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The Sojourner Blog

The Fear of the Lord and the Fear of Man

Posted by Steven Light on

“The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life…” (Proverbs 14:27)  Really?  Isn’t the fear of the Lord a dusty relic of last century’s religion?  Indeed, many reject the fear of the Lord.  What they do not realize is that they have therefore substituted it with the fear of man. (Proverbs 29:25)

What is the fear of man?  With the fear of man, the person you need is the person who controls you and the person you ultimately trust.  The teenager who needs to be liked by his friends (peer pressure); the adult who needs the undivided affection of another (co-dependency).  We could go on.  The phrase “fear of man” is appropriate; just watch the response if such a relationships is threatened.  Remember Pilate?  It was the fear of the mob that drove Pilate to crucify Jesus, though he knew Jesus was innocent (Luke 23:23).  Pilate was in bondage to the fear of man, as are many today. 

But in Jesus Christ we learn the liberating fear of the Lord.  In Jesus, we see two things.  First, we see the wrath of God.  Jesus cried out from the terrible cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34).  Jesus endured the hell of the wrath of God on the cross in the place of all sinners who would trust in him.  You cannot learn the fear of God without grappling with the wrath of God (Psalm 90:11).  At the same time, even the demons believe and tremble.  Mere trembling at God’s righteous wrath against your sins is not the right fear of God. 

But secondly, on the cross, Jesus also cried, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)  In Jesus, we see that “with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.”  (Psalm 130:4).  Yes, you must know the joy of forgiveness to fear the Lord rightly.  The fear of the Lord is the trembling of one who has met mercy and is free from condemnation.  It is the reverence of the Almighty, who we now know as a tender Father.  This is the fear that casts out all fears and brings freedom.  This indeed is a “fountain of life.”  Do you fear God?