TBU: The Bible Unpacked: In-Depth Edition

I.  Loving and Fearing God

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Chapter 23  Part I

Loving and Fearing God

Love and fear are two emotions or attitudes that we should have towards God, and arguably they stand alone as such. The Bible states that loving God is of the utmost importance. Fearing God is also shown to be critical. Like loving God, understanding and having the fear of God that the Bible teaches helps and benefits us in many ways.

Note that both love and fear of God are closely associated with obeying him (the theme of the second half of this chapter). They are very strong, compelling emotions and provide the primary emotional stimuli for obeying God (cf. Deut 10:12-13) – supplementing intellectual stimuli arising out of such things as faith. Moreover, the Bible indicates that our love and fear of God are actually expressed primarily in obeying him.

Love God

Love God . . .

Deut 6:5  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. ▤ 

Josh 23:11  Be very careful, therefore, to love the Lord your God. ▤ 

Ps 18:1  I love you, O Lord, my strength. ▤ 

Ps 31:23a  Love the Lord, all you his saints! ▤ 

Ps 116:1  I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. ▤ 

Luke 11:42  But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. ▤ 

Here “the love of God” appears to refer to love for God (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV).

Deut 13:1-3  If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ 3you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. ▤ 

Ps 26:8  O Lord, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells. ▤ 

David loved God’s temple primarily because of its correlation with God’s presence.

. . . Love Jesus Christ

Eph 6:24  Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible. ▤ 

1Pet 1:8  Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, … ▤ 

This is speaking of love for Jesus Christ.

John 8:42  Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. ▤ 

John 21:16  He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” ▤ 

Luke 7:44-47  Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” ▤ 

  • We must love Jesus Christ even more than we love those closest to us:

Matt 10:37  Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. ▤ 

Love and treasure God’s word

Ps 119:46-47, 72, 97, 103, 127, 140, 159, 165, 167  I will also speak of your testimonies before kings and shall not be put to shame, 47for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love. ▤ 72The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces. ▤ 97Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. ▤ 103How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! ▤ 127Therefore I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold. ▤ 140Your promise is well tried, and your servant loves it. ▤ 159Consider how I love your precepts! Give me life according to your steadfast love. ▤ 165Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble. ▤ 167My soul keeps your testimonies; I love them exceedingly. ▤ 

Job 23:12  I have not departed from the commandment of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food. ▤ 

Ps 119:136  My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law. ▤ 

The psalmist’s pain over God’s law not being obeyed evidences his love for it.

Prov 7:1-2  My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you; 2keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye; … ▤ 

Keeping the teachings of God’s word as “the apple of your eye”, shows that one does treasure it (cf. AMP, CEV, NLT).

  • The psalmist’s great longing for God’s laws:

Ps 119:20, 40, 131  My soul is consumed with longing for your rulesr at all times. ▤ 40Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life! ▤ 131I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commandments. ▤ 

r Or your just decrees; also verses 30, 39, 43, 52, 75, 102, 108, 137, 156, 175

Love for God and Jesus Christ is shown by obeying them

See also:

1Jn 5:3  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. ▤ 

1Ki 3:3  Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David his father, only he sacrificed and made offerings at the high places. ▤ 

The “statutes of David his father” were either God’s laws that David had followed or godly instructions given by David, based on God’s laws.

John 14:15, 21, 23-24  “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. ▤ 21Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” ▤ 23Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. ▤ 

Deut 7:9  Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, … ▤ 

As with a number of the following references, this is not specifically saying that those who love God will accordingly obey him. However it does appear to imply this by associating love for God with obedience to him.

Deut 10:12-13  And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good? ▤ 

Deut 11:1, 22  You shall therefore love the Lord your God and keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, and his commandments always. ▤ 22For if you will be careful to do all this commandment that I command you to do, loving the Lord your God, walking in all his ways, and holding fast to him, … ▤ 

Deut 30:19b-20  Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, 20loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them. ▤ 

Jer 2:2  Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the Lord, “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. ▤ 

John 14:31a  … but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. ▤ 

Just as we show love for God and Jesus Christ by obeying them, Jesus showed his love for God by obeying him.

John 15:14-15  You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15No longer do I call you servants,s for the servantt does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. ▤ 

s Greek bondservants

t Greek bondservant; also verse 20

Being his friends, as opposed to mere servants (v. 15a), Jesus Christ’s followers obey him because they love him and want to please him rather than merely because they have to do so.

1Thes 1:3  … remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. ▤ 

It is debatable as to whether “love” is referring to love for God (or Christ), or to love for other people; either is applicable. If the former is the case, this illustrates that love for God produces labor or service to God – in conjunction with obedience to him.

Ps 97:10  O you who love the Lord, hate evil! He preserves the lives of his saints; he delivers them from the hand of the wicked. ▤ 

Along with obeying God, those who love him should hate evil. Likewise, as 1 John 2:15 below teaches, they should not love the world or the things in the world.

1Jn 2:15  Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. ▤ 

The phrase “love of the Father” appears to refer to – or at least encompass – “love for the Father” (AMP, NIrV; cf. CEV, GNT).

  • God’s love is perfected in those who obey him:

1Jn 2:5a  … but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. ▤ 

The phrase translated here as “the love of God” could be referring to a believer’s love for God (cf. CEV, GNT, NLT). However note that the love God has for his people may instead be in view (cf. NCV).

Love for them is linked with loving and caring for other Christians

See also:

1Jn 5:1  Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. ▤ 

This verse makes the assertion that everyone who loves God will naturally love his children as well.

1Jn 4:20-21  If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannotu love God whom he has not seen. 21And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. ▤ 

u Some manuscripts how can he

For comment, see the comment on 1Jn 4:20-21 – under . . . Not loving other Christians has negative implications.

Heb 6:10  For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. ▤ 

John 21:15-17  When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. ▤ 

As three times Jesus follows Peter’s declaration of love for him with an instruction to take care of or feed his sheep, presumably he was implying a correlation between loving him and caring for his people. Note that in v. 15a Jesus appears to be asking Peter if he loved him more than the others did (cf. AMP, CEV, GNT, NIrV), although possibly he meant more than Peter loved other things (cf. CEV text note).

Pray for persecuted Christians

The Importance of Loving God

Loving God is of the utmost importance

See also:

Matt 22:35-40  And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38This is the great and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” ▤ 

Mark 12:33  And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. ▤ 

Loving God is of “much more” worth and importance than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.

  • Condemnation of loving other things rather than God:

2Tim 3:1-5  But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. ▤ 

God and Jesus Christ love those who love them

Ex 20:5-6  You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6but showing steadfast love to thousandsv of those who love me and keep my commandments. ▤ 

v Or to the thousandth generation

Note that v. 5 speaks of the dreadful ramifications of hating God, the opposite of loving him.

Neh 1:5  And I said, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, … ▤ 

John 14:21, 23  Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” ▤ 23Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. ▤ 

John 16:27  … for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.w ▤ 

w Some manuscripts from the Father

  • Those whose lives are based on love come to know Christ’s love:

Eph 3:17-19  … so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. ▤ 

In 17b, “love” is probably primarily referring to love for others. However it could instead refer to or involve the love of God (cf. NLT) or Christ (cf. CEV) for us, or our love for them – the topic of this subsection. In v. 18, “the breadth and length and height and depth” is often interpreted to be speaking of Christ’s love (cf. GNT, NCV, NIV) or God’s love (cf. NLT).

God cares for those who love him

See also:

Deut 11:13-15  And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, 14hex will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil. 15And he will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full. ▤ 

x Samaritan, Septuagint, Vulgate; Hebrew I; also verse 15

Deut 30:6  And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. ▤ 

Here “live” would primarily have God’s provision of ongoing physical life in view, but may also imply a “fullness” of life, a life that is blessed.

Josh 23:10-11  One man of you puts to flight a thousand, since it is the Lord your God who fights for you, just as he promised you. 11Be very careful, therefore, to love the Lord your God. ▤ 

Ps 5:11  But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. ▤ 

The implication here is that God protects those who love him, leading them to exult in him.

Ps 91:14-16  “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. 15When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. 16With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” ▤ 

“I will protect him” (v. 14) and the subsequent blessings (vv. 15-16) apply to those who hold fast to God in love (v. 14a), who know God (v. 14b).

Ps 119:132  Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is your way with those who love your name. ▤ 

Ps 145:20  The Lord preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy. ▤ 

Various spiritual blessings from loving God and Jesus Christ

See also:

John 14:15-17  If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper,y to be with you forever, 17even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. ▤ 

y Or Advocate, or Counselor; also 14:26; 15:26; 16:7

John 14:21, 23  Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” ▤ 23Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. ▤ 

In conjunction with loving those who love them, God and Jesus Christ reveal themselves to (v. 21b) and begin an intimate relationship with those who love them (v. 23b; cf. 1Cor 8:3 ).

1Cor 8:3  But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.z ▤ 

z Greek him

God of course knows everything about all people, but he knows his own people in a unique way in that he has a personal, intimate relationship with them – which may be what Paul has in mind here. A related interpretation is that “known by God” refers to being recognized by God as one of his own.

Rom 8:28  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,a for those who are called according to his purpose. ▤ 

a Some manuscripts God works all things together for good, or God works in all things for the good

Eph 6:24  Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible. ▤ 

This suggests that those who love Jesus Christ experience his and/or God’s grace.

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

Probably “steadfast love and faithfulness” is primarily referring to – or at least inclusive of – love for and faithfulness to God (cf. CEV), in line with the subsequent reference to fear of God. In saying that they lead to atonement for sin, the writer may have in mind that they involve doing what God wants and so are associated with his forgiveness and the withdrawal of his judgment. See also the comment on Luke 7:44-50 below.

Luke 7:47-50  Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49Then those who were at table with him began to say amongb themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” ▤ 

b Or to

Jesus was not meaning that the woman’s love was the reason for why her sins were forgiven; it was her faith that had saved her (v. 50). Jesus is saying that her great love for him (vv. 44-46) showed or was proof that her many sins had been forgiven. Love of God and Jesus Christ is indicative of being forgiven of our sins.

Isa 56:6-7  “And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant— 7these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” ▤ 

This appears to be primarily eschatological, to be consummately fulfilled in a pilgrimage to Jerusalem (perhaps a figurative one) of all peoples at the end of the age. Even so it is applicable to all people who love God being able to worship him and pray to him.

Ps 119:165  Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble. ▤ 

In conjunction with loving God, loving his commands brings great blessing.

Blessings in the afterlife from loving God

Luke 10:25-28  And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” ▤ 

1Cor 2:9  But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” ▤ 

This is probably referring to – or at least is applicable to – both blessings of the present life and blessings of the afterlife.

James 1:12  Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. ▤ 

The “the crown of life” is an allusion to eternal life – “life forever” (NCV™).

James 2:5  Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? ▤ 

  • Paul’s reference to a curse on those who do not love the Lord:

1Cor 16:22  If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come!c ▤ 

c Greek Maranatha (a transliteration of Aramaic)

Here Paul appears to allude to God’s wrath and judgment. In contrast to the above blessings for those who love God and Jesus Christ, those who do not love them face God’s wrath and judgment, notably in the afterlife.

Pray for persecuted Christians

Fear God

Fearing God is more than just having reverence for him. A sound appreciation of God’s holiness and wrath, along with his supreme power, produces a genuine fear of incurring his displeasure. But this does not involve anxiety or terror for those who seek to please him and who understand his grace (cf. Note: God’s people should not live in fear of his punishment).

Clearly, fearing God moves us to obey him. It also evokes and supplements such things as worship and service, and even trust (cf. BKC). When we grasp the concepts involved and willingly do fear God, we learn to gladly do so, even treasuring verses that call on us to fear God.

Fear and be in awe of God

Josh 24:14  Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. ▤ 

2Chr 19:7  Now then, let the fear of the Lord be upon you. Be careful what you do, for there is no injustice with the Lord our God, or partiality or taking bribes. ▤ 

Ps 22:23  You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! ▤ 

Ps 33:8  Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! ▤ 

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

Ps 76:7a  But you, you are to be feared! ▤ 

Eccl 12:13  The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.d ▤ 

d Or the duty of all mankind

Note that the final phrase can also be rendered: “this applies to every person” (NASB).

1Pet 1:17  And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, … ▤ 

1Pet 2:17  Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. ▤ 

Rev 19:5  And from the throne came a voice saying, “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great.” ▤ 

1Ki 18:12b  I your servant have feared the Lord from my youth. ▤ 

Neh 1:11  O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” Now I was cupbearer to the king. ▤ 

Ps 5:7  But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you. ▤ 

Ps 86:11  Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. ▤ 

Prov 31:30  Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. ▤ 

Mal 2:5  My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him. It was a covenant of fear, and he feared me. He stood in awe of my name. ▤ 

Lev 19:30  You shall keep my Sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord. ▤ 

The Israelites were to have reverence for the place where God was worshiped, as it signified his presence.

  • A promise that God would facilitate fear of him in his people:

Jer 32:39-40  I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. 40I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. ▤ 

This may be speaking primarily of God’s spiritually renewing Israel in the end times. Even so it would appear to have an application in all eras – in some respects at least.

Fear God to the extent that you tremble before him . . .

Jer 5:22  Do you not fear me? declares the Lord. Do you not tremble before me? I placed the sand as the boundary for the sea, a perpetual barrier that it cannot pass; though the waves toss, they cannot prevail; though they roar, they cannot pass over it. ▤ 

Phil 2:12-13  Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. ▤ 

Ps 2:11  Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. ▤ 

Initially rejoicing and trembling may seem incompatible, but a true understanding of God inspires both, even simultaneously. For example God’s infinite power is something that his people can rejoice in and also tremble because of. Rejoicing that is accompanied by trembling is not at all superficial; it is deep-seated and long lasting.

Ps 119:120  My flesh trembles for fear of you, and I am afraid of your judgments. ▤ 

Acts 7:30-32  Now when forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in a flame of fire in a bush. 31When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight, and as he drew near to look, there came the voice of the Lord: 32‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob.’ And Moses trembled and did not dare to look. ▤ 

Ps 96:9  Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;e tremble before him, all the earth! ▤ 

e Or in holy attire

Ps 99:1  The Lord reigns; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake! ▤ 

God reigns with absolute sovereignty, in awesome majesty – to which the only appropriate response is to “tremble” and “quake”. Note that the last clause may figuratively be primarily referring to the earth physically quaking, i.e. to earthquakes.

Ps 114:7-8  Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob, 8who turns the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a spring of water. ▤ 

Hos 11:10-11  They shall go after the Lord; he will roar like a lion; when he roars, his children shall come trembling from the west; 11they shall come trembling like birds from Egypt, and like doves from the land of Assyria, and I will return them to their homes, declares the Lord. ▤ 

Return to the future renewed Israel may be in view here.

. . . and tremble at God’s word

See also:

Ezra 9:4  Then all who trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the faithlessness of the returned exiles, gathered around me while I sat appalled until the evening sacrifice. ▤ 

The “words” of God in view here may well be in particular his warnings regarding unfaithfulness (cf. CEV, GNT; Ezra 10:3 ), reiterated shortly afterwards in vv. 11-12.

Ezra 10:3  Therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and their children, according to the counsel of my lordf and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God, and let it be done according to the Law. ▤ 

f Or of the Lord

Some of the Jews had been guilty of intermarriage with foreign women, breaking God’s law. In repentance they sent away these women and their children. This sounds terribly severe, but it illustrates the uncompromising obedience to God’s law that is required by God and inspired by trembling from fear of him and his commands.

Isa 66:2, 5  All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word. ▤ 5Hear the word of the Lord, you who tremble at his word: “Your brothers who hate you and cast you out for my name’s sake have said, ‘Let the Lord be glorified, that we may see your joy’; but it is they who shall be put to shame. ▤ 

  • Continually have regard for and stand in awe of God’s words:

Ps 119:117, 161  Hold me up, that I may be safe and have regard for your statutes continually! ▤ 161Princes persecute me without cause, but my heart stands in awe of your words. ▤ 

Do not fear anyone or anything but God

See also:

If a person truly fears God, they are practically unable to fear anyone or anything else. Focussing on God’s characteristics, what he has done and what he will do (cf. Why God Should Be Feared) engenders a deep fear of God that gives us a clear perspective and makes any threat seem hardly significant.

Matt 10:28  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.g ▤ 

g Greek Gehenna

2Ki 17:35-36  The Lord made a covenant with them and commanded them, “You shall not fear other gods or bow yourselves to them or serve them or sacrifice to them, 36but you shall fear the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt with great power and with an outstretched arm. You shall bow yourselves to him, and to him you shall sacrifice. ▤ 

Ps 76:11  Make your vows to the Lord your God and perform them; let all around him bring gifts to him who is to be feared, … ▤ 

This implies that God is the only one who is to be feared.

Eccl 5:7  For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity;h but God is the one you must fear. ▤ 

h Or For when dreams and vanities increase, words also grow many

Isa 8:11-13  For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: 12“Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. 13But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. ▤ 

Isa 57:11-13a  Whom did you dread and fear, so that you lied, and did not remember me, did not lay it to heart? Have I not held my peace, even for a long time, and you do not fear me? 12I will declare your righteousness and your deeds, but they will not profit you. 13When you cry out, let your collection of idols deliver you! ▤ 

This condemnation of fearing other things and not fearing God, also shows what can follow such ill-conceived fear – i.e. lying, forgetting God and not fearing him (v. 11). In turn such things lead to the manifestation of God’s displeasure (vv. 12-13a).

Jer 10:5-7  Their idolsi are like scarecrows in a cucumber field, and they cannot speak; they have to be carried, for they cannot walk. Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, neither is it in them to do good.” 6There is none like you, O Lord; you are great, and your name is great in might. 7Who would not fear you, O King of the nations? For this is your due; for among all the wise ones of the nations and in all their kingdoms there is none like you. ▤ 

i Hebrew They

Jer 10:2  Thus says the Lord: “Learn not the way of the nations, nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens because the nations are dismayed at them, … ▤ 

The “signs of the heavens” appears to refer to unusual occurrences such as eclipses and comets, although some think that astrological signs are in view (cf. NLT). God’s people ought not to follow the ways of others in being afraid of such things (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV, NIV, NLT) and what they might mean.

  • The Israelite midwives feared God, rather than do what the king of Egypt ordered:

Ex 1:17  But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. ▤ 

Further examples of people fearing God

Gen 22:11-12  But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” 12He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” ▤ 

Abraham feared God to the extent that he was prepared to obey a direction from God that would have been as difficult for him to do as any other.

Gen 31:42a  If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been on my side, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. ▤ 

The title “the Fear of Isaac” indicates that God was the one Isaac feared.

Job 1:1  There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. ▤ 

Neh 7:2  I gave my brother Hanani and Hananiah the governor of the castle charge over Jerusalem, for he was a more faithful and God-fearing man than many. ▤ 

Acts 9:31  So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied. ▤ 

Acts 10:1-2  At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, 2a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God. ▤ 

Heb 11:7  By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. ▤ 

  • The Messiah would fear God:

Isa 11:2-3  And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. 3And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, … ▤ 

The Messiah would not only fear the Lord, he would delight in doing so.

Note: God’s people should not live in fear of his punishment

Fear of God’s punishment does lead God’s people to spurn sin and to not turn away from him. But being under God’s grace and knowing his love (cf. 1Jn 4:16-18 ), believers need not – and indeed should not – live in anxious fear of God’s punishment.

Rom 8:15  For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” ▤ 

Paul is contrasting being a slave with being a son – having “the spirit of slavery” in contrast to having “the spirit of adoption as sons”. Believers do not relate to and respond to God out of fear of punishment for wrongdoing as would slaves, but rather as loving, appreciative children who are eager to please their father.

1Jn 4:16-18  So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18There 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. ▤ 

In v. 18 “love” appears to be referring to the love of God that is manifested in the Christian – the love that God has for them and they in turn show to others (v. 16), revealing themselves to be like God (v. 17b). Knowing and expressing such love drives out anxious fear of punishment from God (v. 18) – particularly as one who “abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (v. 16b). Knowledge of such love cannot coexist with anxious fear of God’s punishment; they are incompatible, both logically and experientially. As such, “we may have confidence for the day of judgment” (v. 17).

  • Two types of “fear”:

Ex 20:20  Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” ▤ 

This verse illustrates that the Bible speaks of two types of fear – one of anxiety and even terror, which is detrimental, and one that comes from an appreciation of all that God is, which is very beneficial.

Pray for persecuted Christians

Why God Should Be Feared

God’s surpassing greatness and sovereignty

Ps 96:4  For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. ▤ 

Jer 10:6-7  There is none like you, O Lord; you are great, and your name is great in might. 7Who would not fear you, O King of the nations? For this is your due; for among all the wise ones of the nations and in all their kingdoms there is none like you. ▤ 

Note that God’s great might or power (v. 6) is shown to be a reason to fear him in this subsection and in most of the following ones.

Job 25:2  Dominion and fear are with God;j he makes peace in his high heaven. ▤ 

j Hebrew him

God is sovereign, his dominion even encompassing “high heaven”. As such he is owed fear; it belongs to him (cf. NASB, NKJV).

Job 37:22-24  Out of the north comes golden splendor; God is clothed with awesome majesty. 23The Almighty—we cannot find him; he is great in power; justice and abundant righteousness he will not violate. 24Therefore men fear him; he does not regard any who are wise in their own conceit.”k ▤ 

k Hebrew in heart

The portrayal of God in v. 22 shows his greatness – as does v. 23, particularly the references to him being the “Almighty” and “great in power”. God’s “justice and abundant righteousness” (v. 23) – aspects of his sovereign rule – are also given as reasons to fear God.

Ps 89:6-7  For who in the skies can be compared to the Lord? Who among the heavenly beingsl is like the Lord, 7a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones, and awesome above all who are around him? ▤ 

l Hebrew the sons of God, or the sons of might

The heavenly beings fear God because he is incomparable (v. 6) – “more awesome than all” (v. 7).

Ps 99:1  The Lord reigns; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake! ▤ 

Dan 6:26-27  I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end. 27He delivers and rescues; he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions. ▤ 

Mal 1:14  Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations. ▤ 

Ps 76:11-12  Make your vows to the Lord your God and perform them; let all around him bring gifts to him who is to be feared, 12who cuts off the spirit of princes, who is to be feared by the kings of the earth. ▤ 

This highlights God’s sovereignty, being sovereign even over other rulers.

  • God’s glory is a reason to fear God:

Ps 102:15  Nations will fear the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the earth will fear your glory. ▤ 

God’s glory is also alluded to in some of the above references, notably Job 37:22.

God’s great deeds . . .

See also:

1Sam 12:24  Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you. ▤ 

2Ki 17:36  … but you shall fear the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt with great power and with an outstretched arm. You shall bow yourselves to him, and to him you shall sacrifice. ▤ 

Ps 65:8  … so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs. You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy. ▤ 

God’s “signs” are the wonderful things he has done (cf. GNT) – including his “miracles” (NCV™). Fearing them is in effect fearing God as the one who performs such wonders.

Eccl 3:14  I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. ▤ 

Isa 29:23  For when he sees his children, the work of my hands, in his midst, they will sanctify my name; they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob and will stand in awe of the God of Israel. ▤ 

A deliverance by God and/or a renewal of Israel is in view – possibly a still future renewal at the end of the age. When the people see their many children (cf. NLT) and how great God has made their nation (cf. CEV), they will stand in awe of God – which is akin to fearing him.

Jer 33:9  And this citym shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and a glory before all the nations of the earth who shall hear of all the good that I do for them. They shall fear and tremble because of all the good and all the prosperity I provide for it. ▤ 

m Hebrew And it

Mic 7:15-17  As in the days when you came out of the land of Egypt, I will show themn marvelous things. 16The nations shall see and be ashamed of all their might; they shall lay their hands on their mouths; their ears shall be deaf; 17they shall lick the dust like a serpent, like the crawling things of the earth; they shall come trembling out of their strongholds; they shall turn in dread to the Lord our God, and they shall be in fear of you. ▤ 

n Hebrew him

In v. 16, “they shall lay their hands on their mouths” appears to indicate “awe” (NLT) of God and “dismay” (GNT, cf. AMP). As a result of God’s wonderful acts (v. 15), the nations will understand and be ashamed (v. 16a). Realizing their relative powerlessness (v. 16a), they will be in awe and humbled (v. 16b-17a) and turn in fear to God (v. 17b).

Hab 3:2a  O Lord, I have heard the report of you, and your work, O Lord, do I fear. ▤ 

Ps 40:1-3  I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. 2He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. 3He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord. ▤ 

Ps 64:8-9  They are brought to ruin, with their own tongues turned against them; all who see them will wag their heads. 9Then all mankind fears; they tell what God has brought about and ponder what he has done. ▤ 

. . . including God’s creative work and control over nature

Ps 33:8-9  Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! 9For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. ▤ 

Verse 9 is referring to God’s creation of the world.

Ps 96:4-5  For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. 5For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the Lord made the heavens. ▤ 

Jer 5:22  Do you not fear me? declares the Lord. Do you not tremble before me? I placed the sand as the boundary for the sea, a perpetual barrier that it cannot pass; though the waves toss, they cannot prevail; though they roar, they cannot pass over it. ▤ 

Jonah 1:9  And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” ▤ 

Ex 14:26-27, 31  Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.” 27So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal course when the morning appeared. And as the Egyptians fled into it, the Lord threwo the Egyptians into the midst of the sea. ▤ 31Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses. ▤ 

o Hebrew shook off

Josh 4:23-24  For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, 24so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”p ▤ 

p Or all the days

1Sam 12:18  So Samuel called upon the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day, and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel. ▤ 

Jonah 1:15-16  So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. 16Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows. ▤ 

Jonah had indicated that the storm had been brought by God due to him running away from God (cf. vv. 8-10). Jonah had then told the men that by throwing him into the sea it would become calm (vv. 11-12). Thus when this proved true the men realized that God had power over storms and the sea – and consequently greatly feared him.

Nah 1:4-5  He rebukes the sea and makes it dry; he dries up all the rivers; Bashan and Carmel wither; the bloom of Lebanon withers. 5The mountains quake before him; the hills melt; the earth heaves before him, the world and all who dwell in it. ▤ 

Verse 5b speaks of the world and its people shuddering in fear before God, due to his power over nature (v. 4).

Jer 5:24  They do not say in their hearts, ‘Let us fear the Lord our God, who gives the rain in its season, the autumn rain and the spring rain, and keeps for us the weeks appointed for the harvest.’ ▤ 

Deut 14:22-23  You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. 23And before the Lord your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. ▤ 

This formal, pronounced acknowledgment of God’s provision for them through his control of nature (cf. Jer 5:24 ), would foster fear for God in his people (v. 23b).

God’s anger and judgment . . .

Deut 9:19  For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure that the Lord bore against you, so that he was ready to destroy you. But the Lord listened to me that time also. ▤ 

Ps 90:11  Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you? ▤ 

Ps 76:7-9  But you, you are to be feared! Who can stand before you when once your anger is roused? 8From the heavens you uttered judgment; the earth feared and was still, 9when God arose to establish judgment, to save all the humble of the earth. Selah ▤ 

Prov 24:21-22  My son, fear the Lord and the king, and do not join with those who do otherwise, 22for disaster will arise suddenly from them, and who knows the ruin that will come from them both? ▤ 

Isa 25:2-3  For you have made the city a heap, the fortified city a ruin; the foreigners’ palace is a city no more; it will never be rebuilt. 3Therefore strong peoples will glorify you; cities of ruthless nations will fear you. ▤ 

Isa 59:18-19  According to their deeds, so will he repay, wrath to his adversaries, repayment to his enemies; to the coastlands he will render repayment. 19So they shall fear the name of the Lord from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun; for he will come like a rushing stream,q which the wind of the Lord drives. ▤ 

q Hebrew a narrow river

This may have a still future judgment ultimately in view.

Amos 3:8  The lion has roared; who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken; who can but prophesy? ▤ 

God’s announcing of coming judgment (cf. vv. 2, 11-15) is here likened to a roar of a lion, rousing fear.

Luke 12:4-5  I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell.r Yes, I tell you, fear him! ▤ 

r Greek Gehenna

Acts 5:8-11  And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether yous sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” 9But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things. ▤ 

s The Greek for you is plural here

Rom 11:20-21  That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. 21For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. ▤ 

1Pet 1:17  And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, … ▤ 

Rev 14:6-7  Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. 7And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.” ▤ 

2Cor 5:10-11  For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 11Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. ▤ 

This appears to speak of fear of Christ (v. 11a) being produced by the certainty of his judgment and repayments (v. 10).

Rev 15:4  Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed. ▤ 

God’s “righteous acts” – here likely primarily judgments – are shown indirectly to be reason to fear God.

. . . Ominous commands to be silent before God in the face of his judgment

The following commands to be silent allude to awe and fear of God, in view of his imminent judgment.

Isa 41:1  Listen to me in silence, O coastlands; let the peoples renew their strength; let them approach, then let them speak; let us together draw near for judgment. ▤ 

Hab 2:20  But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him. ▤ 

Some commentators see this as speaking of God being set to call the nations to account; hence the exhortation to be silent as they ready themselves for his judgment.

Zeph 1:7  Be silent before the Lord God! For the day of the Lord is near; the Lord has prepared a sacrifice and consecrated his guests. ▤ 

Zec 2:13  Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord, for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling. ▤ 

Saying that God “has roused himself” implies that he will soon be “springing into action” (NLT) – which here likely involves bringing down judgment on his people’s enemies.

God’s holiness

God’s holiness involves his separateness from and intolerance of that which is morally impure, with the latter leading to his judgment. Thus God’s holiness – awesome in itself – and its grave implications give good reason to fear him.

Rev 15:4  Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed. ▤ 

Isa 8:13  But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. ▤ 

This may well be implying that we should fear God because of his holiness, along with him being “the Lord of hosts”).

Isa 29:23  For when he sees his children, the work of my hands, in his midst, they will sanctify my name; they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob and will stand in awe of the God of Israel. ▤ 

This appears to be speaking of the people’s awe of God being inspired in part by their recognition of God’s holiness in light of his work on their behalf – as well as by the work itself.

God’s love and forgiveness

The verses below that speak of God’s love do not actually explicitly state that God’s love is a reason as to why we should fear him. But they do correlate fearing God and acknowledging or having one’s hope in God’s love. As such arguably they suggest that fear of God is in part stimulated by his love.

Ps 33:18-19  Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, 19that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. ▤ 

Ps 147:11  … but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love. ▤ 

Ps 118:4  Let those who fear the Lord say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” ▤ 

Ps 130:4  But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. ▤ 

Without God’s forgiveness the fear of God that the Bible commands would not be possible – it being a fear which encompasses (among other things) worship, service and even longing for God. In place of it there would only be terror.

1Ki 8:38-40  … whatever prayer, whatever plea is made by any man or by all your people Israel, each knowing the affliction of his own heart and stretching out his hands toward this house, 39then hear in heaven your dwelling place and forgive and act and render to each whose heart you know, according to all his ways (for you, you only, know the hearts of all the children of mankind), 40that they may fear you all the days that they live in the land that you gave to our fathers. ▤ 

This speaks of God’s forgiveness and his just dealings with people – including his actions on behalf of those who repent – as leading them to fear him.

  • God’s confirmation of his promises to his people gives reason to fear him:

Ps 119:38  Confirm to your servant your promise, that you may be feared. ▤ 

“Confirm” may here have the sense “fulfill” (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV, NIV). As such this would indicate that God’s fulfillment of his wonderful promises to his people leads one to understand that he is the almighty God – inducing awe and fear.

Pray for persecuted Christians

The Importance of Fearing God (I): Godly Living

Fearing God is closely associated with obeying him

See also:

Fear of God and obedience of God are often spoken of in conjunction with each other, to the point where it would appear they are inseparable in practice. A key reason for this close relationship is that fear of God, with an appreciation of his power and wrath, is a great stimulus to obeying him (and likewise is a very strong deterrent against disobeying him). This reason is alluded to or implied in at least most of the following verses.

Deut 5:29  Oh that they had such a mind as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendantst forever! ▤ 

t Or sons

Deut 6:1-2  Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the rulesu that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, 2that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. ▤ 

u Or just decrees; also verse 20

Just as fearing God leads us to obey him, we also fear God by obeying him. Our fear of him is manifested in obedience to him.

Deut 8:6  So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him. ▤ 

1Sam 12:14  If you will fear the Lord and serve him and obey his voice and not rebel against the commandment of the Lord, and if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the Lord your God, it will be well. ▤ 

Ps 103:17-18  But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children, 18to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments. ▤ 

Ps 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! ▤ 

In view of other translations, practicing the fear of God – “practice it” – can be correlated with obeying God (cf. AMP, GNT, NASB, NCV, NIV, NKJV, NLT).

Eccl 12:13  The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.v ▤ 

v Or the duty of all mankind

Isa 50:10  Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God. ▤ 

Hag 1:12  Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord. ▤ 

Eph 6:5  Slaves,w obey your earthly mastersx with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, … ▤ 

w Or servants; Greek bondservants; similarly verse 8

x Or your masters according to the flesh

This implies that we should obey Christ “with fear and trembling”, along with sincerity.

Gen 22:1-2, 9-12  After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” 2He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” ▤ 9When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” 12He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” ▤ 

Heb 11:7  By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. ▤ 

In “reverent fear” of God, Noah built an ark in obedience to God’s command (cf. Gen 6:14-16). Note that the phrase “in reverent fear” has been rendered: “He obeyed God” (GNT, NCV, NLT, cf. CEV) – pointing to the association here of fear and obedience.

Ps 19:9  … the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rulesy of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. ▤ 

y Or just decrees

This correlates fear of God with his law (cf. NIrV), using “fear” in reference to the law – as is implied by the context and indicated by a number of commentators. As such it implies that fear of God is linked with obeying God’s law.

  • People learn to fear God through hearing his word:

Deut 31:12-13  Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law, 13and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as you live in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess. ▤ 

As well as suggesting that fearing God leads one to obey God’s commands – as do the above verses – this also makes the converse point: learning God’s law leads one to fear God (cf. God’s word helps people learn to fear God).

Fear of God is associated with righteous living

See also:

Prov 14:2  Whoever walks in uprightness fears the Lord, but he who is devious in his ways despises him. ▤ 

Acts 10:35  … but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. ▤ 

2Sam 23:3  The God of Israel has spoken; the Rock of Israel has said to me: When one rules justly over men, ruling in the fear of God, … ▤ 

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

z Greek flesh

Fearing God compels one to avoid sin and evil

Ex 20:20  Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” ▤ 

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 3:7  Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. ▤ 

Job 1:1  There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. ▤ 

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. ▤ 

Neh 5:9  So I said, “The thing that you are doing is not good. Ought you not to walk in the fear of our God to prevent the taunts of the nations our enemies? ▤ 

Living in the fear of God enables us to avoid the taunts of our enemies, as it compels us to stop doing that which is not right and so give them nothing for which to condemn us.

  • Fearing God guards against turning away from him:

Jer 32:40  I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. ▤ 

Fearing God and Jesus Christ ensures we deal rightly with others

In conjunction with it being a catalyst for obeying God and living righteously, fearing God leads us to deal justly and properly with others.

Ex 18:21  Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. ▤ 

This implies that people who fear God are trustworthy. So capable people who fear God can be trusted to justly exercise authority over others.

Lev 19:14, 32  You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the Lord. ▤ 32“You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord. ▤ 

Lev 25:17, 36, 43  You shall not wrong one another, but you shall fear your God, for I am the Lord your God. ▤ 36Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you. ▤ 43You shall not rule over him ruthlessly but shall fear your God. ▤ 

Note that vv. 36, 43 refer to fellow Israelites who had become poor and, in the latter case, had sold themselves as slaves.

2Sam 23:3-4  The God of Israel has spoken; the Rock of Israel has said to me: When one rules justly over men, ruling in the fear of God, 4he dawns on them like the morning light, like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning, like raina that makes grass to sprout from the earth. ▤ 

a Hebrew from rain

A righteous ruler who rules over others in the fear of God brings great blessing to those subject to him.

1Ki 18:3-4  And Ahab called Obadiah, who was over the household. (Now Obadiah feared the Lord greatly, 4and when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the Lord, Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave and fed them with bread and water.) ▤ 

2Chr 19:7-9  Now then, let the fear of the Lord be upon you. Be careful what you do, for there is no injustice with the Lord our God, or partiality or taking bribes.” 8Moreover, in Jerusalem Jehoshaphat appointed certain Levites and priests and heads of families of Israel, to give judgment for the Lord and to decide disputed cases. They had their seat at Jerusalem. 9And he charged them: “Thus you shall do in the fear of the Lord, in faithfulness, and with your whole heart: … ▤ 

In v. 7 Jehoshaphat urges his judges to fear the Lord so that they will be compelled to judge carefully and without any injustice. Most likely this thought is also behind his exhortation in v. 9.

Neh 5:15  The former governors who were before me laid heavy burdens on the people and took from them for their daily rationb forty shekelsc of silver. Even their servants lorded it over the people. But I did not do so, because of the fear of God. ▤ 

b Compare Vulgate; Hebrew took from them with food and wine afterward

c A shekel was about 2/5 ounce or 11 grams

Neh 7:2  I gave my brother Hanani and Hananiah the governor of the castle charge over Jerusalem, for he was a more faithful and God-fearing man than many. ▤ 

Nehemiah put Hananiah in charge over Jerusalem because of his fear of God, which would ensure that he governed justly.

Job 31:16-23  If I have withheld anything that the poor desired, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail, 17or have eaten my morsel alone, and the fatherless has not eaten of it 18(for from my youth the fatherlessd grew up with me as with a father, and from my mother’s womb I guided the widowe), 19if I have seen anyone perish for lack of clothing, or the needy without covering, 20if his body has not blessed me,f and if he was not warmed with the fleece of my sheep, 21if I have raised my hand against the fatherless, because I saw my help in the gate, 22then let my shoulder blade fall from my shoulder, and let my arm be broken from its socket. 23For I was in terror of calamity from God, and I could not have faced his majesty. ▤ 

d Hebrew he

e Hebrew her

f Hebrew if his loins have not blessed me

Eph 5:20-21  … giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. ▤ 

Such “reverence for Christ” is akin to “fear of Christ” (NASB).

Col 3:22  Slaves,g obey in everything those who are your earthly masters,h not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. ▤ 

g Or Servants; Greek Bondservants

h Or your masters according to the flesh

Titus 2:3  Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, … ▤ 

Presumably the instruction to “be reverent in behavior” involves reverence towards God. It fosters avoidance of such things as slandering others.

Deut 25:18  … how he attacked you on the way when you were faint and weary, and cut off your tail, those who were lagging behind you, and he did not fear God. ▤ 

Ill treatment of others reflects a lack of fear of God (cf. Mal 3:5 ).

Mal 3:5  Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts. ▤ 

This refers to the Messiah coming to judge.

  • Fearing Jesus Christ leads us to try to persuade others to respond to him:

2Cor 5:11  Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. ▤ 

Not fearing God is linked with ungodliness – and the consequences

See also:

Ps 36:1  Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart;i there is no fear of God before his eyes. ▤ 

i Some Hebrew manuscripts, Syriac, Jerome (compare Septuagint); most Hebrew manuscripts in my heart

Jer 3:8  She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce. Yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore. ▤ 

Having no fear of God, Judah was unfaithful to him.

Deut 28:58-59  If you are not careful to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that you may fear this glorious and awesome name, the Lord your God, 59then the Lord will bring on you and your offspring extraordinary afflictions, afflictions severe and lasting, and sicknesses grievous and lasting. ▤ 

This gives some of the curses for not obeying God’s law – and so not fearing him (v. 58) – under the first covenant.

Ps 55:19  God will give ear and humble them, he who is enthroned from of old, Selah because they do not change and do not fear God. ▤ 

Prov 1:29-31  Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, 30would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, 31therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices. ▤ 

This speaks of spurning godly wisdom along with not fearing God (vv. 29-30), and the inherent consequences (v. 31).

Eccl 8:13  But it will not be well with the wicked, neither will he prolong his days like a shadow, because he does not fear before God. ▤ 

Isa 5:12-13  They have lyre and harp, tambourine and flute and wine at their feasts, but they do not regard the deeds of the Lord, or see the work of his hands. 13Therefore my people go into exile for lack of knowledge;j their honored men go hungry,k and their multitude is parched with thirst. ▤ 

j Or without their knowledge

k Or die of hunger

Lack of regard and respect for God’s deeds (v. 12) – essentially a lack of fear or reverence of God himself – produced a “lack of understanding” (v. 13) of God and his ways, with the consequences (v. 13).

Jer 2:19  Your evil will chastise you, and your apostasy will reprove you. Know and see that it is evil and bitter for you to forsake the Lord your God; the fear of me is not in you, declares the Lord God of hosts. ▤ 

Jer 44:10-11  They have not humbled themselves even to this day, nor have they feared, nor walked in my law and my statutes that I set before you and before your fathers. 11“Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will set my face against you for harm, to cut off all Judah. ▤ 

Hos 10:1-3  Israel is a luxuriant vine that yields its fruit. The more his fruit increased, the more altars he built; as his country improved, he improved his pillars. 2Their heart is false; now they must bear their guilt. The Lordl will break down their altars and destroy their pillars. 3For now they will say: “We have no king, for we do not fear the Lord; and a king—what could he do for us?” ▤ 

l Hebrew He

This seems to be foretelling the situation in Israel following the Assyrian invasion – through which God would destroy the various elements of their false and pagan worship (v. 2). Israel would be leaderless and without hope, because of their unfaithfulness, not fearing the Lord (v. 3).

Pray for persecuted Christians

The Importance of Fearing God (II): Blessings

God delivers and protects those who fear him

See also:

2Ki 17:39  … but you shall fear the Lord your God, and he will deliver you out of the hand of all your enemies. ▤ 

Ps 33:18-19  Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, 19that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. ▤ 

Ps 34:7  The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. ▤ 

Some think the term “angel of the Lord” may be an indirect reference to the Lord – as elsewhere it appears to be identified with him – or possibly even denotes the preincarnate Jesus Christ. It is at least speaking of an angel of some significance, with a very close association with God.

Ps 85:9  Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land. ▤ 

Ps 145:19  He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. ▤ 

Note that particularly in view of the latter part of the verse, “desires” may primarily be speaking of “needs” (GNT, NIrV).

Ps 31:19-20  Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind! 20In the cover of your presence you hide them from the plots of men; you store them in your shelter from the strife of tongues. ▤ 

Ps 60:4  You have set up a banner for those who fear you, that they may flee to it from the bow.m Selah ▤ 

m Or that it may be displayed because of truth

The meaning of this is not altogether clear, but a number of commentators take it to be a reference to God providing a rallying point or place of defense against enemies.

Ps 115:11  You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield. ▤ 

Prov 14:26  In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge. ▤ 

Isa 8:13-14  But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. 14And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. ▤ 

Verse 14 appears to speak of God being a sanctuary for those who fear him in contrast to the unfaithful houses of Israel (cf. AMP, CEV, NCV, NLT).

Isa 33:6  … and he will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is Zion’sn treasure. ▤ 

n Hebrew his

This suggests that the fear of God brings the aforementioned blessings (cf. NIV, NLT).

Fear of God leads to life . . .

See also:

The usages of “life” in this subsection appear to have in view either life as opposed to premature death (cf. Prov 14:27 ; Eccl 8:13 ) – even longevity (cf. Prov 10:27 ) – or a fullness of life. Possibly some have both in view.

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

Prov 14:27  The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death. ▤ 

Mal 2:5  My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him. It was a covenant of fear, and he feared me. He stood in awe of my name. ▤ 

This appears to be referring to the covenant made with the priest Phinehas (cf. Num 25:10-13). Phinehas feared God and God gave him life and peace.

Eccl 8:13  But it will not be well with the wicked, neither will he prolong his days like a shadow, because he does not fear before God. ▤ 

. . . along with physical and material blessings

The physical and material blessings spoken of here reflect those of the first covenant. As such, mostly they have a limited application under the second covenant.

Deut 6:24  And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. ▤ 

Ps 25:12a, 13  Who is the man who fears the Lord? ▤ 13His soul shall abide in well-being, and his offspring shall inherit the land. ▤ 

The phrase “shall inherit the land” (v. 13) firstly refers to Canaan, the Promised Land. But arguably the verse has a more far-reaching application – to all believers and all the earth (cf. Matt 5:5).

Ps 34:9  Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! ▤ 

Probably a lack of material needs is in view here, although this certainly has a spiritual application.

Ps 111:5  He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever. ▤ 

Ps 112:1-3  o Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments! 2His offspring will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. 3Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever. ▤ 

o This psalm is an acrostic poem, each line beginning with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet

Here “mighty” (v. 2) refers to being “successful” (NLT) or “powerful” (GNT, NCV; cf. CEV).

Ps 128:1-4  Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways! 2You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you. 3Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. 4Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord. ▤ 

Prov 3:7-8  Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. 8It will be healing to your fleshp and refreshmentq to your bones. ▤ 

p Hebrew navel

q Or medicine

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

r Or The reward for humility is the fear of the Lord, riches and honor and life

Ex 1:21  And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. ▤ 

In fear of God, the Israelite midwives did not carry out the Egyptian king’s order to kill the Hebrew baby boys – and so God blessed them accordingly.

  • It is better to have a little with the fear of God, than great wealth with trouble:

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

Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge

Fearing God is the beginning of wisdom as it moves one to base one’s thinking and life on God and his teachings – which are the source of true, godly wisdom.

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

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

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

Prov 31:26, 30  She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. ▤ 30Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. ▤ 

A woman who fears the Lord (v. 30) speaks with wisdom (v. 26).

Isa 33:6  … and he will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is Zion’ss treasure. ▤ 

s Hebrew his

As noted earlier, this suggests that the fear of God brings the aforementioned blessings.

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.’ ▤ 

Prov 2:5-6  … then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. 6For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; … ▤ 

Note that the preceding verses speak of obeying godly instruction (cf. v. 1) and seeking wisdom (cf. vv. 2-4) as leading to this fear and knowledge of God (v. 5). These two verses here in turn point to the fear of God as being vital to gaining God’s “wisdom, …knowledge and understanding” (v. 6).

Mic 6:9  The voice of the Lord cries to the city— and it is sound wisdom to fear your name: “Hear of the rod and of him who appointed it!t ▤ 

t The meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain

Ps 2:10-11  Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. ▤ 

This associates serving God in fear (v. 11) with being wise (v. 10).

  • Spurning godly knowledge is linked with not fearing God:

Prov 1:29  Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, … ▤ 

Further present-day blessings of fearing God

Acts 10:34-35  So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. ▤ 

Ps 147:11  … but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love. ▤ 

Ps 31:19  Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind! ▤ 

Ps 103:11, 13-14, 17-18  For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; ▤ 13As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. 14For he knows our frame;u he remembers that we are dust. ▤ 17But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children, 18to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments. ▤ 

u Or knows how we are formed

Luke 1:50  And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. ▤ 

Ps 25:12, 14  Who is the man who fears the Lord? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose. ▤ 14The friendshipv of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant. ▤ 

v Or The secret counsel

The second half of v. 14 appears to say that God tells such a person about his covenant with his people. But the thrust of it may well be either that God: “affirms his covenant with them” (GNT); makes a covenant with them (cf. CEV); or draws them into his covenant with his people.

Ps 61:5  For you, O God, have heard my vows; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name. ▤ 

Commentators differ as to what “heritage” may refer. Quite possibly it refers primarily to the covenant blessings. It can also be applied to all that God promises to his people.

Ps 145:19  He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. ▤ 

Jer 32:39-40  I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. 40I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. ▤ 

As noted earlier, this speaks primarily of Israel in the end times, with God spiritual renewing Israel and greatly blessing it.

Prov 28:14  Blessed is the one who fears the Lord always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity. ▤ 

Ps 115:13  … he will bless those who fear the Lord, both the small and the great. ▤ 

Eccl 7:16-18  Be not overly righteous, and do not make yourself too wise. Why should you destroy yourself? 17Be not overly wicked, neither be a fool. Why should you die before your time? 18It is good that you should take hold of this, and from that withhold not your hand, for the one who fears God shall come out from both of them. ▤ 

The phrase “overly righteous” (v. 16) is usually understood to denote legalism or self-righteousness. The phrase “too wise” (v. 16) may be referring to considering oneself wise, or a preoccupation with wisdom itself with an over reliance on it rather than on God. Presumably the exhortation to “not be overly wicked” (v. 17) is not implying that it is alright to be somewhat wicked; more likely it means that we should not capitulate to sin. The one who fears God will avoid all such extremes (v. 18).

Future blessings for those who fear God

See also:

Prov 23:17-18  Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day. 18Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off. ▤ 

Such “a future” and “hope” would involve experiencing God’s goodness.

Eccl 8:12  Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they fear before him. ▤ 

Mal 3:16-17  Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name. 17“They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. ▤ 

This has the day of God’s final judgment in view (cf. Mal 4:2-3 ; Rev 1:18 ).

Mal 4:2-3  But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. 3And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts. ▤ 

The setting is the day of the Lord – “the day when I do these things” (v. 3; cf. v. 1). As such it is applicable to the day of Jesus Christ’s return and/or God’s final judgment. In v. 2a righteousness is likened to the sun, bringing “healing like the sun’s rays” (GNT, cf. CEV, NCV). The thought is that those who fear God will experience the manifestation of his righteousness (cf. Ps 103:17 ), bringing restoration.

Rev 11:18  The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants,w the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth. ▤ 

w Greek bondservants

The day of God’s final judgment is in view, when his people who fear him will be rewarded.

Heb 4:1  Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. ▤ 

This speaks of the fear of God as being vital to securing entry into God’s eternal rest.

  • One who fears the Lord can laugh at the days to come:

Prov 31:25  Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. ▤ 

This speaks of “an excellent wife” (v. 10), “who fears the Lord” (v. 30).

Pray for persecuted Christians