Understanding the fear of the Lord (psalm 111 decoded)

The conclusion of the matter is the fear of the Lord.

As we have progressed in our meditation of this psalm, it has brought the vision of God into sharper focus. His character and ways have become clearer to us, and it has been most exhilarating. And it is as though the psalmist is putting before us the inevitable outcome of his mediation. And that conclusion is the fear of the Lord.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow His instructions have good insight. His praise endures forever.

And to drive home the truth about the inestimable value of the fear of the Lord, we are told that to fear the Lord is true wisdom. In other words, to not fear the Lord is absolute folly. We note that the focus of this passage is not on how to gain wisdom, but a description of the one who fears the Lord; he is one who shows himself to be gaining wisdom. No man can claim to be wise who does not fear God. The fool says in his heart that there is no God. The epistle to the Romans famously describes persons who are ungrateful and choose to ignore God and His ways, to dishonour Him, as fools.

Romans 1:21-22

21 For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools

They may have had some natural knowledge, indeed they themselves claimed to be wise, but their lack of the fear of the Lord caused their thinking to become nonsense.

When all is said and done, the psalmist would appear to say, there is no other conclusion possible but to fall in reverence before this great God whose ways have been so beautifully described previously. When you have examined the greatness of His works, meditated on His holy name, dwelt on His bountifulness in providing for all His creatures, your heart is moved, and you are struck by His awesomeness and superiority to yourself and to all. And you are caught up in the fear of the Lord.

To some, the fear of the Lord is of another age, when men did not have the benefit of the cross and could not approach God through the blood. For many, under the New Covenant, what need is there for such in our relationship with God. We are under grace, we are under grace, they chant. But the fear of the Lord is not connected to the Law but to His Person, the measure of who He is and ever will be that triggers a response in any human who truly gains revelation of Him.

We must understand what the fear of the Lord is not for the believer. It is not being terrified of God, although there would be situations when such a reaction would be healthy. It is not craven fear or dread, that causes one to shrink away and flee for safety. Furthermore, it is not slavish anxiety over possible unjust accusations or punishment. It is not connected for the most part to concern over our wellbeing in relation to Him. I say for the most part because there is a dimension of the fear of the Lord that would cause one to be most concerned if one chose to live a wayward existence.

But that is not what the fear of the Lord represents for the believer who walks uprightly with God. What then does the psalmist mean by the fear of the Lord? Indeed, how is this concept presented in Scripture? In broad terms, the fear of the Lord can be seen as the consciousness of the greatness, superiority, kindness, benevolence,         condescension, grace, and perfections of God that humbles me and makes me attentive to and honour Him in all things. We can try and break this down into a non-mutually exclusive definition.

Watch and subscribe.

Scroll to Top