Saturday, March 21, 2009
How is A Healthy Fear of The Lord Different from the Destructive Fear of Satan?
Most Christians have little or no understanding of the "fear of the Lord." Whenever the phrase comes up in Scripture (which is quite often), it is quickly interpreted as simply a reverential trust in the Lord. This anemic definition fails to open up the power and significance of this concept or to explain the many results and rewards which are described in Scripture for those who have the fear of the Lord. Particularly significant is the following verse which relates the fear of the Lord to the achievement of moral purity "By the fear of the Lord men depart from evil" (Proverbs 16:6). It is significant that the same Hebrew and Greek words are used for both wholesome fear and destructive fear. Therefore, the difference between the two fears is not to be found in the words. The Fear of man or of Satan brings a snare, but the fear of God brings a blessing. The Hebrew root for fear is (yah-RAH). It primarily means, “To frighten, to affright, be (made) afraid, to dread.” It is used in each of the following verses: David said, “My flesh trembled for fear of thee; and I am afraid of thy judgments” (Psalm 119:120). We are commanded to “Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling” (Psalm 2:11). “And the covenant that I have made with you ye shall not forget; neither shall ye fear other gods. But the Lord your God ye shall fear; and he shall deliver you out of the hand of all your enemies: (II Kings 17:38-39). The Greek word for fear is (FAW-boss). Originally this word had the meaning of “flight” or “that which causes a person to flee in dread and terror.” When Jesus taught His disciples about what to fear and what not to fear, He used the same Greek word for both. “And I say unto you my friends, be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him” (Luke 12:4-5). To fear the Lord goes far beyond the idea of reverential trust. It includes a controlling awe of His power and righteous retribution and a wholesome dread of displeasing Him. Even though the same word is used for the various applications of fear, there are important distinctions: Destructive fear is fearing the thunder instead of the One who made the thunder. The Lord is a God of cause and effect. This is why He can demand obedience to His Law. He knows the outcome if we violate it. It is also for this reason that He continually commands us not to focus our fear on the results of His working but instead on Him and His Law. When the storm overtook the disciples on the sea, they feared the wind and the waves. Jesus instructed them not to fear these things; then He showed His power over the elements by calming the storm. Destructive fear is overcome by dynamic faith. For the Christian, lack of faith produces destructive fear. This is emphasized in Jesus’ statement to the disciples after He calmed the sea: “Master. Careth thou not that we perish? And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said unto them. Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?” (Mark 4:38-40). When God tells us to fear Him, He is requiring us to acknowledge an aspect of His character such as His justice, His holiness, or His power. For each one of these attributes, God has a balancing attribute. For His justice, He shows mercy. For His holiness, He gives grace. For His power, He displays loving-kindness. The more we understand, acknowledge, and fear the first set of attributes, the more faith, hope, and confidence we have in the balancing set of qualities. This balance of fear and faith is illustrated throughout Scripture. Paul related his walk of faith and witness to his fear of God’s justice and righteousness in the following Scripture: “For we walk by faith, not by sight…For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God” (II Corinthians 5:7, 10-11). A person with little faith but a great awareness of God’s power, justice, and holiness will be out of balance in his fear of the Lord. In order to have a proper fear of the Lord, a person must increase his faith in the attributes which balance the ones that he fears. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.