Volume. XXV, No. 16
Sunday, 17 October 2010

The Fear of the Lord in the Lives of Christians (Part I) - Proverbs 9:10

Throughout Proverbs, and in the Bible at large, God tells us that our “heart” is where everything begins — our emotions, attitude and disposition. Proverbs 4:23 says, "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life." In the New Testament, Jesus echoes this in Matthew 15:18,19 where He shows that sinful behaviours originate from “the heart”. He specifies adultery, fornication, stealing, dishonesty and blasphemy. Our Lord declared that these things come "from the heart". For, the heart is “the seat” of the human will, or where our behaviour, emotions, attitude and disposition are “formulated”. In Proverbs, and throughout Scripture, this premise cannot be missed: our heart is where everything begins! Since this is so, there is a practical component that we must acknowledge: if we will get our heart right with God, and maintain that disposition of heart, that action on our part will move us in the “right” direction and prompt good virtues and behaviour. But, have you ever asked yourself this question: “How can we get our heart right with God, and maintain that disposition of heart”? If there is a “healthy fear” and “reverence” toward God in our heart, that is the beginning of a life of “wisdom and knowledge” that should lead us to godly behaviour. This is why the Word of God says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding".


Therefore, it is vital for God’s people to “develop” that “fear of God” because it is so inseparably connected with our walk with God in this day and age where such a concept is increasingly being undermined and even forgotten. This is partly because we live in a “culture and society” that lacks the fear of God; as Apostle Paul says in Rom 3:18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” The late Arthur Pink, an English preacher and theologian, already observed and cautioned his readers some 60 years ago: “Time was when it was the general custom to speak of a believer as a ‘God-fearing man.’ That such an appellation has become nearly extinct only serves to show whither we have drifted”. Have we drifted from this notion of a healthy fear of the Lord? Have we forgotten to fear the Lord as we ought and pass on that knowledge to the next generation?


What is the Meaning of the Word “Fear”?


The fear of the Lord is a much misunderstood “concept,” perhaps in part because there are actually two types of "fear" of the Lord mentioned in the Old Testament Scripture. The first type is what I called the “dreadful fear,” the second type is what I called the “reverential fear”. Let us look at the first type of “fear”.


Dreadful Fear


In 2 Chronicles 20:29 we are told that “the fear of God was on all the kingdoms of those countries, when they had heard that the LORD fought against the enemies of Israel”. The word used in this verse is “pachad” which always indicates a “dreadful fear” or “terrifying fear”. The same word is also used in 2 Chronicles 17:10, Proverbs 1:26-29 and a number of other places in the Old Testament Scripture. In the New Testament, we find that the word “phobos” is used, which is how we got our English word “phobia”. This word is used to convey both the idea of “dreadful fear” in the Old Testament, as well as “reverential fear” and the context determines how the word is used. The word “phobos” is used in Matthew 28:5 when the angel said to the female disciples of Jesus who came to the tomb, “…Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified”. The same word is also used in 1 Timothy 5:20, Revelation 14:7 and many other passages in the New Testament to denote “dreadful fear” or “terrifying fear”.


Reverential Fear


In 2 Samuel 23:3b, we are told that God said through the mouth of Moses, “He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.” The word used is not “pachad” or dreadful fear but “yir-aw” which is the same word used in Proverbs 1:7 and Proverbs 9:10 where we are told to “fear” the Lord because it is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge. Therefore, to God’s people, the fear of the Lord is an attitude of reverence toward God, which includes a healthy dread of displeasing Him. Unfortunately, this truth is being largely ignored and undermined by many modern day churches. People tend to prefer to depict God as someone who is “loving and merciful” and not as someone to be “revered in fear”. A.W. Tozer, a late American pastor wrote: “In the old days, people of faith were said to walk in the fear of God and to serve the Lord with fear. Wherever God appeared to people in Bible times, the results were an overwhelming sense of terror and dismay, a wrenching sensation of sinfulness and guilt. The self-assurance of modern Christians, the shocking disrespect shown for the Person of God are evidence of deep blindness of heart.” In the New Testament the word “phobos” is also used to convey the idea of “reverential fear,” for example when Peter wrote the we should “fear God and honour the king” in 1 Peter 2:17 the word “phobos” was used. But it is also used to denote terrifying fear as we have already mentioned. So the usage of the word “phobos” must be determined by its context built on the Old Testament concept of fear.


What Does It Mean to Fear the Lord?


With the Fear of God


Proverbs 1:7a says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge…” That knowledge should transform into action beginning with “hating evil.” Proverbs 8:13 says, “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.” Proverbs 16:6 also says “By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil.” When one fears the Lord and hates evil, he will take God’s counsel seriously, as a result it may literally lengthen his life days on earth. Proverbs 10:27a says, “The fear of the LORD prolongeth days…”


The promise of “lengthening of earthly life” goes beyond just the physical life. Proverbs 19:23 says, “The fear of the LORD tendeth to life: and he that hath it shall abide satisfied; he shall not be visited with evil.” I believe that promise of “prolonging of life” has a greater emphasis on protecting God’s children from falling into the temptations of Satan. The fear of the Lord is also our “confidence” and “refuge”. Proverbs 14:26 says “In the fear of the LORD is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge.” Ironically, “the fear” of the Lord provides “confidence” and a place of “refuge” for the saints in times of uncertainties, insecurities and troubles. A child of God who walks in the fear of the Lord is also a humble person who is blessed with abundant blessings. Proverbs 22:4 says, “By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches, and honour, and life.” This verse tells us two things.


First, the humility and the fear of the Lord go hand in hand: A Christian who is said to fear the Lord is a humble individual. A Christian who is said to be truly humble is a person who fears the Lord. Secondly, a child of God who fears God and humbles himself before Him will be blessed with riches and honour. It is true that sometimes God may bless those who fear Him with material abundance. But the riches God promises here is ultimately the “spiritual riches and honour” He has promised to give to us in the next life!


Without the Fear of God


On the other hand, the word of God says a person who is without the “fear of God,” or lacks reverence toward God is called “a fool,”. Proverbs 1:7b says, “fools despise wisdom and instruction” in contrast with a person who fears the Lord. By the way, “a fool” here is not referring to someone who is “unintelligent” or “uneducated”, but someone who is “stubborn in his or her own ways” and “refuses to receive godly instructions and counsel”. Proverbs 15:5 says, “A fool despiseth his father\'s instruction: but he that regardeth reproof is prudent.” Although Solomon perhaps meant to refer to one’s biological father here, this verse may also apply to a child of God who “stubbornly refuses” to listen to his heavenly father, making him  a “fool”.


The core problem with “a fool” again is: “the heart” which is the seat of a person’s will, as we have mentioned. He is not willing to receive the instructions because his mind is a captive of his incorrigible heart. Proverbs 10:8 “The wise in heart will receive commandments: but a prating fool shall fall”. Why? Because “a fool” often thinks that he is “smarter” than God. Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise”. Are there times that we try to out-smart God? When we read a portion of Scripture which instructs us to do things in a certain way, do we say to ourselves: “But God I think my way is better, because it is more ‘practical’ and more ‘reasonable’ ”? Proverbs 23:9 says, “Speak not in the ears of a fool: for he will despise the wisdom of thy words.” The context of this verse tells us that we should not speak words of wisdom to those who refuse to listen. But do you know what? When we keep quenching the Spirit and rejecting His counsel and advice and if we insist to be a fool by trying to outsmart God, He may say, “I will stop giving you counsel and let you learn your lessons through your own mistakes”.


We have considered the meaning of the word “fear” and the implications of what it means to fear the Lord in our lives. Next week, we shall see how we may develop “the fear of the Lord”.


Ps David Weng


More Lively Hope




*Kitchen Rosters: Team Leader: Bro Bro Boong Atijatuporn. Next Lord’s Day: Team Leader: Bro Phil Surman.

*Warm greetings from Hopefuls in S’pore.

*Tentative dates for Missions to Batam and Bintang: 20-23 Jan 2011. Please see Dn David Yeo if  interested.

*Congratulations to Bro Stuart Turner & Sis Rachel Soon on their wedding yesterday (Melb).


Looking Ahead

*B-P National Youth Camp, 29 Nov - 3 Dec.

*Christmas Day Worship Service: Sat, 25 Dec.

*Watchnight Service: Fri, 31 Dec.


Praise & Thanksgiving

1. Journey mercies: Rev Edward & Sis Lehia Paauwe (Per); Dn Wai Kin & Sis Mavis Wong & family (Adl); Mr & Mrs Mark Chen & family (Per/S’pore); Sis Peng Ha Yeo & Dns Purdee Yeo (Philippines); Sisters Margaret Hooper (Asia), Christabelle Selvanayagam (Syd) & Tabitha Tan (Melb); & others who have arrived safely at their destinations.

2. Church activities - over the past week.

3. Daily mercies & guidance in our lives.

4. The Lord’s Supper last week conducted by Rev Edward Paauwe.

5. Ministry of Mr Mark Chen to Hopefuls.

6. ICCC Conference 11-15 Oct in Manila/ Bacolod.

7. 60th Anniversary Thanksgiving of Life BPC, S’pore.


Prayer Items

1. Health & God’s healing - Rev George & Sis Nan van Buuren; Dr Gary Cohen (USA), Dr SH Tow; Rev & Mrs James White; Preacher Zhang, Dn Yaw Chiew Tan; Dn David Yeo; Bros Colin Creaser, Makoto Kobayashi (JPN), Elton Law, Jonathan Liao (Melb), & Len Pearson; Mr Swee Liang Ng; Grandpa Ki (S’pore); Auntie Oei; Sisters Lynette Booth, Mabella Booth, Annie D’Mello & her mother (Mumbai), Lydia Fan, Myung Ki, Choon Fong Lee (KL), Gillian Ong, Lehia Paauwe, Margaret Pearson, Susan Veradi, Irena Kurek-Braden; & others in affliction.

2. Cambodia Missions - Rev David Koo & Ministry, Life University  (Sihanoukville).

3. iSketch&Tell Studio - Pr H S Lim & his ministry.

4. IBPFM (USA) - Rev K Coleman, Board & Missionaries around the world.

5. Ministry in London - Ps & Sis Ki

6. Presbyterian Missionary Union - Missionaries.

7. Ps & Sis  Weng - ministry in Hope BPC.

8. Hopefuls in S’pore; In Kuching: Teo family.

9. Journey mercies: Bro Raymond Ang (S’pore); Sis Tabitha Tan (Adl)& all others who are travelling.

10. Hopefuls away (short term): Dns Purdee Yeo (overseas); Bro Elton & Sis Michiko Law & Jasper (Tokyo); Sisters Mariam Atijatuporn & Jayden (Udon Thani), Margaret Hooper (Asia), Christabelle Selvanayagam (Syd) & Peng Ha Yeo (overseas).

11. Job - Bro Richie Hornung; Sisters Judy Li & Corinne Teng. Jobs for our uni graduates next year.

12. Good health in pregnancy - Sisters Myra Hornung (Mindanao) & Monica Tan. 

13. Interpreters of sermon into Mandarin.

14. Year 12 Students: Sisters Jillian Chia & Shilsha Ninian.

15. Session Meeting this afternoon - for guidance & wisdom.




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