God is love (1 John 4:8; 1 John 4:16). The scriptures assure us of this fact. And we are, indeed, to love God. My search of the scriptures turned up no less than 14 specific times we are commanded to do just that (Deuteronomy 6:5; Deuteronomy 11:1; Deuteronomy 11:13; Deuteronomy 11:22; Deuteronomy 19:9; Deuteronomy 30:16; Deuteronomy 30:20; Joshua 22:5; Joshua 23:11; Psalm 31:23; Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27; 1 Corinthians 16:22). Our willingness to obey God is not only evidence of our love for Him but also identifies us as His children. But while it is quite true that we must love the Lord our God and that our love should usually be the motivating factor for our obedience to His will, this is not always the case.
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We know that while on this earth in human form, Jesus Christ did everything in his infinite love for God and for us. However, we also know that Jesus was and is sinless and pure (Hebrews 4:15; Hebrews 7:26; Hebrews 9:14; 1 Peter 1:19; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5). And it goes without saying that none of us live up to that standard of sinlessness and purity (Romans 3:23), except of course through the blood of Christ. So, not always will our love for God be the motivating factor for our obedience to His will. I have heard some well-meaning Christians claim that our sole reason for obedience must always be our love for God. In an ideal world, that would be true. But alas, this is certainly not an ideal world. We are faulty humans.
What then, in addition to love, is a motivator for obedience? Our fear of the Lord. In the Old Testament, the word “fear” is translated from the Hebrew word “yare” which means literally “to fear, revere, be afraid, to stand in awe of, be awed, reverence, honor, respect.” In the New Testament, the word “fear” is translated from the Greek word “phobos” which means literally “to be put in fear.”
My search of the scriptures turned up no less than 17 places where we are specifically ordered to fear the Lord (Leviticus 19:14; Leviticus 25:17; Deuteronomy 6:13; Deuteronomy 6:24; Deuteronomy 10:12; Deuteronomy 10:20; Joshua 24:14; 1 Samuel 12:24; 2 Chronicles 19:7; 2 Chronicles 19:9; Psalm 34:9; Proverbs 3:7; Proverbs 23:17; Proverbs 24:21; Isaiah 8:13; Matthew 10:28; Luke 12:5).
And, in addition to those, there are five scriptures which show us that fear of the Lord must be learned and/or that we should teach it to our children (Deuteronomy 6:2; Deuteronomy 31:12-13; 2 Chronicles 26:5; Psalm 34:11).
Furthermore, there is an abundance of scriptures which tell us the benefits of fearing God. Those who fear Him avoid evil (Proverbs 16:6). The angel of God encamps around those who fear the Lord (Psalm 34:7). The eyes of God are upon them (Psalm 33:18). God is the help and shield of those who fear Him (Psalm 115:11). The Lord blesses (Psalm 128:1), delights in (Psalm 147:11) and has compassion on (Psalm 103:13) those who fear Him. Those who fear God lack for nothing (Psalm 25:14). They will grow in knowledge (Proverbs 1:7) and wisdom (Job 28:28; Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 9:10; Proverbs 15:33; Micah 6:9). In fact, fearing the Lord is the key to the treasure of salvation, wisdom and knowledge (Isaiah 33:6). Fear of God is better than great wealth (Proverbs 15:16), and yet it brings wealth, honor, and life (Proverbs 22:4). It leads to life (Proverbs 19:23), adds to the length of life (Proverbs 10:27), and is a fountain of life (Proverbs 14:27). And as if this were not enough, the fear of the Lord helps the church to grow in number (Acts 9:31) and leads to the name of Jesus being held in high honor (Acts 19:17).
Only those who hate knowledge (Proverbs 1:29) and who are wicked (Psalm 36:1) do not fear the Lord.
The Bible teaches us how to recognize those who fear God. They are pure (Psalm 19:9), have undivided hearts (Psalm 86:11), hate evil (Proverbs 8:13), put their trust in the Lord (Psalm 40:3), and seek His favor (Jeremiah 26:19). They praise God (Psalm 22:23; Psalm 135:20), and serve and obey Him (2 Chronicles 19:9; Psalm 2:11; 1 Samuel 12:14). And they try to persuade others to fear God, too (2 Corinthians 5:11).
“‘Should you not fear me?’ declares the Lord. . . ” (Jeremiah 5:22 NIV) From the sheer number of scriptures warning us to fear the Lord, we can see how important it is that we do so. God parted the waters of the Red Sea and the Jordan River so that all the people of the earth might always fear Him (Joshua 4:23-24). So, as Psalm 33:8 tells us, “Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere him.” We must always remember to fear the Lord our God, because sometimes our love just isn’t enough.
Copyright © 1998 Kimberly B. Southall. All rights reserved.