The Fear of the Lord
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles to the book of Proverbs. We are in the section of the book of Proverbs which begins with chapter 10. You will recall that we are in the second section which is designated by the phrase, the personal proverbs of Solomon . That comes to your attention by the first few words of Proverbs, chapter 10, verse 1. We have injected the word personal because in the light of the context, that is exactly what these proverbs represent—the personal proverbs of Solomon.

We have discovered in our study of this section which begins with chapter 10 and concludes with chapter 22, verse 16, that the proverbs are of two kinds. There is a proverbs of comparison, where in one line, you have a truth stated, and in another line, you have a comparative truth stated. Then there are proverbs of contrast. In one line, you have a truth stated, and in another line, you have a truth in direct contrast to that truth presented.

The proverbs are not presented in chronological order, nor or they presented categorically, so it makes it very difficult to study this particular section of the book of Proverbs unless you follow the procedure which we have been following. We have been considering all of the proverbs that relate to a certain principle at one time—that is, finding them throughout this section, scattered as they are, and gathering them together under one heading or as they are related to one principle.

Value of the Fear of the Lord

In this lesson, we are going to consider with you those proverbs which are related to the principle, the fear of the Lord. As we garner the truths related to the fear of the Lord in this section of the book of Proverbs, the first thing that attracts our attention is the value of the fear of the Lord. Notice in Proverbs, chapter 15, verse 16:

Proverbs 15:

16 Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith.

You get the contrast—the fear of the Lord contrasted with great treasure. Better to have the fear of the Lord and very little of this world's goods than to have all of this world's goods and the trouble that comes when one does not have the fear of the Lord.

When we recognize this statement as a literal statement, for the proverbs are literal statements, we are reminded of the story that the Lord Jesus Christ told, recorded in Matthew, chapter 19. You know it as the story of a rich, young ruler who came to the Lord Jesus Christ to find out how he might have eternal life. To get all of the obstacles out of the way, he dealt with the rich, young ruler on the basis of the law with which he was familiar and reminded him of what we refer to as the Ten Commandments . The rich, young ruler said something that you and I would not be able to say. Some have even questioned that he was really honest. He said, “All of these things have I kept from my youth up. What lack I yet?” The Lord Jesus Christ said, “Go sell all that thou hast and give to the poor, and then come and follow Me.”

Some, in reading the parable, seem to think there is some virtue in poverty and that salvation can be bought with a price, but this is not what the Lord Jesus Christ had in mind. The Lord Jesus Christ was simply bringing to the attention of this rich, young ruler what he knew down deep inside, and that is, his riches were standing in the way. The record is that the rich, young ruler went away sorrowful. Speculation has been rampant as to whether or not this rich, young ruler was saved. I don't know. All I know is that the Lord Jesus Christ said that oftentimes men would misplace values and choose what this world has to offer instead of what the Lord Jesus Christ can give. Every man is faced with the reality of the question: “What shall a man give in exchange for his soul? If a man were to gain the whole world and lose his own soul, of what value would it be?”

You might say, “If this is so important, if the fear of the Lord is more valuable than anything on this earth, what exactly do we mean by the fear of the Lord? Are you talking about crawling into a corner, cringing in fear that God might suddenly strike you with lightning? Are you talking about living in abject terror of a God who delights to put His finger on you and watch you squirm much like a little boy might step down on a bug and watch it squirm?”

We are talking about the fear of the Lord that is defined in the Word of God by virtue of the word in Hebrew that is translated by the word fear . That word is yirah , which is translated by the word reverence . A good illustration of the meaning of the word yirah , in regard to reverence, is found in Psalm 89, verse 7:

Psalm 89:

7 God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him.

Notice that word reverence. It is the translation of this same Hebrew word that is translated by the word fear . When you talk about the fear of the Lord, you are talking about reverencing God, showing reverence to Him.

Let me establish something immediately. We are not talking about a cold formality that is interpreted as reverence. For example, sometimes men are told that when we go into a church building, we should manifest reverence by taking off our hats. Sometimes we are told that we should manifest reverence by being quiet in a worship service, not interrupting prayer, and all of this is true; all of this is good. But, my friends, if this word reverence does not go beyond that, then we will not be able to understand what God has in mind in the book of Proverbs; so I suggest that instead of thinking of this word reverence as a formality, we think of it as a reverential trust.

Fear of the Lord is a Fountain of Life

The Spirit of God in the book of Proverbs gives a comparative definition of this word reverence . Turn to Proverbs, chapter 14, verse 27:

Proverbs 14:

27 The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.

Did you notice that the Spirit of God compares the fear of the Lord to a fountain of life, and He says that the fear of the Lord will enable you to depart from the snares of death. There is something about the fear of the Lord that will deliver you from death. The Living Bible suggests a translation that brings a thought to mind that is worthy of our consideration. It suggests: “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life. Its waters keep men from death.”

Immediately, to thinking people, there comes a New Testament reference recorded in the Gospel of John, chapter 4, where the Lord Jesus Christ sat at Jacob's well, talking with the woman from Samaria. In order to engage the woman in conversation, He asked for a drink of water. A discussion ensued featuring the water in Jacob's well and the water which the Lord Jesus Christ carried with Him. Notice verse 10:

John 4:

10 Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.
11 The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?
12 Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?
13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:
14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

I would like to suggest to you that the water the wise man spoke of in the book of Proverbs and the water which the Lord Jesus Christ described in John, chapter 4, are one and the same. So when we define the fear of the Lord, we speak of a reverential trust in God. We speak by comparison of a fountain of life, the waters of which will deliver from the fear of death.

The Fear of the Lord Guarantees a Future

There is another comparison presented in the book of Proverbs for us to consider. In chapter 23, verses 17-18, we find verses using the phrase which we have been thinking about. Notice:

Proverbs 23:

17 Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the LORD all the day long.
18 For surely there is an end; and thine expectation shall not be cut off.

The fear of the Lord is in apposition with the phrase, “there is an end.” What the Psalmist is suggesting is that the fear of the Lord carries with it a future. A better rendering of the phrase, there is an end , would be the phrase, there is a future , so when we talk about the fear of the Lord, we are talking about that personal relationship with God through the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ upon the Cross that will guarantee us a future.

We have suggested to you that the book of Proverbs is a very practical book, that it is related to the affairs of this life. Therefore, we could expect in this book more emphasis upon earthly things than heavenly things when we talk about dividends that may be brought to the life of the individual who has learned to trust Christ.

There are some individuals who feel that one's relationship to the Lord is related only to the life to come, and emphasis is placed upon settling your soul's eternal destiny. That is important. You need to know where you are going when this life comes to an end. We want to suggest to you, from this section of the book of Proverbs, some of the dividends that are yours because of this reverential trust which is placed in the Lord.

Physical Dividends

This first dividend is related to the physical. Turn to Proverbs, chapter 10, verse 27:

Proverbs 10:

27 The fear of the LORD prolongeth days: but the years of the wicked shall be shortened.

There is no way in competent exposition to make this verse mean anything more than it does. You cannot spiritualize it and talk about eternal life when you use the phrase, “prolongeth days.” It is talking about physical life upon this earth. The man who trusts Christ has a better chance for physical life upon this earth than the man who does not.

We could give many reasons for that, but time will not permit. There is one good reason, and that one reason is that the Bible states that the patience of God eventually runs out. “He that being often reproved and hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy” (Proverbs 29:1). That is speaking of physical death. It is safer to trust Christ than not to trust Him, and when men are right with God, oftentimes their physical health is the better for it.

Material Dividends

We pass on to another dividend. I have used the word material to describe it. If you have this reverential trust in the Lord of which I speak, you can reap material dividends from it. In Proverbs, chapter 22, notice verse 4:

Proverbs 22:

4 By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches, and honour, and life.

The Spirit of God is saying that the man who humbles himself and places his trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, can expect God to provide for him riches, honor, and life—extention of days.

In all fairness to God and His Word, we must recognize that every portion of the Word of God is qualified by truth taught elsewhere in the Word. We are told that God will take care of things. “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all of these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:22). “My God shall supply all of your need according to His riches and glory by Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 3:16). But sometimes God, to make His power known and to reveal His love in our lives, permits us to go through a time of material stress so that we might learn what the Apostle Paul said: “I have learned in whatsoever state I'm in, therein to be content. I know both how to be abased and how to abound” (Philippians 4:11,12).

Notice that he did not use the word therewith . God doesn't expect you to be content with anything, but He does give you grace to be content in anything. Material prosperity is one of the dividends, all other things being equal, that the believer may expect when he places his trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

I want to say as a personal testimony that since I placed my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, I have not wanted for anything. Somebody may say, “How many Cadillacs do you have in the garage?” None, but I haven't wanted any. You see, you don't label God's meeting of your needs, comparatively speaking, because all needs are not the same; but to His glory, I say that I have not wanted for any good thing.

Mental Dividends

We pass on and suggest to you another dividend that is reaped by trusting Christ. I have used the word mental to describe it. Turn to chapter 15, verse 33:

Proverbs 15:

33 The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility.

We are interested in the first statement: “The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom.” The Amplified Version brings to your mind a little clearer translation: “The fear of the LORD brings instructions in wisdom.” When you trust the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, you are just then ready to learn, and not before. The greatest minds in the world, educated as they might be, are not even faintly equipped to understand wisdom if they know not Christ.

We remind you that this is the ministry of the Holy Spirit according to Romans, chapter 12, verse 2—“to renew your mind.” We remind you in I Corinthians, chapter 2, the Word of God plainly teaches that “the natural man cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are spiritually discerned.”

I say that the fear of the Lord brings instruction in wisdom. A Christian person is better equipped to acquire knowledge, even in this world, than a non-Christian person. If you want to take issue with that, you are going to have to eliminate too many examples of the difference.

Some of you young people who are trusting Christ as your Savior have already learned that because of your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, you have every right in the world to go to God in prayer and ask for a special wisdom, a special perception that will enable you to learn the things that need to be learned. I would like to suggest that if you haven't taken advantage of this avenue of blessing that is open to you, you begin to take advantage of it. It is a dividend of belonging to Christ that you are not receiving as you should.

Victory Over Sin

There is another dividend that is related to the spiritual. I said emphasis is placed upon the material because of the nature of the book of Proverbs, but emphasis is placed upon the spiritual, too, in regard to the life that we live in this very practical world around us. The first spiritual dividend that is brought to our attention is one that I have described by the phrase, victory over sin .

You are well aware that God's desire is that you as a believer do not sin. “Little children,” God says, “I write unto you that you should not…” That is His desire, but God made the flesh, and He knew that you would sin, and so He said, “If any man sin—I don't want you to, but if you do—you have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Even though we will sin, I must emphasize on the authority of the Word of God that we do not have to sin because the Bible very plainly says, “Sin shall not have dominion over you,” and the wise man in the book of Proverbs says the same thing in chapter 16, verse 6:

Proverbs 16:

6 By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil.

The problem of iniquity was taken care of at Calvary through mercy and truth, but by reverential trust in the Lord, by your personal relationship with the Lord, men depart from evil. The sense of the verse in the original text is, “Men have the power to depart from evil.” Of course, this should somewhat be a convicting arrow in our hearts when we realize the truth of Paul's statement to Timothy: “Let him who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” There is no power in you, but there is power in the risen Lord who lives within your heart. Sin is a very practical thing with which we have to cope every day of our lives.

Victory Over Fear

There is another dividend which I have called victory over fear . Notice what the wise man has to say about the matter of fear in Proverbs, chapter 14, verse 26:

Proverbs 14:

26 In the fear of the LORD is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge.

In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence. In the reverential trust, in your personal relationship with Jesus Christ, there is strong confidence. Fear is a very real thing, and if we tried to tabulate the things of which men are afraid, it would take more time than we have; but stop and think for a moment about the thing which is your fear—the thing which you fear as an individual—and then remember that in the fear of the Lord, there is strong confidence.

I want to suggest to you an alternate translation of this verse because it is very interesting to me. Look at the verse again:

Proverbs 14:

26 In the fear of the LORD is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge.

“His children shall have a place of refuge.” On the surface, that could mean that the children of God have a place of refuge. “The Lord is a strong power, and they that flee to Him find refuge,” but one translator suggested something that is of interest to me because I am a father. I trust it will be of interest to some of you from that same standpoint. You will notice: “A strong man who trusts in the fear of the Lord will be a refuge for his sons.”

I suggest that as a alternate translation, and I rather like it. The man who has placed his faith and his trust in Christ can provide a refuge for his children. This does not mean that the salvation of the father will supply the need of salvation for his son. It doesn't mean that children will go to Heaven on their father's coattail, but it does mean that if you have received the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, you are better able to provide for your children when they are in need than you are without Him.

Victory in Trial

There is one last thing I would like to suggest to you regarding the dividends that are yours because you have placed a reverential trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, because you have received Him as your Savior. I refer to that subject as victory in trial .

Have you noticed that all of these spiritual dividends are related to everyday living here on this earth? We haven't said a thing to you, as far as these dividends are concerned, about what happens after you die. They are all right here on this earth where we live in the dirty now and now, so to speak. Do you have any trials? Do you have any tribulations? Are there testing times that come into your life? Do you feel that you are no match for them? Well, God has given the solution. Proverbs, chapter 19, verse 23:

Proverbs 19:

23 The fear of the LORD tendeth to life: and he that hath it shall abide satisfied; he shall not be visited with evil.

There it is. “The fear of the LORD tendeth to life and he that hath that fear of the LORD shall abide satisfied. He shall not be visited with evil.” Some folks say, “We shall not be overcome with evil.” I like the translation that has been suggested by another: “The individual who has the fear of the Lord has life, so that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil.” This is the rendering of The New American Standard Version .

Notice: “…so that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil.” I like that. You can go to bed at night and sleep satisfied, untouched by the evil that you face during the day, untouched by the evil that you had to deal with during your waking hours. The sleep of righteous men is indeed a blessing from God, for the Word says, “He giveth His beloved sleep.”

Conclusion

This is what Solomon had to say from practical experience about the fear of the Lord, so I ask you, have you learned to fear Him? I don't mean, have you learned to run and hide in the closet in the dark for fear He might strike you with a bolt of lightning. I'm not talking about that. Have you learned to place your trust in Him? Have you placed your trust in Him? If you have, rejoice. If you haven't, let me encourage you to do so, for it pays to trust the Lord Jesus Christ.


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