- And, how relevant is "fear of the LORD" to US?
Text: Isaiah 33:6b (NKJV)
"The fear of the LORD is His treasure."
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Text: Isaiah 33:6b (NKJV)
"The fear of the LORD is His treasure."
The Hebrew word Strong 3374 יִרְאָה yirah, used in Isaiah 33:6, is the same as the word used in Genesis 20:11 by Abraham :
Surely the fear of God is not in this place and they will slay me for my wife's sake. [KJV]
So it would appear to be a general word for humanity being in fear of deity. It is a fear which restrains men (clearly from the way in which Abraham uses it) from outright bloodthirsty and bestial behaviour.
Moreover, humanity is exhorted, generally, together with its rulers to :
Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling [Psalm 2:11, KJV]
God, himself, is involved in this :
I will put a fear in the land of Egypt [Ezekiel 30:13, KJV]
Natural events can cause such a fear as we see in Jonah, after the sea was stilled when the sailors cast Jonah into it :
Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly [Jonah 1:16, KJV]
But all of this is not, necessarily, combined with a personal knowledge of God or with a personal interest in the salvation of God or with the intimacy of heart worship towards God.
Not necessarily, it would seem from the various contexts.
There is general exhortation for humanity to be aware of Deity, to reverence Deity and to be afraid, for so they should be. It is only reasonable.
And if the fear of the Lord 'is his treasure' then he values it. It is worth something even if, initially, it only restrains humanity from excessive evil upon earth.
In the New testament scriptures the Greek word phobos is used to describe both the fear of God and the fear of men, the disciples gathering 'for fear of the Jews' [John 20:19 KJV] and the gathered company of believers being affected when 'fear came upon every soul' [Acts 2:43, KJV], as they 'continued steadfast in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
To us (as the question asks) that is to say, if we believe in Jesus Christ and gather with others who do so, this fear is enjoined by the apostles. It is to be experienced.
Paul exhorts the Corinthian Christians :
... let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. [1 Corinthians 7:1, KJV]
The fear of God in this verse is the context in which one would 'perfect' holiness. One would begin with such a fear and one would, within it, perfect that holiness which is the holiness with which God is holy.
Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. [1 Peter 1:16, KJV]
Without the fear of God, one would not be able to even start such a process of 'perfecting holiness'.
The most famous verse on the fear of the Lord is Proverbs 1:7:
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (NIV)
This is what the New Bible Dictionary says about fear:
[Holy Fear] comes from the believer's apprehension of the living God. According to Luther, the natural man cannot fear God perfectly; according to Rudolf Otto, he is 'quite unable even to shudder or feel horror in the real sense of the word'. Holy fear, on the other hand, is God-given, enabling men to reverence God's authority, obey his commandments and hate and shun all form of evil (Je. 32:40; cf. Gn 22:12; Heb 5:7).It is, moreover, the beginning (or principle) of wisdom (Ps. 111:10); the secret of uprightness (Pr. 8:13); a feature of the people in whom God delights (Ps. 147:11); and the whole duty of man (Ec. 12:13). It is also one of the divine qualifications of the Messiah (Is. 11:2-3).
It goes on to make the point that in the OT, "true religion is often regarded as synonymous with the fear of God".
In terms of how this is related specifically to Isaiah, this is what Alec Motyer says about this verse:
Yahweh has treasured up the fear of himself to bestow on his people, this being the beginning of wisdom and the foundation of every other blessing. (Isaiah by the Day, p. 159)
In short, you could say the fear of the Lord is true spirituality. Is is a holy reverence for God which causes us to love him, respect him, honour and obey him. As the passage in Isaiah says, God's blessings come to us through the fear of the Lord:
Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
for those who fear him lack nothing. (Psalm 34:8-9)
The problem with "the fear of the Lord", or, "the fear of God" (equivalent in this context) is the idea is not explicitly defined anywhere in Scripture. However, we may glean much from the likes of W E Vine, "Expository Dictionary of NT Words". The Entry under "Fear" reads (in part):
... "reverential fear," (1) of God, as a controlling motive of the life, in matters spiritual and moral, not a mere "fear" of His power and righteous retribution, but a wholesome dread of displeasing Him, a "fear" which banishes the terror that shrinks from His presence, Romans 8:15 , and which influences the disposition and attitude of one whose circumstances are guided by trust in God, through the indwelling Spirit of God, Acts 9:31 ; Romans 3:18 ; 2 Corinthians 7:1 ; Ephesians 5:21 (RV, "the fear of Christ"); Philippians 2:12 ; 1 Peter 1:17 (a comprehensive phrase: the reverential "fear" of God will inspire a constant carefulness in dealing with others in His "fear"); 3:2,15; the association of "fear and trembling," as e.g., in Philippians 2:12 , has in the Sept. a much sterner import, e.g., Genesis 9:2 ; Exodus 15:16 ; Deuteronomy 2:25 ; 11:25 ; Psalm 55:5 ; Isaiah 19:16 ...
Such an idea/concept is best understood by the first occurrence of the term "fear of God" (or similar) in Gen 22:11, 12, where we have part of the story about Abraham sacrificing Isaac but being stopped by the angel of the LORD.
Just then the Angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, “Abraham, Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
“Do not lay a hand on the boy or do anything to him,” said the angel, “for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your only son from me.”
This suggests that to fear God or fear the LORD is to have such reverential respect that the person has a genuine fear of displeasing God. As such, Abraham was will to forgo that which was most precious to him other than serving God; in other words, serving God was more important to Abraham that even the love for his closest and most precious family and only son, Isaac.
Put another way, Abraham loved God more than all else and thus "feared God".
The Bible lists numerous advantages of fearing the LORD/God such as prosperity, delivering just government, having eternal life, and much else. Isa 33:6 eulogizes this idea by simply saying that Zion's greatest asset was their fear of the LORD -
He will be the sure foundation for your times, a storehouse of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge. The fear of the LORD is Zion’s treasure.
Thus, if Israel had been faithful in serving God and "fearing God" they would have been "a storehouse of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge." Briefly this was true under Solomon as described in 1 Kings 4:20, 21 -
The people of Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand on the seashore, and they were eating and drinking and rejoicing. And Solomon reigned over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt. These kingdoms offered tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life.
The relevance of “the fear of the LORD” to us should become clear when the biblical meaning of that phrase – ‘the fear of the LORD’ – is opened up. The God of the Bible is so awesome, only fools would not give him due reverence - which is the biblical meaning of the fear of God. Proverbs chapter 9 is an invitation to Wisdom's 'house' and those who heed it come under the instruction of the Lord God Almighty (vs. 10). Knowing that "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 12:28-29 & 10:31), there can be no chummy attitude to prayer or worship. The Almighty will not become the ‘all-matey’. To have that reverent fear is the beginning of wisdom. "The knowledge of the holy is understanding" Proverbs 9:10 continues. That's a plural 'holy [things]'.
It includes reverence of his majesty, and dread of his wrath. Yet those who are his children know Him as their loving heavenly Father, for the very reason that they have a holy fear of God which leads them to obedience and love, and adoption into God's family. Those who belong to God by faith know the fear of the Lord - an awesome thing, because God is holy.
I’ve started by working backwards with your questions, so will continue. How is this fear of the Lord “his treasure”? Well, treasure is often priceless, fabulous wealth. Let me now quote the Isaiah verse from Youngs’ Literal Translation of the Bible (YLT), starting with verse 5 to get the start of the sentence:
“Set on high is Jehovah, for He is dwelling on high. He filled Zion [with] judgment and righteousness, and hath been the steadfastness of thy times, the strength of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge, fear of Jehovah – it is His treasure.”
Wisdom is this immense, incalculable treasure, leading to salvation, and God lavishes it upon those who reverently fear him. His righteous judgment is appreciated and experienced by those who fear him, for they are given the wisdom from above to grasp how God’s righteous judgment was poured out on Jesus when He was bearing the punishment for sin on the cross. They see Jesus, high and lifted up – the epitome of all treasure. There is no greater gift God could give to humanity than his beloved Son, and that is the gift bestowed freely upon those who have reverent fear of the Lord.
Finally, your first query. Again, let me quote from YLT, this time turning to Ezekiel chapter 1, the vision of the awesome, fiery lightning cloud, with four living creatures with wheels within wheels governing their supernatural movements. Do read the whole chapter. Now, here is the relevant verse (18) regarding those wheels:
“As to their rings, they are both high and fearful, and their rings [are] full of eyes round about them four.”
The word ‘fearful’ is sometimes translated as ‘awesome’, and that is the point. Such a vision would make anyone tremble, and when we are admonished in scripture to have holy “fear of the Lord”, a sense of awesomeness should grip us and make us tremble, for this is the living, Almighty God we are considering, and we are his creatures, the work of his hands. We give him all due reverence, or we are fools who have spurned his gracious invitation to sit in Wisdom’s house.