This teaching includes a free sermon outline to download for personal use, message preparation or Bible study discussion.
The theme of my talk is put in the form of a question, do you fear God? It’s a question that perhaps you may not have been asked before. There’s a great many Christians today who probably never give much thought to this question. But it is an extremely important issue and one which we neglect, or ignore, only to our own cost. The Bible has a great deal to say about the fear of the Lord. In fact, it would not be possible for me in this one session to take into account all that the scripture teaches, but I will try to give you an overview and some kind of practical application.
Let me just say to begin with, if you have ignored or not taken into account what the Bible teaches about the fear of the Lord, you are greatly to be pitied because it’s one of the subjects that contains the most outstanding promises of God’s favor and blessing of all the themes in scripture. In fact, I don’t know of any theme of scripture which has more to offer than the fear of the Lord. Don’t be afraid of the word fear, be prepared to face up to it.
I’d like to begin with just two scriptures that give some indication of the extent of the fear of the Lord in the life of the believer. The first one is in Psalm 19:9, which says:
“The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever.”
I believe the fear of the Lord is not merely clean, it is cleansing. It purifies, it keeps us clean. And that passage says it endured forever. Not merely for this life but for eternity. The fear of the Lord will always be a mark of all the true people of God—whether human or angelic.
And then in Proverbs 23:17 there’s an exhortation.
“Do not let your heart envy sinners; but in the fear of the Lord continue all day long.”
The other passage said forever, this one says all day long. Continue in the fear of the Lord all day long. In other words, never let there be a time in your life when you are not in the fear of the Lord.
We need, therefore, to consider what does the Bible mean when it speaks about the fear of the Lord. It’s often helpful to begin by pointing out what the fear of the Lord is not. Let’s just take some examples of forms of fear that are not what the Bible means when it speaks of the fear of the Lord.
First of all, it’s not natural fear. They say that when a baby is born there are only two things that make it afraid—a loud noise and a sensation of falling. As we go forward in life there are many other things that cause a natural reaction of fear. This is perfectly normal, all created human beings have it, but it is not what the Bible calls the fear of the Lord.
Then there is demonic fear. In 2 Timothy 1:7, Paul tells Timothy:
“God has not given us a spirit of fear [or of timidity]...”
That’s a kind of fear that is caused by an evil spirit. It’s not natural, it’s unnatural. It’s an excessive reaction. It’s something that overpowers us, that we can’t master. It takes control in certain situations. It is not the fear of the Lord.
Then there is religious fear, of which Isaiah speaks in Isaiah 29:13 and following.
“Therefore the Lord said, ‘Inasmuch as these people [Israel] draw near to me with their mouth, and honor me with their lips, and have removed their hearts far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the commandment of men...”
And Jesus quotes that passage in Matthew 15:7–9. He applies it to the religious leaders of His day and He calls them hypocrites. So this is a kind of fear which generates hypocrisy. We have no time to go into it in detail but it’s important to remember that the word hypocrite is directly derived from the Greek word for an actor, which is hypocrates. And so this is the kind of religious fear that makes people act. Their whole religion is acting. When they walk into a church building they change their tone of voice. When they pray they pray in a special kind of tone of voice. There is nothing genuine and natural, it’s all because somebody’s been teaching them that’s what they have to do. And Jesus sets that aside and says that is not what God is seeking.
And then in Proverbs 29:25 there’s another kind of fear which I think all of us are familiar with in some measure, the fear of man. Proverbs 29:25:
“The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.”
Notice the fear of man is the opposite of trusting in the Lord. So, when we’re afraid of what people would think or say, that’s the fear of man. And often most of us have to acknowledge it inhibits us. Sometimes we ought to speak to people about the Lord but the fear of man prevents us from opening our mouth. That’s not what we mean by the fear of the Lord.
Let me just recapitulate four kinds of fear that we’re not talking about. It’s not natural fear, it’s not demonic fear, it’s not religious fear and, it’s not the fear of man.
So, what is it? I’d like to offer you some suggestions. First of all, it is fear of a special kind, but it is fear. You’ll notice quite a number of the modern translations don’t use the word fear. That, I think, is partly under a humanistic influence which would indicate we don’t have to fear God. Believe me, we do have to fear God. God is to be feared and there’s nothing in the Bible that ever suggests that’s done away with.
Another word which is often used and is a good word is the word awe. You know, we say we stand in awe of someone or something. We, in a sense, don’t dare to come too close.
Another words that’s also used is reverence.
Now, the fear of the Lord is not just one of those, it’s all of those. It contains elements of fear, of awe and, of reverence. I wonder if anybody’s got another word that you would like to suggest that we could add. Probably there are other words. Respect. It’s a good word, it’s not really strong enough but it certainly is included.
And then there’s an attitude which is really the outcome of the fear of the Lord. Anybody like to offer a suggestion? Worship. We’ll put that down here, that’s a good one. And worship is an attitude, too, you’re quite right. It wasn’t the one I was thinking of. Submission, that’s right. That’s what I had in mind, submission. The fear of the Lord never argues with God. Not only submission, but another word that’s very close to it but is slightly different, submissiveness. There’s very little of that in contemporary thinking but they have their place in the character and attitude and conduct of God’s people.
When you put all those words in you haven’t said it all. It’s something that you can only apprehend by the Holy Spirit. Another way to express it is this. The fear of the Lord will give you a certain attitude in any situation. When you’re confronted by a situation or decision, a problem, a need, the fear of the Lord says what does God say about this? That’s the first issue. Not what do I think, how can I get what I want out of this, but what does God say about this? The fear of the Lord, I think, would motivate us always to seek to please the Lord.
In Genesis 31:42 there’s a very remarkable expression. Some of you may never have noticed it. Genesis 31:42, this is part of a scene where Jacob is confronted by his uncle Laban and they have a real strong disagreement about certain things. In the end Laban says, “Well, if God hadn’t spoken to me I would take vengeance on you.” But he says, “Because God appeared to me and told me not to do it, I don’t dare do it.” This is what Jacob says to Laban:
“Unless the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac had been with me, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed.”
We won’t go into the discussion but notice the phrase “the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac.”
And then in the 53rd verse of the same chapter it says Jacob swore and made an oath:
“The God of Abraham, and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us. And Jacob swore by the fear of his father Isaac.”
So twice the God of Abraham is called the fear of Isaac. There must have been something that the Bible probably doesn’t fully reveal in Isaac’s attitude toward God that cause people to talk about God as the fear of Isaac.
But I’d like to take it a little further and suggest to you that what you fear is your God. That kind of fear makes the thing that you fear your God.
Then we look at the picture of Jesus which is given prophetically in the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah 11, here’s one of the beautiful preliminary pictures of Jesus that is found in Isaiah. He’s called the rod from the stem of Jesse. We’ll just read the first two verses of Isaiah 11:
“There shall come forth a rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall brow out of his roots...”
Branch is one of the titles of Messiah in the Old Testament. And then it says this of Him:
“...the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.”
Now, if you have your finger there, keep it there for a moment and turn to Revelation 1:4, which is part of a greeting. It is the greeting from John to the readers of Revelation. It says:
“John to the seven churches which are in Asia [and here’s the greeting]. Grace to you and peace, from him who is, who was, and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before his throne.”
And in this translation the word spirit is with capital S. And in Revelation 4:5 it speaks about seven lamps of fire which are before the throne of God which are the seven Spirits of God. A lot of the modern translations will say the seven-fold Spirit of God, which is perfectly legitimate. Certainly there is only one Holy Spirit but He has seven distinctive aspects or manifestations or forms in which He operates. I was wondering once what are the seven aspects of the Holy Spirit and I felt the Lord directed me back to Isaiah 11:2 where you will find seven spirits or seven forms of the Holy Spirit.
The first one is the Lord. That’s the Spirit that speaks in the first person as God. And in Acts 13, to take one example, it says the Holy Spirit said to the church in Antioch, “Separate to me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So the Holy Spirit spoke to the church in the first person as the Lord. So remember, God the Father is Lord, God the Son is Lord, God the Spirit is Lord. We need to remember that. So that’s the first aspect.
Then it says the Spirit of wisdom and understanding. It’s really interesting to see what two things are put together in pairs.
Then the Spirit of counsel and might.
And then the Spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord, that’s right. I believe those are, in a sense, the seven aspects of the Holy Spirit. Number one, the Spirit that speaks in the first person as God, just as much God as the Father or the Son. And then we have wisdom and understanding. It always impresses me the things we need to put together. See, you can have wisdom but if you don’t understand you won’t make the right use of your wisdom. I was a professional philosopher years ago and I was studying wisdom but I didn’t have much understanding. I did and said a lot of silly things.
Then you have the Spirit of counsel or knowing what to do or being able to give direction, and might or power or strength. It’s terrible to have might without counsel, isn’t it? Because you’ll end up using your strength the wrong way You remember that in Isaiah 9:6 Jesus is referred to as the Wonderful Counselor.
And then the Spirit of knowledge. Knowledge is wonderful. Everybody wants knowledge but you know what knowledge does by itself? It puffs up, that’s right. It makes us inflated. So, the Bible nearly always puts with knowledge the fear of the Lord. Don’t seek knowledge without the fear of the Lord because it will do you more harm than good. That’s a little picture.
Then turning back to Isaiah, the next verse, this is a picture of the Messiah, of Jesus. It says:
“His delight is in the fear of the Lord.”
That’s the only aspect that is commented on out of the seven aspects. The one that the Holy Spirit focuses on is the fear of the Lord. If Jesus needed the fear of the Lord, can we ever entertain the idea that you and I do not need the fear of the Lord? We desperately need it. It comes only by the Holy Spirit and without it we’re very incomplete. We’re extremely vulnerable. I can speak a little from personal experience. I had a personal encounter with the Lord where no one else was present when I first met Him. But what stirred me up to seek the Lord was I had met some unusual people—unusual by my standards. I was a Cambridge don at the time. I’d never met people like that. They went to strange churches, they sang hymns from red hymn books and they clapped their hands and they did all sorts of unconventional things by my standards. I couldn’t understand what they were trying to tell me. Actually, if they’d spoken in Greek I would have understood them better!
One thing impressed me was they knew God. It didn’t seem fair to me because I discovered later that neither of them had ever been beyond elementary school and here was I just fresh from seven years at Cambridge. I thought it isn’t fair. They talked about the Bible as if it was the morning’s newspaper, as if everything in it had just happened and the ink was still fresh. But what really impressed me was that the little lady said her husband had been sick with tuberculosis of one lung, been exempted from military service in World War I. Then she said, “I prayed every day for ten years for God to heal my husband.” When I heard that statement I thought to myself that is in a different world. I mean, I couldn’t conceive of praying every day for ten years about anything. And then she said, “At the end of ten years, I was praying by myself in the living room, my husband was sitting in bed in the bedroom, propped up on the pillows, spitting up blood when he coughed. I heard an audible voice say to me, `Claim it.’ And I answered out loud, `Lord, I claim it now.’” She said, “When I said that my husband was healed instantly and completely, in the bed.” The healing was later confirmed.
Well, I said to myself this is what I’ve been looking for all my life and that’s why I was motivated to seek God—and I met Him. I began to understand all the strange phrases that they’d been using. But I tell that story because there’s a rather sad end to it. After World War II I went back to visit them and the man, the father of the house, had had one leg amputated because of gangrene and was in danger of having the other amputated. It was hard for me to speak to him because, in a sense, if I had a father in the faith it would be he. But, he said, “I don’t fear anyone. I don’t fear anything. I’m not afraid, God has delivered me from all fear.” And very respectfully I said to him that attitude is not from the Lord because God never delivers us from the fear of the Lord. I think he had a rather unhappy ending. Of course, he’s with the Lord now and I thank God for him but it was a real lesson to me. We cannot afford ever to have an attitude which doesn’t leave room for the fear of the Lord in our lives. And as I go on I think you’ll see that there are many in danger of that attitude today.
If you look now in Hebrews 5, you have a remarkable revelation of why God the Father always heard the prayers of Jesus. Hebrews 5:7 says of Jesus:
“In the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear.”
Why did God listen to the prayers of Jesus? Because He always prayed out of a godly fear. That’s the fear of the Lord.
What are the conditions that we have to fulfill to have the fear of the Lord in our lives? I would like to state certain very simple basic requirements. The first one relates to the theme that we were dealing within our previous session about decision. We go back to Proverbs 1:28–29. This is speaking about people who wait until they’re in a desperate situation and call out to God but God says I won’t listen to their prayers. God says of them:
“Then they will call on me but I will not answer. They will seek me diligently but they will not find me, because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord.”
Notice again that knowledge and the fear of the Lord are side by side. Do you see that? Why did God reject them? Because they did not choose the fear of the Lord. So the fear of the Lord will not come in your life unless you choose it. You have to make the decision. “God, I want to make room in my life for the fear of the Lord. I open up my heart and life to the fear of the Lord. Teach me the fear of the Lord.”
That leads to the very next requirement which is in Psalm 34:11–12. I think this is the Holy Spirit speaking to God’s children.
“Come you children, listen to me. I will teach you the fear of the Lord.”
So we have to be taught the fear of the Lord. First of all we have to choose it, then we have to let the Holy Spirit teach us what is the fear of the Lord. I don’t think there’s any other instructor that can teach us except the Holy Spirit.
And then it continues:
“Who is the man who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good?”
The implication is if you let the Holy Spirit teach you the fear of the Lord, you’ll have life and many days to see good. So, there’s motivation.
And then in Proverbs 3:7 we have another condition that we have to fulfill.
“Do not be wise in your own eyes. Fear the Lord and depart from evil.”
So what are the conditions there? Not trusting in your own wisdom and departing from evil, turning your back on evil, separating yourself from evil. And one thing the Bible makes very clear throughout is evil and the fear of the Lord do not go together.
So, the initial conditions that we have to fulfill. First of all, we have to make the right choice. I choose the fear of the Lord. I suspect there are probably some here tonight that have never even been confronted with the need to make that choice. And then you have to be taught by the Holy Spirit. He alone can teach us the fear of the Lord. You have to be in the school of the Holy Spirit. And then it demands that you renounce depending on your own wisdom and renounce evil in any form in which you recognize it. Those are the basic requirements for entering into the fear of the Lord.
Now let’s take a little while to consider what the fear of the Lord will do for you. And if you can listen to this and not want it, I don’t understand you. I mean, you may but you and I’ve got different points of view, that’s all I can say. Let’s turn to Job 28:28, an easy text to remember. Job 28:28, this is what God says:
“And to man he said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom...’”
So what is wisdom? Fearing the Lord. And he said:
“...to depart from evil is understanding.”
Notice again if you want the fear of the Lord you have to depart from evil. You cannot combine the two in your life.
Then in Psalm 25:12 and 14, one of my favorite psalms. Verse 12:
“Who is the man that fears the Lord? Him shall he teach in the way that he [the Lord] chooses.”
“The secret of the Lord is with those who fear him, and he will show them his covenant.”
What are the blessings there? The first one, God will teach the one who hears Him. He will teach him in the way that He chooses. I’ve told people many times you can enroll in any Bible college or any other kind of college or seminary but that’s no guarantee that the Lord will teach you. Because, the Lord chooses His students by character. And number one character requirement is fear of the Lord.
There are a lot of practical implications of this. I’ve been a missionary in two different lands in the past and one of the mistakes that missionaries have often made is teaching people who don’t fear the Lord. You know what those people usually did? Kick the missionaries out. But it was their fault. We’re not expected to teach people who don’t fear the Lord. In fact, we can’t teach people who don’t fear the Lord because God won’t teach them.
And then in the next verse I think this is perhaps one of the most amazing statements. The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him. I think one of the modern translations says the Lord confides in those who fear Him, He shares His secrets. If you don’t have an ambition to share the secrets of the Lord, you and I just think differently. To me that’s a privilege.
Then we look on in Proverbs 10. And most of these next scriptures are taken from Proverbs. One of the main themes of Proverbs really is the fear of the Lord. Proverbs 10:27:
“The fear of the Lord prolongs days, but the years of the wicked will be shortened.”
Now there’s one key word that will come out as we go through these next verses from Proverbs. I want you to be listening for it. There’s one word that’s more directly associated with the fear of the Lord than any other, so as we go through them see if you can pick it out. Proverbs 14:26—these are not all the scriptures, there are many more.
“In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence, and his children will have a place of refuge.”
So when you cultivate the fear of the Lord you have strong confidence. You’re not easily frightened or upset. God promises a place of refuge to your children. You remember what we said about choosing life and blessing? That it affects your descendants? Well, having the fear of the Lord affects your descendants, too. The one who has the fear of the Lord can expect a place of refuge for his children. And believe me, in this contemporary world it’s pretty important to have a place of refuge.
And then in the next verse of Proverbs, Proverbs 14:27:
“The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life to avoid the snares of death.”
So the fear of the Lord is a fountain that is continually pouring out life into you. Isn’t that exciting! If you don’t get excited, you and I have different ways of reacting. But that’s all right.
Then we go to Proverbs 19:23, which I think is one of the most amazing verses in the Bible. I don’t know of any verse that promises more than this verse.
“The fear of the Lord leads to life, and he who has it will abide in satisfaction, and will not be visited with evil.”
So, it leads to life. If you have it you’re going to be permanently satisfied. So remember, if you’re frustrated and dissatisfied, one thing that’s lacking in your life is the fear of the Lord. And then you’ll not be visited with evil. You could spend an hour just thinking of those three statements. It leads to life, you’ll abide satisfied and you’ll not be visited with evil.
And then finally in Proverbs 22:4:
“By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life.”
You have to combine humility with the fear of the Lord. In fact, you can’t combine pride with the fear of the Lord, we’ve already seen that. So there are promised to you riches, honor and life. I have to be cautious to say this but if you preach a thing and it doesn’t work for you, it’s questionable whether you should go on preaching it. I would like to say, just to give God the glory, I believe it’s worked for me. I believe it’s produced those three things—riches, honor and life. Thank you, Lord. I didn’t deserve them, I had no claim on them but you were faithful.
Now then, how many of you theologians picked out the one key word that runs all through those? Life, that’s right. Really, life and the fear of the Lord go together. If you want a full, abundant, satisfying life, cultivate the fear of the Lord. If you’ve never made the choice, make it. If you’re not in the Holy Spirit’s school, enroll. But don’t miss it. And remember, you cannot combine evil with the fear of the Lord.
Now I’d like to speak for a little while on pictures of the fear of the Lord in the experience of God’s people. I feel this contains a kind of warning which is desperately needed by the contemporary church. When I say the contemporary church I mean primarily the church in what we call the western world. And, perhaps particularly by Charismatics and Pentecostals. They’re the ones I know best. I’ve been with them for 48 years so, I mean, I do know something about them. In fact, I think I’ve seen it all. I’d be surprised if there’s anything I haven’t seen. I’ve seen people stand on their heads and roll on the floor and so on and so forth. I mean, I don’t object. If that’s the way God blesses, well, you do it. I mean, I’m not making fun, I’m just saying if there’s one group of people that I do know something about—and I know something about Anglicans, too, because I was an Anglican for 24 years.
I want to suggest that one of the problems is that such people either get happy or they get gloomy but they cannot combine two opposing things, which we have to combine. Let’s look in Psalm 2. It’s better to look at the examples than try to explain in the abstract. Psalm 2:11:
“Serve the Lord with fear...”
What kind of fear? The fear of the Lord, that’s right. It’s not enough to be serving the Lord, you have to serve the Lord with fear. And, what does it say then?
“...rejoice with trembling.”
That’s what our little minds find it so hard to put together. We have a right to rejoice. In fact, it’s wrong not to rejoice. But don’t ever become presumptuous or carnal or just let yourself go without any sense of restraint. Rejoice with what? With trembling, that’s right. That’s the combination that leads to success in the Christian life. We don’t want always to be mournful and gloomy and sad and oppressed. But on the other hand, if all we can do is just get excited and jump up and down and clap our hands and make a noise, it’s very shallow. The combination is what we need. Rejoice with trembling.
I don’t believe in making fun of people that respond differently to God. I have my way of responding, others respond differently. But if it’s a genuine response to God, I’m determined to respect it. When I found other things besides Anglicanism I used to make fun of people who were serious and quiet. I thought they were, you know, lacking in liberty. But I don’t do that today because there are different ways that human beings respond. What we have to put together is rejoicing and trembling.
And then in the New Testament, in Acts 9 we have a little summation of the growth of the church at a certain point early on in its history. Acts 9:31:
“Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee and Samaria had peace, and were edified [or built up]; and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.”
They grew rapidly. Notice the two things that went together. The fear of the Lord and the comfort, or encouragement, of the Holy Spirit. It’s so easy to get polarized. It’s all comfort or it’s all fear. It’s all rejoicing or it’s all trembling. Only the Holy Spirit can give us the balance but it’s the balance that brings the blessing.
And then again in Ephesians 5:21. Just previous to this Paul has been talking about being filled, continually filled—not just filled once but continually filled—with the Holy Spirit, speaking to yourselves with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs and all that. Then he comes down to what kind of lifestyle will that lead to. In verse 21 of Ephesians 5 he says:
“Submitting to one another in the fear of God.”
Or in the fear of Christ, there are two different texts. Let’s bear in mind that submissiveness is a mark of being filled with the Holy Spirit. The primary submissiveness in the body of Christ is not to the leaders but to one another. Other verses speak about being submitted to the leaders but the first submission in the body of Christ is each of us toward one another. And leaders who haven’t learned that probably shouldn’t be leading. Peter warns us not to be lords over God’s flock but to be an example. And in that context immediately he says put on the apron of slavery, serve one another.
Then it goes on, here’s for your ladies—but you see, I dealt fairly with you. I didn’t start with this verse. I pointed out that mutual submission begins and then there are other aspects. So:
“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as to the Lord.”
I remember once counseling a man who was a very successful Baptist pastor. He had built a large congregation and written a couple of books. Outwardly he was very successful but he shared with me that his home life and his marriage were far from successful. That is unfortunately the case in many such ministries. But he shared this story which blessed me. He and his wife were in the bedroom on opposite sides of the bed kneeling and trying to pray. And they were having an argument. Like the typical pastor husband he said, “But the Bible says you have to submit to me!” And the wife replied, “Well, you don’t have so good a record. I don’t know why I should.” And they were headed for a real debate. Then he said this, “Something like a cold wind blew through the bedroom and we realized it’s in the fear of God.” You will never really achieve this kind of relationship without the fear of God. But they suddenly both of them realized it wasn’t a question of how does my husband treat me, how does my wife respond. The question was do we fear God? That’s the real motivation. If you get your eyes on your husband there might be times you’re tempted to disobey. I’m not saying wives have to obey their husbands in everything. But, that’s not the reason. It’s not human personalities that we’re dealing with, it’s God Himself and His requirement. He requires that we be submissive and that wives submit to their husbands, that children submit to their parents. A lot of this seems almost ashen to the contemporary generation but I want to tell you God hasn’t changed. If you want the blessing of the Lord you have to meet His conditions.
Then there’s a very, very powerful scripture in 1 Peter 1:15–19.
“But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct; because it is written [and this is God speaking], Be holy; for I am holy.”
And then Peter goes on to apply this.
“If you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your sojourning here in fear...”
Fear of what? Fear of being lost? No. Why should we be in fear? The next verse tells us.
“...knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”
What is the reason for fear? The price that was paid to redeem us. If God gave His Son to redeem us, if that was the price that God set upon us, how can we ever become proud or presumptuous or careless? So Peter says the very fact that you’ve been redeemed with the blood of Christ is the reason why you should pass the time of your sojourning here [on earth] in fear. What kind of fear? Fear of the Lord.
See, this runs all through the scriptures from beginning to end. I wanted to ask how many of you ever heard one sermon devoted solely to the fear of the Lord? Would you just put your hand up if that’s what you heard. Now, there’s about 10 hands, 15 hands. Take your hands down. Was that sermon preached by me? Put your hand up again. One or two. All right. I preached on this theme once years ago in a big camp meeting and I got into it by accident, I really hadn’t planned. At the end a lady came up to me and she was quite indignant with me. She said, “I don’t know what’s the matter with me but since you started speaking about the fear of the Lord, all I’ve done is cry. I can’t stop crying.” I really didn’t understand but I see that the Holy Spirit was trying to open her heart and mind to the reality of what we’re talking about, the fear of the Lord.
Now, let’s for a moment consider what response God wants from us. I’m going to turn back to Proverbs 2 and I’m going to go through the first 5 verses, which is a series of exhortations. You know, one thing about the Lord is He doesn’t make recommendations. And He doesn’t tell us try to do things. You know, you never get the Lord saying try to. He doesn’t say try to love your enemies. He just says love your enemies. Let’s look briefly in closing at this.
It’s God speaking to His child. And there are four verses leading up to the climax. And each verse contains a pair.
“My son, if you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you...”
What’s the first pair? Receiving God’s word and treasuring His commands within you. All right?
“...so that you incline your hear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding...”
What does it mean to incline? It means to bow down. What does it mean to bow down? It means to be teachable, that’s right, humble. So the next thing you have to do is bow down your ear and apply your heart to wisdom and to understanding.
And the third thing is:
“...if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding...”
So to cry out and to lift up the voice in one word, what is that? Prayer, that’s right. But it’s very impassioned prayer. You cry out, “God, I must have this. I won’t cease praying until you grant it to me.”
And the fourth one is:
“...if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasure...”
Now, this is a continual seeking. If you were told that there was a large treasure buried in the local park, wherever it is, and you could have it if you could find it; you’d go out there and dig. You wouldn’t worry about the blisters on your hands. So this is really seeking with hard work. There isn’t much that comes in the Christian life ultimately without hard work, you know that? It starts with a gift but it’s completed by zeal, diligence.
Here are the four conditions. Receive God’s word, treasure His commands. Incline your ear to wisdom and apply your heart to understanding. Cry out for discernment, lift up your voice for understanding. Seek her as silver, search for her as hidden treasure.
Now, here is the conclusion. Then you understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. Notice what two things go together. Knowledge and the fear of the Lord, that’s right. You very, very seldom find them separated.
What is the climax? It’s to understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. I can’t think of anything in a way that could ever be greater than that. To find the knowledge of God, to come to know God—the eternal, Almighty, omnipotent, omniscient Creator. Can we ever come to know Him? Yes. If we’ll meet the conditions. But never without the fear of the Lord. First we have to understand the fear of the Lord and then we can find the knowledge of God.
This has become so exciting to me in the last year or two that I’ve memorized it. I check on myself from time to time, am I going through the steps? So, how about it? Have you perhaps gained a deep desire for the fear of the Lord? Are you willing to meet the conditions? How will you respond to God’s offer which is also a challenge? I don’t believe God has ever promised anything that we can’t have. So it says you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. I believe it’s possible.
Why don’t we pause for a moment, we’ve just got a few seconds left, and each one of us just ask ourself this question. Have I chosen the fear of the Lord? Do I want to choose the fear of the Lord. Will I say to myself I choose the fear of the Lord here and now. I’m not sure of all that’s involved but I make my choice right now.
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