Fear the Lord, Not People - It's a Heart Issue

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, October 8, 2014 0 comments

by Logan Ames

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline” (Proverbs 1:7).

This may be a verse you are familiar with from the Bible, but have you ever really thought about what it means? If something is the “beginning”, that means nothing like it existed before. The first four words we read in the entire Bible are “in the beginning, God” to signify that God was here before nothing else was and that everything was made by him (Genesis 1:1). In the same way, the verse quoted above declares that there truly is NO knowledge before the fear of the Lord. Obviously, people who don’t believe in God can still know certain things in the world. The point is that their knowledge might as well not exist because it is pointless. Everything we think, feel, and do must be filtered through the knowledge that we only exist each day because God says we get to, and the knowledge that he does not guarantee us tomorrow whether we worship him or not. What he does guarantee is eternity either with or completely without him, so it would follow that we would want to be on his side.

Fear can be a wonderful motivator. I’ve told the story before of how I faced a dilemma when my younger brother asked me to join him for a skydiving adventure in 2005. My older brother signed on as well, and I was the only one who was extremely hesitant. I have a fear of heights that was certainly making me anxious about jumping out of an airplane, but I certainly didn’t want to be the ONLY one of three brothers who chickened out. When it came down to the decision, I had to decide which fear was greater. I eventually decided to face my fear of heights and accept the challenge to skydive. The fear of being the “chicken” in the family motivated me to overcome a different fear.

I believe that a healthy and necessary fear of the Lord can be a motivator as well. Too often, we assume that because God loves us and is gracious, that he won’t deal harshly with our sin. This is a very dangerous view to accept. While it is true that God loves us and shows grace when we fail, we must remember that he doesn’t OWE it to us just because we “got saved”. The mark of a believer is repentance, not “fire insurance” so we can be spared from hell no matter how we live. We can disregard the reality of God’s sovereignty over our lives if we want, but that doesn’t change the fact that everything we are and everything we have depends on his permission. The religious zealots who didn’t grasp this were the ones that often frustrated Jesus in the Bible, while the sinners who did grasp it glorified God in extraordinary ways.

This week, we’re addressing the question of how to fear the Lord rather than people. In my opinion, this isn’t really a “how to” issue, but a heart issue. It’s not like you can go pick up a “fearing the Lord for dummies” little yellow book. There is no formula to make it happen. Whether or not you fear the Lord really gets at the core of who you are as an individual. When I look at some of the heroes of the faith in the Bible, it’s obvious that the fear of the Lord was central to their lives and choices. You can tell by their language. The Apostle Paul declared, “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me - the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24). This is what he said to the elders at the church of Ephesus right after telling them he was going to Jerusalem “not knowing what will happen to me there” (v. 22). The threat of persecution and death were very real and Paul later told them in the same passage they would never see him again. Yet, his fear of not doing what God laid out for him to do was far greater than any fear of man. You can find other evidence that Paul feared the Lord rather than people all throughout his letters in the New Testament. Just to name a few, check out Philippians 1:12-26, 2 Corinthians 4:7-18, and 2 Timothy 4:1-8, which was his last letter written just before he was executed.

In the Old Testament, I find the story of Rahab very interesting. At the very least, she is an innkeeper, but the NIV translates the word as “prostitute”. Take a look at Joshua 2. In this story, Rahab is a foreigner living in Jericho, which is located in the land that is the Promised Land that God would give to the Israelites. When Joshua sends two spies into the land to check it out so the Israelites would know what kind of resistance they would get when they decide to push forward and conquer it, the king of Jericho hears of it and questions Rahab to see if the spies are with her. She lies and says the men left and she doesn’t know where they went, when in reality she had hidden them on her roof. What is relevant to this blog post is what she said to the spies as her reason for protecting them: “I know that the Lord has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you” (v. 9). She goes on to explain what she has heard about how the Lord has worked on their behalf so far, then says “for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below” (v. 11). Rahab was not a follower of God. She did not know the Lord. In addition to her well-known shortcomings, she had just become a liar. But we can’t judge her for what she did before she came to knowledge of a relationship with God. What we can and must do is see how she responded when the truth of the sovereignty of a God she previously did not worship was right in front of her face. The fear of the Lord was the very beginning of her knowledge, and she acted appropriately.

Joshua himself has an appropriate response to the fear of the Lord in Joshua 5:13-15. Right before they actually take Jericho, Joshua sees a man standing in front of him with his sword drawn and approaches him to find out which side he is on. The man says, “Neither, but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come”. Joshua immediately falls down in reverence, going from a position of strength and battle to one of humility and surrender. He asks what message the Lord has for him and does everything he is told up to the point that Jericho falls, beginning with the simple act of humility in taking off his sandals. Joshua didn’t care if he looked like an idiot and didn’t try to convince God to be on his side. Because of his healthy fear of the Lord, he knew what really mattered was that he get on the Lord’s side!

We can learn from all of these examples. None of these people seemed to have a formula for how they learned to fear the Lord over others. At their core, they recognized that human beings can only do so much to them, while God is sovereign over everything. Their fear of the Lord was shown through obedience, humility, faith, and repentance. Do those words characterize your life and your attitude? If not, you may need to get to know God a little better until you realize who he is and who you are NOT!