(Synopsis of Message 1 of Tabernacle Bible Ladies’ Retreat 2018)

It is sad that churches today seldom teach on the “fear of God”. This is despite the numerous exhortations in the Bible that men ought to fear God. One such exhortation is found in Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his command-ments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.”

The Bible teaches us that it is the characteristic of godly men to fear God. The Bible provides many examples of saints who are said to have feared God:

 Job. “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.” (Job 1:1 KJV)

 Abraham. “And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.” (Gen. 22:12 KJV)

 Nehemiah. “But the former governors that had been before me were chargeable unto the people, and had taken of them bread and wine, beside forty shekels of silver; yea, even their servants bare rule over the people: but so did not I, because of the fear of God. (Neh. 5:15 KJV)

 Hanani, the brother of Nehemiah. “That I gave my brother Hanani, and Hananiah the ruler of the palace, charge over Jerusalem: for he was a faithful man, and feared God above many. (Neh. 7:2 KJV)

 The New Testament churches. “Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.” (Acts 9:31 KJV)

 The heavenly saints. “And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great.” (Rev. 19:5 KJV)

Regarding the ungodly, the Bible often describes them as not having the fear of God. “The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes.” (Ps. 36:1 KJV, c.f. Rom. 3:18). Similarly, in Proverbs 1:29, the Bible says concerning the fool, “For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD” (Prov. 1:29 KJV). On the other hand, we learn from James 2:19 that the devils also believe in one God and “tremble”. Therefore, there must be a difference in the fear of God that is found in believers and unbelievers.

From the Scriptures, we observe the following concerning the fear of God in believers:

 It involves a deep appreciation, understanding and conviction of who God is. Psalm 34:8-9 says, “O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him. O fear the LORD, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him.” (Ps. 34:8-9 KJV) Before David exhorts the saints to fear the LORD, he directs them to “taste” and “see” that the LORD is good. The verb translated “taste” refers to a careful examination by tasting. It is not just a mere gobbling of food, but a deliberate tasting and appreciation of the food that is consumed. This describes the deep, experiential knowledge which believers have of God, which leads them to a right fear of Him.

 The fear of God is learnt from the Scriptures. Psalm 19:9a says, “The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever”. God’s Word is called the fear of the LORD because it leads us to fear God. The fear of God must be learnt, and it is learnt through a faithful study of God’s Word. “… the LORD said unto me, Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children.” (Deut. 4:10 KJV) The believer will have the highest view of the Bible, to the point where he will tremble before God’s Word (c.f. Isaiah 66:5 – “Hear the word of the LORD, ye that tremble at his Word…”)

 The fear of God in believers leads them to obey the Holy Scriptures. In Deuteronomy 17:19, the Bible says, “And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them”. The copying and reading of God’s law were meant to lead the king to fear God. This fear would then direct the king to a faithful obedience of God’s Word. This obedience involves forsaking all evil and cleaving to that which is good. “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.” (Prov. 8:13) “Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the LORD. What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good? Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.” (Ps. 34:11-14 KJV)

 Lastly, godly fear can only be produced by the Holy Spirit. In Isaiah 11:1-6, we see the Holy Spirit described as the Spirit of the fear of the LORD. Christ is said to be of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD as He governs in the power of the Spirit. As for Christians, we too are indwelt by the Holy Spirit (1 John 4:13; Rom. 8:14), and thus are able to fear God and obey His Word.

The fear of the LORD in believers is thus the humble, affectionate reverence that leads Him to a careful obedience of God and His Word. This is something which only the Holy Spirit can produce. On the other hand, those who are unregenerate will possess a fear which will lead them to rebel against Christ. All their ways are stained with sin. They will not obey the one living and true God.

What then about you? What kind of fear of God do you have? May it not be like the devils, but that of the saints!

Yours affectionately,
Pastor C. Chew