Over the years, I have wondered what it really means to have “fear of the Lord.” In the past several months, I took some time and examined the Scriptures to find out what it does mean. My findings have left me trembling with delight!
A definition is always a good place to start. Michael Reeves explains the fear of the Lord as, “It is an ecstasy of love and joy that senses how overwhelmingly kind and magnificent, good and true God is, and that therefore leans on Him in staggered praise and faith.” Reeves goes on to write, “It is not the dread of sinners before a holy Judge. It is not the awe of creatures before the tremendous Creator. It is the overwhelmed devotion of children marveling at the kindness and righteousness and glory and compete magnificence of the Father.” I see where Reeves is coming from and I agree; however, I do think there is a healthy fear of God that comes from knowing God is holy and a righteous judge. It is the totality of who God is that we fear. So, I find in the Scriptures a right fear of the Lord comes from awe (an overwhelming feeling of fearful wonder for a deity) and respect that includes knowing who God is which includes His holiness, justice, grace, goodness, beauty, mercy, and power.
So how do we get the fear of the Lord? Part of it comes from God, “I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me” (Jer 32:39-40). Also, part of it comes from our choice, “Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord”(Prov 1:29). Furthermore, others have a part in how we learn to fear the Lord, “He set himself (Uzziah) to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God” (2 Chr 26:5). So, the fear of the Lord comes from God, ourselves, and others.
The Scriptures are filled with reasons why we should fear the Lord. We are commanded to fear Him as seen in Deuteronomy 10:12-13. In these verses, God lists what He requires of us: to fear the Lord which is then explained asto walk in His ways, to love the Lord, to serve the Lord, and to keep His commandments. Also, we should fear the Lord because of His great power (Exod 14:31) and as a result of His justice (Rev 14:7). Furthermore, Jesus’ miracles, healings, and words leads us to have an awe of Him. Moreover, the fear of the Lord keeps us from sinning (Exod 20:19–20).
Another insightful verse concerning the fear of the Lord is “Blessed is the one who fears the Lord always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity” (Prov 28:14). Thus, fear of the Lord includes confessing and leaving sin so our hearts will not be hardened. In the New Testament the same idea shows up, “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God” (2 Cor 7:1). Stanley Porter comments on this verse that, “Sanctification is grounded ‘in fear of God’ (2 Cor 7:1). The word ‘in’ (en) refers to the sphere or arena in which sanctification occurs.” Thus, the fear of the Lord is part of our sanctification process.
Reeves rightly states, “Sometimes God’s goodness, holiness, greatness, or forgiveness draws us out to fear God. It is all of who God is. In each case, believers are enjoying these beautiful perfections of God. This is indeed why we search the Scriptures, that we may know God better in all his ways and all his perfections—and might rejoice in him so intensely that we tremble.”
In our fear (reverence, awe, and respect) of the Lord, we tremble with delight as a result of knowing the Lord and embracing the joy of what that means in day-in-day-out life. What is your level of trembling with delight? What steps could you take this week to grow in your fear of the Lord? Perhaps compiling a list of the great things He has done would be a good place to start!
For your consideration: Michael Reeves’ book, Rejoice and Tremble: The Surprising Good News of the Fear of the Lord, Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2021.
Image from “Tremble Synonyms and Related Words,” What is Another Word – Language Emoji, Emotions Swayed By Images, 2021, accessed March 29, 2022, https://www.emojisky.com/desc/7141814.
 Michael Reeves, Rejoice and Tremble: The Surprising Good News of the Fear of the Lord (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2021), 67.
 Ibid, 101.
 Reeves, Rejoice and Tremble, 62-64.