Is the Fear of the Lord a Good Thing?

By Melissa McLaughlin

What is one of your greatest fears? I have quite a few. Spiders top my list, followed by extreme heights and playing piano before large crowds. However, something that is more soul-shaking than these is my fear of being rejected. I think most of us like to be liked. We like to fit in, to feel affirmed by those around us, to be included. Rejection separates us from others and leaves us feeling alone.

Fear of the Lord

For many years I never understood the idea of fearing God. Why should I fear the Lord? Isn’t He a God of love? Didn’t He send Jesus to save me from my sins? Isn’t the Lord gracious and compassionate? I regularly skimmed or skipped over sections of scripture in order to avoid these words “fear of the Lord.” I was too busy underlining the verses I grasped and loved.

However, we cannot escape some very basic and foundational verses regarding this issue.

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

The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever. Psalm 19:9

Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. Ecclesiastes 12:13

As believers in Jesus, we believe in the truth of His Word, the Bible. Therefore, it is important to take in the whole counsel of scripture, viewing each verse in context and as part of God’s bigger story, revealing His glorious redemption plan from Genesis to Revelation.

So, how does the fear of the Lord fit into this grand story?

God is Creator

Knowing ourselves, begins with knowing our Creator. We did not create ourselves. We can only continue or perpetuate all that God has created and set into motion. We can give birth to children and plant seeds in the ground but we cannot create even one human living organ or one living plant cell.

We were created by a God who is far beyond anything that we are. In the same way that my husband’s painting on the wall could never capture the fullness of who he is as a human being, so God’s creation grants us only a tiny glimpse of His enormity.

Some years ago, my husband and I had the opportunity to visit the Grand Canyon. As we approached the lookout area, our pulses raced in anticipation of what we knew would be spectacular. However, once we stood on the edge of that vast cliff, gazing out over miles of mountainous rock and staggering patterns of rugged beauty, it stopped us in our tracks and took our breath away. People from all nations, ages and backgrounds paused side by side in reverent silence. Looking. Just looking at something so imposing, so mighty, so magnificent that it defied words.

Though the Grand Canyon is truly great, God is greater still. When we ponder the magnitude of His power, majesty and supremacy, as displayed in His creation, we stand in reverential awe. We have a rightful fear of One whose hands could form something so immense. We remember for a moment that God is God.

God is Holy

Yet the fear of the Lord involves another element. Something more than simply recognizing God’s greatness. The fear of the Lord is also marked by a recognition of God’s holiness.

God is holy because He is completely pure, good, right and true. In addition, God is holy because He set apart, wholly different, separate, outside and “other than” His creation. We can gain a sense of this as we remember God is Spirit, so we are called to worship Him in spirit and in truth.

God’s standard is high. God’s standard is perfection. Perfect truth. Perfect goodness. Perfect justice. Perfect righteousness. Perfect judgment. Perfect love. God is absolutely perfect.

To allow for anything less in His presence would mar the perfection of His kingdom. And so, we simply cannot be near God, in our earthly state, for our sinful nature plagues our every step.

But for Jesus

A perfect God loved the people He created, though wracked with sin, so He sent His own Son to redeem us. To suffer the punishment we deserved. To exchange His perfection for our imperfection. His glory for our sin. That we could be made pure, righteous and holy by His blood. We are saved by grace through faith in Christ’s blood shed for us. By faith, His spiritual blood now runs through our veins and we are made holy, too.

Contemplating God’s greatness and God’s holiness stacked up against our finite, fragile, sinful nature, gives us a soul-gripping awareness of how deep God’s love is for us. How vast beyond all measure. As endless as our endless God.

This reverence, or fear of the Lord, enables us to worship the Lord with a humble heart, overflowing with love and gratitude. Flowing back to Him, the One who first loved us.

May we consider these words of Jesus:

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28

An unbeliever should fear the coming judgment of a holy and powerful God. These warnings are recorded all throughout the Bible and are clearly confirmed by Jesus. If people have rejected Christ, they will face hell, which is eternal separation from God. Not that He rejected us, but that we rejected Him. That separation should be humankind’s weightiest fear by far. That will be an aloneness like no other.

In equal and opposing measures of joy, a believer in Jesus can rest in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. We maintain a fear of the Lord, in the form of a deep reverence, appreciation and awe, as we recognize the depth of our desperate condition and the depth of love God spent for us.

We no longer fear the evil within or the evil without, for we are covered in the blood of Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God. Fear God and then you have nothing else to fear.

Is fear of the Lord a good thing? I have finally come to the conclusion, the answer is, “Yes.”

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

Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. 2 Corinthians 7:1

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4

Let all the earth fear the LORD; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. Psalm 33:8

Additional Resources:

From Clay to Heaven – Be Amazed by Your God! By Melissa McLaughlin

Do you ever wonder if the world is coming to an end? By Melissa McLaughlin

A God Who is Both: Loving and Holy, Savior and Judge By Melissa McLaughlin

My husband’s sunflower painting, that hangs over the computer where I write. This photo pales in comparison. Literally.

Is The Fear of the Lord a Good Thing?
Painting by Tom McLaughlin

35 thoughts on “Is the Fear of the Lord a Good Thing?”

    • Yes, that’s a good analogy. As a child respects and reveres a parent, so we should respect and revere our Heavenly Father. For those of us who are in Christ, we have no fear of judgment. If we have accepted His love, as demonstrated on the cross, all fear is gone. Praise the Lord Jesus!

  1. A beautiful explanation of a complex concept. “We maintain a fear of the Lord, in the form of a deep reverence, appreciation and awe, as we recognize the depth of our desperate condition and the depth of love God spent for us.” Amen <3

    • Thank you for the kind words of encouragement, Jordan. Glory to God! The giver of life, gifts and words! I have always felt the idea of fearing the Lord goes a little deeper than first meets the eye. Thank you for taking the time to reflect on this topic we usually prefer to avoid. Bless you!

  2. I read an analogy by John Piper about what it means to fear the Lord. He said it’s like we’re up on this mountain, and all of a sudden this ferocious storm hits. If we were to be out on the side of the mountain in the middle of the storm, how great our fear for our lives would be! But if we find a cave, we can watch the storm in safety. Then, the storm is something beautiful and awe-inspiring. We no longer fear for our lives, but we still fear the storm and its power.

    I’ve loved that ever since reading it because it put the fear of the Lord in SUCH a great way for me to understand! John Piper said it better, of course. 😉

    • Thank you for sharing that wonderful analogy, Emily! I have heard a similar analogy, but this is another way of viewing the power and holiness of God and ultimately the joy of resting under the covering of Christ. In this piece, I was attempting to get at “why” we fear of the Lord. But that is an excellent way to explain “what” it looks like as a believer. Love it! Thank you again for sharing.

  3. What a beautiful painting by your husband and great reminder. Wonderful post on our fears. Thanks for sharing it. Besides fear of rejection, I also fear failure. And I fear crickets.

    • Thank you, Yvonne. Praising our great God! I do love that painting, too. I don’t fear crickets, but I do fear failure, also. It’s fascinating, but I can see how my view of God and my rightful reverence and fear of Him will help me overcome every other earthly fear. It is a blessing, for me, to have finally gained this understanding. Have a wonderful weekend, dear sister!

    • Well said, John! Really, all of humanity should fear and respect God. But all the more so, those of us who love Him. It has taken me a while, but I am growing in my understanding of the fullness of who God is – loving and holy, Savior and Judge. God bless you!

  4. Wonderful writings, as usual. Perfect Love casts out all fear. But yet we go to Him first with fear in respect, reverance and awe, with humbleness and Thanks. With the knowledge of The Word and who He is, His neverending power and light, our belief, our overwhelming earthly insecurities, lacking all pride. Then… Great things to Love. An opportunity to fear The Lord Of All Good. A partaking. Thanks to Christ our Lord who faces all fears, already being GOD Himself in the flesh.

    • Sands, thank you for these kind and encouraging words. Glory to God! Thank you for sharing your heartfelt reflections and comments here. You are right, it is a collection of emotions, thoughts and experiences before our great God, but for those who believe in Christ, He faces our worst fears and allows us to partake in His victory! Amazing grace!

  5. What a beautiful painting by your husband! Thank you for sharing that glimpse of his heart with us. But you are so right, that creation of his is such a small glimpse into who he really is. And our Lord has given us so many glimpses into who He is, through all of His creation. Truly, we should be in such wonder and awe as we look around at this world. And then when we glimpse deeper into His heart through His Word, through the Living Word of our Jesus, wow. I want so much to learn more about that deep reverence that will keep me in such holy awe of our Lord. That He could love me is utterly amazing. Thank you for sharing these words and photo today, Melissa. You have brought such a deep blessing to my heart here. Love and prayers and blessings to you!

  6. Hi Melissa, I also have a fear of spiders and heights. I’ve never been to the Grand Canyon, but would love to go one day. It sounds breath-taking and pictures depict it that same way. I love all the ways you’ve described the fear of the Lord! When I think of fearing Him, I think of His breath-taking splendor and holiness. I think of the awe of His supreme righteousness. And I think of His sovereignty and authority over the world and over me. Thank you for writing and sharing this!

    • Karen, I love your perspective and the way you have described fear of the Lord…breathtaking splendor and holiness, supreme righteousness, sovereignty and authority over all. If we pause and take in the fullness of these words, the only reasonable response is one of reverence, fear and awe of our God. Thank you for sharing your faith, heart and wisdom, once again! Blessings to you!

  7. Terrific explanation of the fear of the Lord in light of living in Him . This is one of those truths that I think our finite minds can’t fully grasp. That we serve a God who is fiercely powerful and purely holy, yet we can rest in His arms and approach Him in prayer and relationship. One day in Heaven we will recognize just how powerful and righteous He is, and we will be in awe, worshiping Him continually, but with smiles on our faces. I appreciated thinking this trough as I read your post. Thank you.

    • Thank you, Stephen. I’m humbled by your kind words. Glory to God! I really appreciate your insights and feedback. I wholeheartedly agree, we cannot fully grasp this truth of a God so great, yet simultaneously a God so loving. For me… the more I am able to comprehend His powerful holiness, the more I am undone by the depths of His love and grace. I recognize more fully the vast chasm between us and God’s rescue plan through Jesus becomes more incredible to me. God bless you!

    • Dear Lisa, thank you for taking the time to read and comment here! Praise God! The fear of the Lord has always been hard for me to understand, so I wanted to tackle this often avoided subject, in case someone else is struggling to understand this. Please keep me in prayer. Bless you, sister!

    • Thank you, Chelle. Glory to God! The Lord God Almighty is great and greatly to be praised, yet even in His greatness He sent His own Son to save us. But Jesus didn’t die for nothing. May we remember the serious cost paid for us and pursue holiness in Him, out of love for our dear Savior and fear of displeasing Him. Bless you!

  8. the fear of the LORD is hard for me to grasp too-(the fear of rejection is not! (The preacher says its 1 of satans strongest weapons)-but when we grasp the fact that someone so powerfull that we fall over as if dead -and do exceedingly tremble and fear just from being in the precence of such pure holiness and raw power-Jesus stands so close to GODs presence his feet are suntaned,and His hair bleached-the angels have to protect there feet,and eyes with mighty shieldlike wings-GOD is Power unimagined-maybe if you take your sunday school class to the deck of an active drill rig in Texas-they would get the concept-on a way underrated scale-(Its scary, the whole ground is shakeing, and tons of steal is moving every which way–God Bless!!!!

    • Wow. You have expressed this in such a powerful and descriptive way. Thank you for sharing your input. As you say, “being in the presence of pure holiness and raw power” should bring us to our knees. May we remember Jesus is our precious Savior, but also our mighty LORD and King! Bless you!

      • Jesus is our prophet-There is more power in that 1 statemrnt then you could even believe-muslims-( which i am not)- might have better insight into just how powerfull a prophet is!!!

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