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What does 'fear God' mean?

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  • What does 'fear God' mean?

    I came across a few things in my Hebrew studies under my Berean teacher, and I want to share. I've studied these three words in Hebrew and how they relate to 'faith':

    Fear
    Hear
    Love

    I'll address 'fear' here.

    Most of us embrace the word 'Faith' as foundational to our relationship with God. The verb associated with Faith is 'believe'. 'Faith' and 'believe' are powerful words in New Covenant teachings, and most will admit that James seems oddly out of place with his statement "Faith without works is dead". What appears to be a contradiction to "Salvation by Grace" is in fact, not contradictory at all.

    Now I have a problem. I've equated believing with thinking. I've assumed that if I agree with the 'right' doctrine, then I'm good to go. Because of my confusion between 'thinkiing' and 'believing', I've held on to teachings that are 'easy to believe'. I've always wondered why some who came to the alter or raised thier hands to heaven have not exhibited a life change. I wondered that in myself. I wondered if only some people were 'radically saved'.

    So my questions are: Is beleiving the same as thinking? and are "doing' and 'believeing' the same thing (as James eludes to), or are they opposites? Is 'doing' legalism? I have struggled with these questions.

    So I decided to study Hebrew. In the tiny amount I have learned, it opened some things up to me. For example in english the word 'faith' is a noun. But reading below:

    "Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light" Gen 1:3

    It seems 'faith' should actually be treated as a verb. The above verse has God speaking - to nothingness - and in that nothingness there was suddenly light. God did not 'think' light into existence - He spoke it. So scripture begins with a command - a verb - and ends with the same - His commands and a blessing on those who do them....

    "Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city." Rev 22:14

    Right smack in the center we find "Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man's all." Ecc 12:3-14

    My problem stemmed from the 'doing' verses 'believeing' issue, in that I have approached God's word from my western mindset and wester worldview ingrained in me from the long traditions of Greek philosophy. But God isn't teaching us from the perspective of a Greek philosophy, He's teaching us from HIS perspective to us - and it's all about verbs (not nouns).

    The Old Testament was written in Hebrew which sets the framework and standards for the New Testament scriptures. Without the perspective of the Old Testament, how could we understand the commentary in the Apostalic Writings? So the Old Testament establishes the way we view the Greek in the New Testament. After all Jesus spoke in Aramaic, as did most of the writers of the Apostolic Scriptures.

    Most Hebrew words come from a root verb. Even people's names have verbs as their root (e.g. Yeshua (Jesus) = "God Saves"). Hebrew is an action language, not one of concepts, thoughts and ideas. It's all about doing.

    Many chalk up all the commands in the Old Testament as "the old way, before grace". On the contray, study of the Old Testament reveals the same gracious God as the One revealed in the New Testament. I've heard many times preachers speaking of 613 commandments as a 'undo-able heavy yoke no one could possibly do', yet the New Testament contains over 1000 commands!

    Grace is not the opposite of God's commands, it's what motivates and gives life to those commandments. I will prove it in four threads, this one starting with the word 'fear'.

    These days some beleivers are sometimes troubled by the phrase 'fear God'. I've been told "Oh, that's the God of the old Testament, who demanded salvation by works". Just maybe I thought, that Pastor doesn't know what the word "fear" means. Although I couldn't define it at the time in the proper context, it raised a red flag in my heart. Through my studies, I began to see a relationship between fearing God and His commandments. In that perspective, I found there is not any change in that relationship in ALL the bible.

    Maybe I just didn't understand the word 'fear'. What is fear?

    First and foremost, fear is the most powerful motivating force in our lives (be honest). It can cause us to be frozen in terror, or cause us to flee in response to physical threat. In all regards, it causes us to act in certain ways. Think about some earthly things that cause you fear - loss of job, cancer, physical torture, etc.

    The Hebrew word used mostly for 'fear' is "yare" (pronounced yaw-ray). Yare is spelled wth the Hebew letters yod-resh-alef. Yare can be used to describe an emotional response, howvever in Scripture, it is used in relation to God, and describe a motivation for certain actions.

    Another fact about Hebrew is that the letters were originally pictographs. The acutal pictograph give deeper insight to is't meaning, for example this word "Yare". The pictograph of the letter Yod is that of the hand of God. The letter Resh pictures a head or chief. The letter Alef represents God Almighty. So the entire pictograpth of the Hebrew word for 'fear' shows the hand of God upon man's head, bringing him under God's authority. So now it should be clear why Scripture teaches us not to yare man!

    Here are some usages of 'yare' in the bible:

    Gen 3:9 Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, "Where are you?" Gen 3:10 He said, "I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid (yare) because I was naked; so I hid myself."
    Gen 3:11 And He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?"

    Exo 1:15 Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other was named Puah;
    Exo 1:16 and he said, "When you are helping the Hebrew women to give birth and see them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, then you shall put him to death; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live."
    Exo 1:17 But the midwives feared (yare) God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live.

    Deu 10:12 "Now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear (yare) the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul,
    Deu 10:13 and to keep the LORD'S commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good?

    Ecc 12:13 The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.

    A word of caution: It is plausible that this usage of 'fear' as a synonym for righteous living or piety can grow out of fear as the motivation which produced righteous living. Be careful not to treat this motivation toward obey God in a negative way. Psalm 130 tells us why God forgives:

    Psa 130:1 A Song of Ascents. Out of the depths I have cried to You, O LORD.
    Psa 130:2 Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive To the voice of my supplications.
    Psa 130:3 If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?
    Psa 130:4 But there is forgiveness with You, That You may be feared.

    In the New Testament, the Greek word for 'fear' is "phobeo". It is also used in the Septuagent for the Hebrew "Yare". The first use is in Matthew 1:20, when God tells Joseph not to fear. Joseph is afraid to do something. Why would he be afraid to take Mariam for his wife? What motivated his fear? Earthly fears? What does God say? He calms his fears, more importantly, He changed his intentions.

    Likewise Mariam also understood Who she should fear. If you read Luke 1:46-55, you'll see it. What are some of the benefits Mariam describes as benefits to those who fear God?

    Then we have Jesus Himself teaching about fear:

    Luk 12:4 "I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do.
    Luk 12:5 "But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!
    Luk 12:6 "Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God.
    Luk 12:7 "Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.
    Luk 12:8 "And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God;
    Luk 12:9 but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God. Luk 12:10 "And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him.
    Luk 12:11 "When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say;

    What are the things Jesus says His disciples should fear, and what they shouldn't fear? It doesn't hurt to write them down.

    How does Luke descibe Cornelius, and based upon that description, can you see a relationship between fearing God and God's commands? No wonder the Holy Spirit decended on him and his friends/family during Peter's teaching! He worshipped God before he even heard the Gospel!

    Act 10:1 Now there was a man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort,
    Act 10:2 a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually.
    Act 10:3 About the ninth hour of the day he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God who had just come in and said to him, "Cornelius!"
    Act 10:4 And fixing his gaze on him and being much alarmed, he said, "What is it, Lord?" And he said to him, "Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God.
    Act 10:5 "Now dispatch some men to Joppa and send for a man named Simon, who is also called Peter;

    Another teaching:

    Rev 19:5 And a voice came from the throne, saying, "Give praise to our God, all you His bond-servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great."

    In these passages something other than emotion is being described as 'fear of God'. Some may say only the wicked should fear God, but that's not what the Scripture above reveals. God's people are described as the ones who fear Him - NOT for fear of retribution or punishment - but a fear that understands that God is teh King of the Universe and as such we rightly and voluntarily should come under His authority.

    My brothers and sisters in Christ, fear God. Fear Him because He is our King. Fear Him because He loves you and knows what's best for you. Fear Him because you are His. Fear Him because He has forgiven you and bought you with a price so high all the diamonds and gold in the universe couldn't begin to pay. In God's economy, fear is a verb, not an emotion = it is something you do.
    Those who seek God with all their heart will find Him and be given sight. Those who seek their own agenda will remain blind.

  • #2
    Without ever knowing the Hebrew I have understood "the fear of God" just as you have taught it here. I have always bumped my head when attempting to have others to see that the Hebrew Bible, our Old Testament, by and large, composed the scriptures and that save the Gospels, the New Testament was the best commentary written concerning the scriptures and their implementation. I pray that God will use this article in a mighty way.

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    • #3
      I believe depending on context fear of God is either to be afraid or on the other hand, reverence, respect for God.

      I believe that belief is more than thinking. To have faith is simply to take God at His Word. Depending on what the Word is will determine if it is something you do or something you know is true because God said it.
      I have a Blog. Please visit!

      My Blog http://bibleforums.org/forum/blog.php?b=537

      Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life!

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      • #4
        Great post I am in agreement with how you see this issue

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        • #5
          To fear God is a trembling at His awesome might and power which He has, to do the things He has done for us, and out of our Fear/reverence of Him and all that He stands for, we should obey.

          Great article. Thanks for the post.
          Shalom,
          Tanja
          Last edited by Jesusinmyheart; Jul 20th 2008, 12:04 AM.
          Jer 6:16 Thus says the Lord: Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.
          2Jn 1:9 Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.
          If it's not done out of unselfish love, then it's hardly righteous.
          http://disciple2yeshua.wordpress.com/



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          • #6
            Originally posted by th1bill View Post
            Without ever knowing the Hebrew I have understood "the fear of God" just as you have taught it here. I have always bumped my head when attempting to have others to see that the Hebrew Bible, our Old Testament, by and large, composed the scriptures and that save the Gospels, the New Testament was the best commentary written concerning the scriptures and their implementation. I pray that God will use this article in a mighty way.
            Exactly. I don't divide the bible.
            Those who seek God with all their heart will find Him and be given sight. Those who seek their own agenda will remain blind.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by keck553 View Post
              Exactly. I don't divide the bible.
              Where are the other three post. I need more manna.
              Edify the brethren, love the brethren, and forgive the brethren until I have nothing left.

              www.woc-church.org

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              • #8
                I put the "love" one in the "law of Christ" thread.
                Those who seek God with all their heart will find Him and be given sight. Those who seek their own agenda will remain blind.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by keck553 View Post
                  My brothers and sisters in Christ, fear God. Fear Him because He is our King. Fear Him because He loves you and knows what's best for you. Fear Him because you are His. Fear Him because He has forgiven you and bought you with a price so high all the diamonds and gold in the universe couldn't begin to pay. In God's economy, fear is a verb, not an emotion = it is something you do.
                  In the Jewish Study Bible, JPS TANAKH translation commentary, the “fear God” as used in Genesis 22:12 “denotes an active obedience to the divine will.” About Exodus 1:17 it says, “Fearing God, restrained by an awareness that murder would bring divine retribution.”
                  For comparison purposes: the NAS, 1 Chronicles 16: 25 says, “For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods.” The TANAKH reads, “For the Lord is great and much acclaimed, He is held in awe by all divine beings.

                  So what we can begin to see, through the understanding of the people of the O.T. to whom the concept of “fearing God” was first introduced, that "fear" in this context is something much different that how we, today, commonly use the word fear.

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                  • #10
                    Yes! Thanks so much for sharing! And showing me the JPS commentary. I should open mine more often.
                    Those who seek God with all their heart will find Him and be given sight. Those who seek their own agenda will remain blind.

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