Monday, January 01, 2007

The Fear of the Lord

Something has been on my mind for a couple of months. There is a sentence that is repeated in several places in scripture. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Psalm 111:10a is just one place you can find this statement.

Doesn't it seem that wisdom is sorely lacking? And I am not speaking of "the world" -- I am speaking of the Church of Jesus Christ. I am deeply grieved to say that it seems far too many who call themselves "Christians" are weak, apathetic, complacent, and (frankly) behaving in foolish ways.

Is this because we have lost our fear of God?

I find very differing views on this. Here is one, from Duke University Chapel's" Weekly E-Reflection" (Friday, January 27, 2006) :

“Fear of the Lord” is knowing God in a personal and real way; “fear of the Lord” is having faith. Knowing God and knowing who we are with God is also to understand that the fears which assail us everyday are not truly in control of us."

I like this. But is it enough?

Here is another, from a Rev. Copeland (no relation to Kenneth), "We are exhorted to work out our own salvation with 'fear and trembling' but trembling in relationship to God is certainly out of fashion."

Is 'fear" simply "respect" (as I heard preached all my life)? Just about every church person I know would say they respect God. Does this go far enough?

I'm working on a sermon on this, but I'd greatly appreciate comments. I'll share some more of my own thoughts as they become a bit more clarified.


Psalmist said...

Happy New Year, Singing Owl (or maybe I should call you Anna? -smile)

I've come to understand "fear of the LORD" as a deep understanding and acceptance of Who God is and who I am in relation to God. IOW, if I fear the LORD, I understand that God is God and I am God's creature. There is an awe involved. For me, it means that my place is one of worship and reverence; mere "respect" is, I agree, not enough.

Anonymous said...

For me it is fear of something so great, unknowable, and powerful that can crush us like a gnat, but still loves us, holds us gently and calls us by name. No other god is like that.

It is like the one part in Lord of the Rings in the first movie. Bilbo Baggins doesn't want to give the ring up. He starts to accuse Gandalf of wanting it for himself. Gandalf suddenly gets very scary, large and dark and says I'm not a congerour of cheap tricks. Suddenly you see how powerful Gandalf really is. I think sometimes we start to “play around” with God too much, like he is just some congerour of cheap tricks and we forget that He is the maker of the universe and it is only His desire to know us that keeps Him gentle and tangible for us.

HeyJules said...

Singing Owl, I just blogged about this last month. I am having the hardest time "fearing" God - and I was asking the question if maybe that's because we preach so much about God being love that we have stopped preaching about our fearing Him as well.

When I think of how much God loves me and how He only wants the best for me, I have trouble "fearing" Him. All I can see is the love. Many people chimed in to say that loving God should also involve the same fear we have for our parents when we are young but we outgrow that fear and I'm wondering if I haven't done that in God's case as well.

I do respect, revere and hold Him in highest esteem...but I just can't seem to muster true "fear" for Him. Perhaps this helps you or perhaps it makes things worse?

Anonymous said...

I am interested in hearing what you come up with. As a child I was scared to death of God. I was taught to literally "fear" God. Learning about a God of love and compassion made it much easier for me to open up and blossom. I'm wondering what the word translated "fear" means in the original languages. I can understand a healthy respect for the Judging God. But I know I don't want to go back to being afraid to breathe the wrong way again.

Jeni said...

I think in the past perhaps referring to God with the words "fear of God" in there, often became associated with the "fire and brimstone" preachings and sometimes, perhaps didn't match up then when trying to teach that God is a loving God. Somehow, the two didn't seem to "fit" exactly and to be more appealing to a larger audience, perhaps the "fear" aspect was toned down, even dropped. Just my own theory there - certainly not something proven, carved in stone, etc. But sometimes - every now and again - I think we all need to be reminded to have the "fear" reinstilled in us -but maybe more in the awesome aspect of the word.

Revem said...

For me the "fear of the Lord" is about reverent awe. This goes well beyond just respecting God.
It's a heart and gut understanding of the magnitude of God and the intimate nature of his relationship with us.
For me the fear of the Lord never meant scared but rather gobsmacked

Psalmist said...

Hey, SO, did you happen to see this entry at Jesus Creed?

I like what Scot says about the Hebrew understanding of "fear of the LORD."

chartreuseova said...

In this time in our culture, it seems like respect is a very superficial thing. The "Fear of the Lord", now that's a full sensory experience to me...overtaking the body, mind, and soul.

I have at times found myself respecting God, being friends with God but it isn't authentic. It is safe or so it seems. When I am in true honest relationship that is when I feel like I have been able to be in awe, in submissive bliss, in complete sorrow & repentence, and even trembling in fear.

As I type this I am listening to Little Sprout read a book called, The Story of Jonah. Somehow it seems to fit the topic. One of the last pages says,
"First of all, we must obey what God tells us to do; Then I learned God's everywhere; we can't hide from His view."

Yes, I think wisdom today in the Christian community is lacking. We are often much more focused on "ask and it shall be given" and less on seeking wisdom or fearing the Lord. And I am quite often guilty.

much2ponder said...

Fear of the Lord means something which is realizing in our minds and spirits that we need to be in the right heart attitude in every circumstance. This has to do with taking each thought captive to the point where we understand what God's heart is concerning given circumstances. We fear the Lord when we consider his view more important than any other. This kind of fear comes out of understanding his heart for us and our longing to touch his heart in our daily lives. The fear of not being pleasing to him comes out of such a powerful love that we will never come to a place where we have enough of it because we never have a place in our lives where we have enough of Him.

Weekend Fisher said...

Are you still checking comments on a thread so many days old? I was kind of pondering "fear of the Lord" awhile back. I ended up blogging on it, which will save space in your comment box. If you want to read my musings, they're here.

Interestingly, when I searched for that old post on my blog, another of my search results was this one.

Interesting when you lay out the trends for and against fear in the Bible, ey?

Take care & God bless