening) than relying on the world which may offer much, but base its understanding on a very general understanding of what is happening around them.
Enjoy listening to God as you read his Word and talking to God as your speak to him in prayer – and live by faith.