Respect, Awe And Reverence

 

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Described

 

The fear of the Lord is great reverence of Him. The fear of the Lord is the marvellous respect and the wonderful awe of Him that believers have who are aware of how inferior they are to Him.

 

Explained

 

It is clear from the later section “The relevant Old and New Testament words”, that fearing God means:

 

·         to be in great awe of Him.

·         to have deep reverence or respect for Him.

·         to fear the consequences of abandoning Him.

 

Awe of God relates to recognizing how infinitely superior He is to us and how limited and weak we are compared to Him. Reverence for God refers to respecting and honouring Him deeply and to submitting our hearts to Him. Fearing God also involves having a healthy dread of the tragic possibly of abandoning Him and as a result being punished by Him.

 

Fearing God is a heart attitude with accompanying fruits

 

Fearing the Lord is a heart attitude (see Colossians 3:22). It is not the same as obeying His commands. Instead obeying His commands is a fruit of a heart which fears God (see Deuteronomy 6:2, 10:12-13, 31:12, Ecclesiastes 12:13 and Jeremiah 44:10). Similarly, obeying His voice, serving Him and walking in His ways are not the same as fearing God but are fruits of fearing Him (see Deuteronomy 6:13, 10:12, 10:20, Joshua 24:14 and 1 Samuel 12:14). 2 Chronicles 19:9 refers to acting in the fear of the Lord: “And he commanded them, saying, ‘Thus you shall act in the fear of the Lord, faithfully and with a loyal heart.’” For example in 1 Kings 18:3-4, we see Obadiah’s godly fear of the Lord evidenced itself in the fruit of him protecting God’s prophets.

Psalm 112:1 reveals that God’s commands are a delight and not a burden to those who really fear Him: “…Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, Who delights greatly in His commandments.”

 

Fearing God and standing in awe of Him

 

Psalm 33:8 associates fearing God with standing in great awe of Him: “Let all the earth fear the Lord; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.” The word “awe” relates to enormous respect and great wonder. Malachi 2:5 links fearing God to standing in great awe of His name. The Bible ascribes a number of Names to God, for example YHWH, El Shaddai, El Elyon, Elohim and Adonai. But one of the most descriptive of God’s Names is found in Exodus 3:14: “And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM,’ and He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, I AM has sent me to you.’”

Every Christian needs a deep revelation of what God’s Name “I AM” means. Some of the things “I AM” means in relation to His sons and daughters are:

 

·         He is everything we will ever need to be fulfilled in this life and the next. We do not need self-fulfilment but fulfilment in our “I AM” God.

·         He creates every spiritual and natural thing we will ever need.

·         He is everything we will ever require to enable us to live as He commands. He is the source of all our victories over sin and Satan.

 

A common present problem

 

At present, one of the most neglected teachings in many modern Pentecostal and Charismatic churches in Western countries is the respectful fear of the Lord. At church conferences and meetings, in Christian magazines and television shows for churchgoers, the topic of the fear of the Lord seems to be mostly shunned as something from a past irrelevant era.

One reason for this is the infiltration of humanism into the church. This infiltration has resulted in a dislike by many churchgoers of mentions of God’s holiness, His wrath against sin, His future judgement, hell, church discipline, rebuking in preaching, correction, the fear of the Lord, repentance and a call to greater obedience to Him. Also, an excessive sub-dividing of the Bible which some Christians practise has encouraged the unbiblical attitude that these topics are better suited to the Old Mosaic Covenant than to the New Covenant. It is wrong to overemphasise these Biblical topics at the expense of the glorious teachings on God’s grace, mercy, love, redemption, forgiveness of sin, our legal standing in Christ, knowing Jesus intimately and so on. But it is equally wrong to underemphasise or ignore the former.

 

A revealing survey

 

An indication of how little real reverence, respect and awe of God and Jesus Christ there is in Australia at present can be seen in the following. In a survey in 1997, the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that the average amount of free time spent per day by Australians in cities on various activities were[1]:

 

·         watching T.V. and video (164 minutes per day).

·         listening to radio/C.D./records/tapes (81 minutes per day).

·         sport (26 minutes per day).

·         games/hobbies/arts/crafts/fun time on computers (20 minutes per day).

·         religious activities (6 minutes per day). In rural areas, this figure was 3 minutes per day.

 

The hatred of evil is a fruit of fearing God

 

A key result of fearing God is hating evil. Proverbs 8:13 says: “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil…” God hates evil, so a person who sincerely fears Him, will as a result hate it also. Psalms 36:1-2, 55:19, Proverbs 3:7, 16:6 and 14:16 link fearing God with hating evil or not fearing God with practising evil. Psalm 36:1 says: “An oracle within my heart concerning the transgression of the wicked; There is no fear of God before his eyes.”

 

Fearing God leads to rapid repentance

 

Proverbs 16:6 shows fearing God leads to the fruit of turning from sin: “…And by the fear of the Lord one departs from evil.” Psalm 55:19 shows that people who refuse to change do not respect or fear God. A lack of the fruit of any godly change in our lives reveals we do not fear Him. Job feared God (see Job 1:1 and 1:8). Job’s heart attitude of fearing God evidenced itself in the fruit of him turning away from or departing from evil (see Job 1:1, 1:8 and 2:3).

 

Other key aspects of respectfully fearing God

 

Our fear of or respectful reverence for God:

 

·         must be related to faith in Him. Psalm 115:11 says: “You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord…” Abraham had great faith in God (see Romans 4:13-21). But he also feared God (see Genesis 22:12). It is wrong to fear God but not have faith in Him and His Christ (see Acts 13:50). Refer also to Exodus 14:31 and Psalm 40:3.

·         is not contrary to loving Him (see Deuteronomy 10:12).

·         is not contrary to our being His close friend (see Job 1:8, 29:4, Genesis 22:12 and James 2:23).

·         is related to having a revelation of God’s mercy or lovingkindness (see Psalm 5:7, 33:18; 86:11-15, 118:4 and 147:11). In Luke 1:50, Mary reveals God’s mercy is on those who respectfully fear Him. Some believers wrongly think that the fear of the Lord relates only to having reverence and respect for God’s character in relation to Him being perfectly holy and righteous, the Supreme Ruler and the Perfect Judge. A true fear of the Lord includes these things but also refers to having respect or being in awe of His merciful, gracious, loving, kind, longsuffering character and all other aspects of His nature.

·         also relates to desiring to avoid eternal punishment (see Matthew 10:28 and Luke 12:5).

·         is associated with humility before God (see Proverbs 3:7 and 22:4).

·         will result in praising and glorifying Him (see Psalm 22:23).

·         is one key to receiving God’s healing power (see Proverbs 3:7-8 and Malachi 4:2).

·         must be based on reading or hearing God’s Word (see Proverbs 2:1-5).

·         is a key to happiness (see Proverbs 28:14).

·         leads to true satisfaction in life (see Proverbs 19:23).

·         is our or His treasure (see Isaiah 33:6).

·         is a key to being a high quality leader. God told David this (see 2 Samuel 23:3).

 

Throughout all of human history

 

The Mosaic Covenant mentions fearing God quite regularly, linking it often to obeying the Law (see Leviticus 19:14, 19:32, 25:17, Deuteronomy 4:10, 5:29, 6:2, 6:13, 6:24, 8:6, 10:12-13, 13:4, 17:19, 28:58 and 31:12-13). As a result, many modern Christians wrongly believe that fearing God is only associated with the Old Mosaic Covenant and works of Law. But a detailed study of the Scriptures demonstrates God desired His people to fear Him throughout the whole of human history. Genesis 20:11, 22:12, 42:18, Exodus 1:17, 1:21 and 14:31 proves this in relation to the many years prior to the giving of the Mosaic Covenant.

 

New Testament believers are commanded to fear God

 

New Testament believers are commanded to fear the Lord. In Acts 10:34-36, the Apostle Peter related fearing God to the Gospel of Jesus Christ: “…God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ…”

2 Corinthians 7:1 commands: “…let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” Here we see the fear of the Lord should result in the fruit of believers turning from all known sin or filthiness. 1 Peter 2:17 says: “…Fear God…”

One modern church growth theory says the best way to achieve church growth is to have brief say 20 minute Sunday messages that are only encouraging and “positive” and which avoid correction and emphases on repentance, obedience, the fear of the Lord, hell and so on. But note Acts 9:31 revealed the early church grew in numbers while emphasising the fear of the Lord: “Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.”

Colossians 3:22 shows fearing God is a heart attitude when it says “in sincerity of heart, fearing God”. But note the New Testament also shows this heart attitude of fearing the Lord produces fruit in our lives. 1 Peter 1:17 reveals that a fruit of fearing God is our living godly lives: “…conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear.”

Many churchgoers are willing to give glory to God through singing and music, but they do not fear Him. Hebrews 12:28-29 commands that our daily serving or worshipping of God must be done in the fear of God and awe: “…let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear…” In Greek, the expression “godly fear” here is a form of the word “deos”. “Deos” means “profound respect and awe for deity”. [2] Revelation 19:5 speaks similarly.

In Romans 3:18 in its New Covenant context, Paul reveals that one sign that someone is an unconverted sinner is they will not fear God. Jeremiah 32:40 is an Old Testament prophecy that under the New Covenant, God by His grace would put His fear in believers’ hearts: “And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from me.” Therefore, if churchgoers do not have the fear of the Lord, we must ask whether possibly they are backslidden or have never been really converted.

 

A healthy dread of eternal punishment

 

In Luke 12:4-5, Jesus taught His disciples: “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him.” Here Jesus told His disciples not to fear other people but to fear God in specific relation to His power to punish humans forever in hell. Revelation 14:7 also links fearing God to His Final Judgement.

Hebrews 10:26-31 warns us of not turning back from the Lord to being continually ruled by deliberate known sin. Hebrews 10:26-27 and 31 says: “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgement, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries…It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Note verse 29 also refers to God’s punishment. In Romans 11:20-22, Paul tells his readers to fear God in relation to them continuing to have faith in Him. Paul warns that if they abandon their faith, God will break them off from Him.

There is a wrong type of dread of God’s punishment. This unbiblical dread is experienced by believers who do not understand their justification and acceptance in Christ by God’s grace through faith. An example of the type of dread of God’s punishment which believers should not experience is the supernatural terror of Him with which unbelievers were stricken in Genesis 35:5.

1 John 4:17-18 reveals that perfect love casts out fear and that God’s love results in justified believers not fearing being punished on the day of judgement. But every believer should have a healthy dread of turning from Jesus Christ and of the resulting punishment.

There are two words used in the original Hebrew Old Testament which in many contexts relate to the dread of God’s punishments. These are the verb “pahad” and the noun “pahad”. The verb “pahad” means “dread, be in dread, in awe” [3] or “fear, tremble, revere”. [4] The verb “pahad” is used in Isaiah 33:14 in relation to the dread of God’s punishment which unrepentant sinners and hypocrites experience: “The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness has seized the hypocrites…”

“Pahad” is used in Hosea 3:5 in relation to the right attitudes of believing Israelites in New Covenant times: “Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God and David their king. They shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days.”

The noun “pahad” means “dread”. [5] Note the noun “pahad” is used in many Old Testament verses in relation to the dread of experiencing the Lord’s punishment. The Old Testament records some unbelievers dreading His punishments (see 2 Chronicles 14:14, 17:10, 20:29, Isaiah 2:10, 2:19, 2:21, 33:14 and Jeremiah 30:5). The noun “pahad” is used in Deuteronomy 28:67 of the fear which would be in the hearts of unrepentant Israelites whom God punished with the curse of the Law. Psalm 36:1 reveals some unbelievers, however, do not have this dread or “pahad” of the Lord: “…the wicked: There is no fear of God before his eyes.”

2 Chronicles 19:6-7 records the words of godly King Jehoshaphat to the judges he appointed in Judah: “…Take heed to what you are doing, for you do not judge for man but for the Lord, who is with you in the judgement. Now therefore, let the fear of the Lord be upon you; take care and do it, for there is no iniquity with the Lord our God, no partiality, nor taking of bribes.” Verse 7 uses the noun “pahad”. It is likely Jehoshaphat chose righteous judges considering he was righteous himself. 1 Samuel 11:7 refers to both justified and ungodly Israelites experiencing the fear or “pahad” of the Lord.

 

Jesus is our perfect example

 

1 John 2:6 commands us to walk like Jesus did: “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” Isaiah 11:3 prophesies one of the things the Messiah would do would be to delight in fearing God: “His delight is in the fear of the Lord…” So if we claim to be following Jesus Christ, we must also aim to respect and reverence God deeply. But this must be accompanied by love for and faith in Him.

 

The relevant Old and New Testament words

 

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for fear in relation to God is “yare”. This word is used about 330 times in the Old Testament. Wilson says “yare” means “to fear from an apprehension of danger and a sense of our own weakness…to fear, venerate, religiously reverence”. [6] Vine says, “Used of a person in an exalted position, ‘yare’ connotes ‘standing in awe’. This is not simple fear, but reverence, whereby an individual revered and renders him proper respect”. [7] Brown, Driver and Briggs say “yare” means “stand in awe of, fear, reverence, honour”. [8]

There are two Hebrew words which are derived from the word “yare” and which in some contexts relate to the fear of the Lord. These are “yir’a” and “mora”. “Yir’a” is used in verses like Genesis 20:11, Exodus 20:20 (second usage), 2 Samuel 23:3, Nehemiah 5:9, 5:15, Psalm 19:9 and Proverbs 22:4. “Mora” is found in Isaiah 8:13, Malachi 1:6 and 2:5.

Another Old Testament Hebrew word used sometimes in relation to fearing God is “hared” which means “trembling” [9] in relation to the Word of God in Ezra 9:4, 10:3, Isaiah 66:2 and 66:5. Isaiah 66:2 reveals the Lord says: “…But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word.” In Ezra 9:4, “hared” relates to trembling at God’s Words in relation to His punishment of sin: “Then everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel assembled to me, because of the transgression of those who had been carried away captive…” Harris, Archer and Waltke say the word “tremble” means “awe or reverence in relation to the Word of God in these four verses. [10] This is not worshipping the Bible but having awe or reverence for God’s Word because He is the One Who has spoken it.

Someone who trembles at God’s Word does not put their Bible under the pillow as a lucky charm or leave it unread on a personal altar in his house. Instead, he reads it, meditates on its meanings, cherishes what it says and is determined to obey it through faith in Him.

There are other Hebrew words which describe what the fear of the Lord is. Here are some of these:

 

·         “gur” which means “be afraid, fear, stand in awe”. [11] Harris, Archer and Waltke say, “This root means to be intimidated before a stronger or superior being or thing”. [12] “Gur” is used in Psalm 22:23.

·         “aras” meaning “dread, fear”. [13] In Isaiah 8:13, the Lord told Isaiah: “The Lord of hosts, Him you shall hallow; let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread.” The word “fear” here is “aras” which in the context of this verse means “inspire with awe, awe-inspirer”. [14]

·         “hul” meaning “fear, tremble” [15] and used in 1 Chronicles 16:30, Psalm 96:9, 114:7 and Jeremiah 5:22. Psalm 96:9 says: “Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness! Tremble before Him, all the earth.”

 

The word used in the original Greek New Testament for “fear” in relation to God is “phobeo”. Bauer defines “phobeo” when used towards God as “reverence, respect”. [16]

 

 

Bible Study Questions

 

1.       What does fearing God mean?

2.       What are the differences between fearing God and the fruits of this?

3.       What does God’s Name “I AM” mean?

4.       What are some of the reasons why the topic of the fear of the Lord is shunned in so many local churches in Western countries today?

5.       What do Proverbs 8:13 and 16:6 teach us?

6.       If we do not hate evil, what does this suggest about our attitudes to God?

7.       What are some other key aspects of our respectfully fearing God?

8.       Are New Testament believers commanded to fear God? If so, in what verses?

9.       Does the Bible teach that there is a healthy dread of eternal punishment?

 

 

 


 

         Psalm 119:120 relates to the body of the godly author of the Psalm experiencing trembling or “pahad” in relation to God. Note the second part of the verse refers to God’s judgements. In Psalm 119:120, the word for “flesh” is “basar” which in the context means “body”. [17] Note the Hebrew word “basar” does not equal the New Testament usages of the word “flesh” or in the Greek “sarx” when the latter means the state or condition of human nature and its instincts and desires, not as they first came from God before the Fall, but as they have been warped and made abnormal by the original sin inherited from Adam and further weakened and perverted by acts of sin.

 


 

[1] “How Australians Use Their Time – 1997”, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Catalogue 4153.0, page 38.

[2] Louw and Nida, page 541.

[3] Brown, Driver and Briggs, page 808.

[4] Harris, Archer and Waltke, page 720.

[5] Ibid, page 720 and Brown, Driver and Briggs, page 808.

[6] Wilson, page 159.

[7] Vine, page 80.

[8] Brown, Driver and Briggs, page 431.

[9] Ibid, page 353.

[10] Harris, Archer and Waltke, page 322.

[11] Ibid, page 156.

[12] Ibid, page 157.

[13] Ibid, page 699.

[14] Brown, Driver and Briggs, pages 791-792.

[15] Harris, Archer and Waltke, page 270.

[16] Bauer, page 863.

[17] Brown, Driver and Briggs, page 142.


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