“Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in His ways! You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.” (Psalm 128:1-2 ESV)
Now and then debates arise over the meaning of the biblical phrase the “fear of the Lord.” Does the word “fear” refer to the honor, reverence, and respect that we give to God? Does fear in this phrase mean the awe-stricken terror that mortals have experienced in the presence of God? Both understandings have their place. We are to give God the honor and reverence owed to Him, and Scripture also speaks of faithful believers who experienced real fear when confronted by the majesty of God. Upon seeing the Lord in His temple, the prophet Isaiah cried out, “Woe is me! For I am lost” (Isaiah 6:5b ESV). Hearing the voice of the Heavenly Father at Jesus’ transfiguration, Peter, James, and John “fell on their faces and were terrified” (Matthew 17:6b ESV).
The psalmist does not become involved in any debates over an exact definition of the term “fear.” He is more interested in results. We may explain the phrase in different ways, but however we define it, the fear of the Lord leads to change. As we live in the fear of the Lord, He accomplishes His purpose in our lives. Scripture speaks of some of the Spirit-inspired results that arise from fearing the Lord. The fear of the Lord “is hatred of evil” (Proverbs 8:13a ESV). The fear of the Lord “is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10a ESV). The early believers walked in the fear of the Lord and, comforted by the Holy Spirit, the church multiplied (see Acts 9:31 ESV).
The fear of the Lord is a gift of the Spirit, and the Scriptures foretold that the promised Messiah would be anointed with “the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord’ (Isaiah 11:2b ESV). The Son of God Himself, veiled in mortal flesh, lived in the fear of the Lord. Living in reverence and holy fear, Jesus was obedient to His Heavenly Father, offering Himself up as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. “In the days of His flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to Him who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience through what He suffered. And being made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:7-9 ESV).
We have been called to faith, enlightened by the Holy Spirit through the Good News of Jesus Christ, our crucified and risen Savior. In Baptism we are anointed with “the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.” Following in the footsteps of our Savior, we walk in His ways. To live in the fear of the Lord is to be blessed as we enjoy the fruit of the labor of our hands. To live in the fear of the Lord is to know and believe that Jesus Christ is the Source of our eternal salvation—and there is no debate about that!
Prayer: Lord, guide me according to Your Word and help me to walk in Your ways. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Carol Geisler.
Used by permission from International Lutheran Laymen’s League, all rights reserved” on your website.
1. What does the “fear of the Lord” mean to you?
2. How can the “fear of the Lord” lead to wisdom?
3. Can suffering teach us anything about our relationship to God?