Most of us are familiar with these words from Psalm 111:10 and know that the missing word is “fear.” But what comes to mind when we read “The fear of the LORD”? Or think about Psalm 96:9 where the psalmist says “Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!” (ESV)
Fear the Lord and tremble before Him. Are we teaching our children and youth these truths? Are we rightly defining what these truths mean and why they are important?
In his book The Practice of Godliness: Godliness has value for all things, Jerry Bridges offers the following helpful thoughts:
Some of the aversion to the phrase “fear of God” may be due to a misunderstanding of its meaning. The Bible uses the term “fear of God” in two distinct ways: that of anxious dread, and that of veneration, reverence, and awe. Fear as anxious dread is produced by the realization of God’s impending judgment upon sin…Although this aspect of the fear of God should characterize every unsaved person who live each day as an object of God’s wrath it seldom does. (1986, page 19)
For the child of God, however, the primary meaning of the fear of God is veneration and honor, reverence and awe… It focuses not upon the wrath of God but upon the majesty, holiness, and transcendent glory of God. (pages 19-20)
It is impossible to be devoted to God if one’s heart is not filled with the fear of God. It is the profound sense of veneration and honor, reverence and awe that draws forth from our hearts the worship and adoration that characterizes true devotion to God. (page 20)
In our day we seem to have magnified the love of God almost to the exclusion of the fear of God. Because of this preoccupation we are not honoring God and reverencing Him as we should. We should magnify the love of God; but although we revel in His love and mercy, we must never lose sight of His majesty and His holiness.
Not only will a right concept of the fear of God cause us to worship God aright, it will also regulate our conduct. As John Murray says, “What or whom we worship determines our behavior.” (page 22)
With these words in mind, is there any “fear” and “trembling” in your classroom’s teaching, worship, prayer, small groups, and activity time? Are children and youth being given a “balanced” view of the character of God, a view that is truly worthy of veneration and reverence, honor and awe? Do we truly believe and affirm that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”?
Getting practical: Because this is such an important yet misunderstood topic especially as it relates to teaching children, Sally Michael will be presenting a seminar titled “Teaching Children the Fear of the Lord”at our National Conference May 2-4 in Minneapolis. If you are not able to attend this conference, watch our website, as we will make the seminar available online in the weeks following the event.
On-line registration and seminar selection will close on April 21. Contact customer service at 1.888.346.4700 for information about walk-in registration.