The Fear of God

William J. Stewart | Lessons from the Book of Proverbs

We will be changing our approach to the book this week. The rest of the book, except chapter 31, lends itself more to a topical than a textual study. Many of the topics we’ll look at have already been introduced in the first 9 chapters, but are addressed in greater detail by Solomon. In Proverbs 1:7, Solomon said:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)

The fear of the LORD seems to be an appropriate place to begin our topical study.


In a day when the love of God is emphasized by some to the disregard of other attributes, it not popular to say we ought to fear God. And yet that is exactly what the Bible tells us to do. What does it mean to fear God?

The Hebrew יראה was used by Solomon to speak of fear. Strong defines it with words like reverence and dread. The word is first used in Scripture to describe Adam’s reaction when he heard God’s voice in the garden after he had eaten of the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:10). It is also used of respect for parents (Leviticus 19:3; cf. Ephesians 6:2-3), & honouring authorities (Proverbs 24:21; cf. 1 Peter 2:17).

How we fear God will depend upon where we are at in our relationship with Him. Those who are in violation of His law (like Adam), ought to be in terror or dread, for their souls are in danger. Those who are faithfully doing His will, as they consider His holiness and majesty, ought to have a sense of awe and respect for Him.

A great picture of fear before the Lord is found in Exodus 20. The people of Israel stood before Sinai, hearing the thundering, seeing the lightning & smoke, and they trembled in fear (v 19 says they were afraid they would die!). Moses said to them,

Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin. (Exodus 20:20)

What they saw was a terrifying sight, and it was to cause them to be in awe of the greatness of God and thus not sin. And if this was their response, then they need not be in terror of Him. The intended end was that they have a healthy respect for God.

The New Testament commands us to have fear for God also. Jesus told us not to fear man, who can only kill the body, but to fear God, who can destroy both body and soul (Matthew 10:28). The saints walked “in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9:31). God’s people are to “perfect holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1). We are to submit to one another in the fear of God (Ephesians 5:21). Paul commanded that we pursue salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). We’re told that Noah built the ark with “godly fear” (Hebrews 11:7), and we too are to have godly fear (Hebrews 12:28). In 1 Peter 2:17, the apostle made the simple statement, “Fear God.” It is right that we should fear before the Lord—be in awe of His might and serve Him faithfully. And if we do not, we should still be in fear of Him; terror and dread, for we shall stand before Him in judgment.


There are several proverbs that speak of fear before the Lord. In the first 9 chapters of the book of Proverbs, we’ve been told:

  • The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge (1:7)
  • The wicked hate knowledge and do not choose the fear of God (1:29)
  • One who seeks wisdom will understand the fear of the LORD (2:1-5)
  • We should forsake our own wisdom, fear God and turn from evil (3:7)
  • Hating evil is consistent with the fear of the LORD (8:13), and
  • The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom (9:10)

Let us finish our time by simply noting the occasions that the fear of the LORD is spoken of in the remainder of the book. Surely we can see that Solomon deemed this to be an important topic for his son and all others who would read his writing to grasp.

The fear of the LORD prolongs days, but the years of the wicked will be shortened. (10:27)

In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence, and His children will have a place of refuge. The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to turn one away from the snares of death. (14:26-27)

Better is a little with the fear of the LORD, than great treasure with trouble. (15:16)

In mercy and truth atonement is provided for iniquity; and by the fear of the LORD one departs from evil. (16:6)

The fear of the LORD leads to life, and he who has it will abide in satisfaction; he will not be visited with evil. (19:23)

By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches and honor and life. (22:4)

Do not let your heart envy sinners, but be zealous for the fear of the LORD all the day (23:17)

My son, fear the LORD and the king; do not association with those given to change. (24:21)

The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe. (29:25)

Friend, are you walking in the fear of the LORD today?

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