What It Means To ‘Fear The Lord.’


In the Wisdom Literature there is no more central concept than the fear of the LORD. It is life. It is reality. It’s essential to operating, under the Lordship of Jesus, in this world.

And yet, it seems like a portable definition of this ultra-important task is difficult to come by—like catching the morning fog in a fish net.


There is no straight up equivalent in English to this Hebrew concept. We don’t have a word for this kind of “fear.”

The fear of the Lord doesn’t mean to be afraid of the Lord.

As Christians, we don’t have to be afraid of our Father, Brother, or the Holy Spirit. They are for us, not against us. When we know the love of Christ, it drives out fear. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (1 John 4:18).

We aren’t to have that kind of fear.

Adam and Eve were afraid of God because they did not fear God.

We know that because after Adam and Eve sinned with Satan, they hid from God; they were afraid. Adam said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself”(Gen. 3:10). The gospel, the covering of Christ’s righteousness to our lives, liberates us from being afraid of God. We are now totally accepted.


The fear of the Lord involves reverence, honor, submission, and obedience. We can define the fear of the Lord like this:

The fear of the Lord is the fear of dishonoring the Lord; it is a foundational eagerness to glorify God in all of life.

The fear of the Lord is the posture of 1 Corinthians 10:31—all of life is for the glory of God. The fear of the Lord echoes 2 Corinthians 5:9—it is my ambition to please him!

  • The fear of the Lord is the essence of wisdom.
  • The fear of the Lord is pure; it never fades.
  • The fear of the Lord can be taught; this is discipleship.
  • The fear of the Lord requires us to hate evil, because we love his glory.
  • The fear of the Lord keeps us from compromising our values.

In all of our gospel-drivenness, let’s remember to fear the Lord our God. We must. This is wisdom. This is a gospel-formed life. It is given to us by God our Savior.

Job 28:28 And he said to man,
‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom,
and to turn away from evil is understanding.’”

Psa. 19:9 the fear of the LORD is clean,
enduring forever;
the rules of the LORD are true,
and righteous altogether.

Psa. 34:11    Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.

Psa. 111:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.
His praise endures forever!

Prov. 1:7   The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Prov. 1:29 Because they hated knowledge
and did not choose the fear of the LORD

Prov. 2:5 then you will understand the fear of the LORD
and find the knowledge of God.

Prov. 8:13 The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil.
Pride and arrogance and the way of evil
and perverted speech I hate.

Prov. 9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

Prov. 10:27 The fear of the LORD prolongs life,
but the years of the wicked will be short.

Prov. 14:26 In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.
27 The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life,
that one may turn away from the snares of death.

Prov. 15:16 Better is a little with the fear of the LORD
than great treasure and trouble with it.

Prov. 15:33 The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom,
and humility comes before honor.

Prov. 16:6 By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for,
and by the fear of the LORD one turns away from evil.

Prov. 19:23 The fear of the LORD leads to life,
and whoever has it rests satisfied;
he will not be visited by harm.

Prov. 22:4 The reward for humility and fear of the LORD
is riches and honor and life.

Prov. 23:17 Let not your heart envy sinners,
but continue in the fear of the LORD all the day.

  1. That was great, I have always thought of fear of the Lord as meaning to
    respect Him. Which it does. But I have never seen it written in such
    detail and I learned quite a bit from your blog. I am going to keep some
    of it in my journal, just for my personal knowledge or possibly to help
    someone that is way off tract with the meaning of “fear of the Lord”
    and they think it means beware. Which then leads them to what they have
    read in the Old Testament and killing people for their wrongs including
    children. I believe they need to have it explained to them a little.
    Thank you for making me aware of this information. God’s blessings to you and yours’.

  2. Can you kindly further elaborate on “…Which then leads them to what they have read in the Old Testament and killing people for their wrongs including
    children.” That is, if you are feeling up to it, and have the time.
    Thank you, most kindly.

    Most sincerely,


  3. Hi Rebecca, I believe that she is referring to the “judgement of the Amalekites” found in 1 Samuel 15, where the Prophet Samuel is instructing King Saul immediately after his anointment to go into the lands of the Amalekites and strike down every man, woman, child, even their livestock, bring it all to ruination. The back story to this is that the Amalekites were the descendants of Esau’s children and Cainite wives. They were a people in a bloodline of usurpers and murderers. People avoid this point — their sin was deep rooted in their blood, they were enemies of God and Israel by birthright. This is also the same bloodline of the Assyrians (cross-reference to Isaiah 10). Ironically, these “enemies” still plague Israel today due to the failings of one so long ago. God’s wisdom has always proven greater than our humanitarianism and fear of following through with certainty.

    The Cainites (founders of Canaan) go even further back to the Philistines in Genesis 9 and 10 as well. If you read here you will see that the Cainites conquered the lands of the original native Egyptians and became Moses’ Egypt. The very same people found Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 14. This incursion of the Philistines into Canaan was a part of God’s curse against the sin of Ham.

    In Joshua 13 we learn that the Philistines were not a single nation but 5 nations with capitals in Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron. These were clearly the Egyptians, Sumerians, Assyrians, Medo-Persians, and the Babylonians.

    Now do you understand why nothing but terrorism and bad things come from this region of the world? It is a curse upon all God’s people thanks to a disobedient few. To those that say “God wouldn’t do that,” we all die because of Adam and Eve’s sin conspiracy in the Garden of Eden right? Where two sinned billions have paid with their lives. Is it just? Of course, we screwed up the perfection. God gave us Utopia and we messed it up and have sought it ever since.

    By the way – a little politics with my religion, who was the first “Liberal humanitarian?”

    The Devil was – placing self above the greater good of the whole and motivating others to follow.

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