Did you ever see the ‘90s television show Are You Afraid of the Dark? The series centered around a group of kids who would gather around a campfire every weekend to tell scary stories. Many (but not all) people enjoy scary television shows, movies, and books. They love the jittery feeling that comes with being afraid.
That is not the type of fear spoken about in Proverbs. In chapter one, verse 7, we read, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction”. When the Bible says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” or “Fear God and keep his commandments” (Eccl. 12:13), the intent is not for us to cower in a corner.
Instead, the fear of the Lord calls us to obey His commands rooted in a relationship with Him and a deep respect for who He is. When I was a kid, my dad once told me not to enter the kitchen. Of course, I walked straight in there, only to cry out in pain when shards of glass dug into my feet. That day I learned two things: 1) My dad gave commands to protect me; and 2) He had the power and will to enforce my obedience. I gained a healthy fear or respect for my father.
While human fathers may fail us, so the analogy isn’t perfect, our fear of the Lord is similar to how I viewed my dad after that painful day in the kitchen. “To fear” means we understand that 1) God is our Father, 2) He loves us, 3) He gives us commands out of His love for us, 4) He has the power and will to enforce these commands, and 5), we should therefore obey Him.
>> The phrase “fear of the LORD” may strike you in a negative way. It is helpful to understand it in the context of our awe of and respect for God. This fear moves us toward godly actions, learning, and growth.
“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” (Ps. 8:3–4). We are in awe of You!