Proverbs 19:23 (ESV) “The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm.”
There are many things to fear in this world. Some fear spiders and others have a fear of flying. Still others fear cancer, “monsters”, the dark, taking a test or even (unfortunately) their own family members. A certain measure of fear, nevertheless, is a good thing. If I fear cancer, and I know certain foods or habits might increase my chances of cancer, then I would be wise to avoid those foods or habits If I feared flying, perhaps I should only drive to my destination – unless I am willing to look at the statistics that I am probably safer in the clouds than on the freeway. There is one fear, however, that is vital and absolutely valuable.
The “fear of the Lord” is an oft-repeated phrase in the Proverbs. The phrase appears in this way:
- “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…” (1:7)
- “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…” (9:10)
- “The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom…” (15:33)
- “The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil…” (8:13)
- “The fear of the Lord prolongs life…” (10:27)
- “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life…” (14:27)
Fear based on a lack of knowledge is not helpful. But if you know who God is and what He is like, in relation to who you are and what you are like, then you are on the journey to a proper fear. That fear leads to reverent submission. It is the beginning stage needed for obedience and worship. It is to happily and joyfully obey Him. It also makes His grace all so much more amazing! Grace taught me to fear and grace relieved my worst fears.
John Newton (1725–1807) understood this:
Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
T’was blind but now I see.
T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear and Grace, my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed.