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Vol.  9  No. 8 August 2007  Page 16
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Mike BensonAre You Scared?

By Mike Benson

    Contrary to today’s popular philosophy, fear has a legitimate place in our lives. “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” (Acts 9:31).

    Defining the fear of the Lord. The Hebrew word for “fear” is yirah and is used in the Old Testament to denote terror. The Greek word is phobos (from which we get our English word “phobia”) and is used in the New Testament to denote alarm, fright or dread. These two words also convey the ideas of reverence and awe (Psalm 89:7), which, in turn, suggest a trembling (Philippians 2:12)—literally, a quaking with fear. When we have a proper fear of the Lord, we quake at the idea of offending him (Hebrews 10:26-27; 30:31; 12:28-29).

    Defending the fear of the Lord. The presence of the fear of the Lord (1) prompts obedience: “…Noah…moved with godly fear…prepared an ark for saving of his household…” (Hebrews 11:7); (2) prevents sin: “For God has come to test you, and that His fear may before you, so that you may not sin” (Exodus 20:20; cf. 19:16; 20:18); and (3) produces growth: “So great fear came upon all the church...and believers were increasingly added to the Lord…” (Acts 5:11a, 14a). The absence of the fear of the Lord (1) abhors goodness: “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way…” (Proverbs 8:13); (2) abdicates assurance: “In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence” (Proverbs 14:26); and abandons repentance: “The fear of the Lord leads to life” (Proverbs 19:23).

    Developing the fear of the Lord. Just as faith is produced by hearing the Word (Romans 10:17), so is godly fear. “When all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Gather the people together, men and women and little ones, and the stranger who is within your gates, that they may hear and that they may learn to fear the Lord your God and carefully observe all of the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 31:11-12).

    One of the strange phenomena of our day is the spectacle of religion dropping the appeal to fear while other human interests have picked it up. Just look around. Everybody is preaching fear except the church. We are being taught to fear everything from AIDS to radon, from the hole in the ozone to the cutting down of the rain forests. We see fear as a good thing—something worthwhile and productive. In the words of Burke, “Early and provident fear is the mother of safety.” Then it becomes a “no-no.” We are enjoined to talk exclusively about the love of God. Don’t mention the wrath of God. Don’t talk about hell. Don’t warn the disobedient, just love them. So we don’t preach the fear of God…” (John Gipson, “Let’s Preach Fear”).

    The Bible says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7). Dear reader, are you scared (2 Corinthians 5:11)?

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