The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Proverbs 9:10 (NIV)
I was once rebuked by another Christian when I mentioned the phrase “the fear of the Lord.” The man had been a Christian for only a few years and didn’t understand what the meaning of the phrase really meant. I explained to him the word ‘fear’ meant a very deep and holy reverence and did not convey that we needed to be afraid of God’s punishment. Still, this gentleman was very offended at the word saying it conveyed to him a father of wrath who was ever willing to punish His children first and ask questions later.
I really couldn’t blame this brother for his feelings. I’d wrestled with that understanding for years. He wasn’t the God of love and grace to me but the short-tempered Parent-in-the-Sky that always had his Cosmic Club ready to pound me if I slipped up just a smidgen. I think many of us have been there or are currently struggling with that concept. We were taught early on an unbalanced view of any kind of correction as punishment, the kind that was given to control rather than to give instruction and teach correction. This certainly isn’t what is meant by the “fear of the Lord.” He wants us to know His complete and rounded character.
When things are balanced nothing gets broken. The concept of a great and fearfully working God is a real one but fortunately it isn’t the only one. Yes, He can show wrath upon wickedness but His being and attributes are beautifully counterbalanced by His perfectly gracious and merciful character. His great and awesome holy power should cause us to have deep awe and reverence of His Being. Even angels before His throne cover their faces and their feet as they fly before Him and cry holy to one another (Isaiah 6:2). They aren’t afraid of Him but reverence His Being. There is no one else in the entire universe like Him. He is so awesome and holy in His Being that only He has the right to require He be worshipped. I’m not mad at God and neither am I afraid of Him. I truly reverence His wonderful and breathtaking Being. That is the beginning of a wise relationship with the Ancient of Days. Blessed be His Holy Name forever.