Most know this lovely final verse in Proverbs 31: “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”
Yet what does it truly mean to fear the Lord? This phrase is a notable theme in the Bible, recurring across the Old Testament and the New with over 300 mentions.
While significant, many still have confusion about the word “fear,” which has the negative connotation of dreading a terrible enemy or danger.
If God is so loving, why do we have to fear Him?
The short answer is this: God is holy. He is set apart from us in His flawless and good nature. No one can enter His presence without His mercy.
The Lord is perfectly righteous, just, sovereign, wise, and well…we are not.
[To learn more about these traits of His, check out my prayer journal: Adoring His Attributes]
As fallen creatures, we are evil and wretched compared to His infinite purity and glory.
The Lord is all-knowing and all-powerful, and every single one of our actions will come under His judgment, whether good or bad.
That is a fearsome and weighty reality for the human sinner.
Consider this: anytime a person in the Bible encounters the angel of the Lord or the Lord Himself, they are trembling with fear in the magnificence and authority of His presence.
Here’s an amazing example from Isaiah 6:
“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”
4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.
5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar.
7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”
Only after receiving God’s grace, an atonement, was Isaiah able to withstand and remain in His presence.
That’s the key. That’s why we need Jesus.
Before the saving work of Christ, we deserve punishment for our sin and couldn’t dwell with God without perishing in His holy fire. Because of His supreme jurisdiction as our Creator, He is to be feared above all!
As Hebrews 10:31 says, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
A “New” Kind of Fear
Yet, once we trust in Jesus, and the threat of condemnation passes over us, this fear of God takes on a new form.
Instead of cowering before God in the guilt of our sins, we stand confident before the Father’s throne clothed in Christ’s full righteousness.
His grace allows us to rejoice in awe over His majesty, now in spirit and literally for eternity!
For the believer, fear of the Lord is the constant desire to honor and revere Him with all our heart, obeying Him as our righteous King and Heavenly Father.
Christ becomes our first authority, instead of ourselves. We humbly submit to His rightful leadership in our lives, especially by submitting to the truth of His Word. We take sin seriously, seeking to grow holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:15).
This fear, this profound respect and allegiance to God, shapes our faith and our life.
We no longer look through the lens of the world and its thinking, but through the lens of Scripture.
We carefully consider every one of our thoughts, words, and activities, because we love Christ and know that we are completely under His compassion.
Below are 12 Proverbs that provide more insight into why the fear of the Lord is the way to true life. Meditate on them and consider their meanings.
1. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7
In order to find truth, we must first seek and exalt God in our heart. He is the source of our understanding of the world. Those who dismiss Him dismiss wisdom at its purest.
2. The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate. Proverbs 8:13
Since the Lord is righteous, those who know Him discern good from bad, right from wrong. A heart puffed up in itself and not reverent to God will end up doing evil.
3. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. Proverbs 9:10
Similar to the first Proverb, our ability to live life well starts with learning about the glory of God.
4. Whoever walks in uprightness fears the Lord, but he who is devious in his ways despises him. Proverbs 14:2
Fearing God keeps us on the path of righteousness and love, disrespecting him leads us astray.
5. In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death. Proverbs 14:26-27
When we honor God above all we can be at peace, trusting His good and perfect will and His protection. Death is no longer an enemy with Christ!
6. Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it. Proverbs 15:16
A soul secure in the Lord is of more worth than any wealth, and pursuing earthly treasures only leads to strife.
7. The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor.
You may notice among these Proverbs that humility is closely tied to fearing the Lord. To properly love, adore, and serve Him as King, we must humble our hearts. Knowing His Word keeps our heart in check and builds its wisdom.
8. By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil. Proverbs 16:6
This OT verse is a beautiful picture of our salvation in Jesus. Christ’s love and faithfulness led Him to lay down His life for ours, offering the atonement we needed for our countless sins. When we grasp the depth of His sacrifice and repent, we exercise fear of the Lord and no longer continue our evil ways.
9. The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm. Proverbs 19:23
When we trust in Christ, we receive everlasting life. This promise satisfies our soul in a way nothing else can. We may experience harm in this life, but we can rest assured will not have to face the eternal and holy harm of hell.
10. The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life. Proverbs 22:4
More of a principle than a literal promise, this speaks of the gain that can come to those who walk with the Lord. However, on another level one could say it is a promise, because those who fear the Lord in Christ will have the reward of heaven.
11. Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day. Proverbs 23:17
Sin may seem appealing, and those who don’t follow the Lord may seem to have more success and wealth, but looks are deceiving. Fearing the Lord is always worth it! This life is only a blink compared to eternity.
12. The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. Proverbs 29:25
Although this one speaks more about fearing man, I appreciate the contrast it presents. It is far better to live for our holy, perfect God than to please people.
Are you fearing the Lord today? Such a practice encourages us to believe, worship, and walk in holiness. May we praise Him and obey Him with the honor He’s due!