Fear is a strong emotion with a fairly negative connotation. It’s generally not a good thing. Psychology Today gives advice about how to overcome fear. Therefore, “fear God” could leave the secular thinker with a negative definition of a basic Scriptural tenant. And how can one fear God and also love God at the same time?

Looking at the Hebrew (Old Testament) or Greek (New Testament) word for fear doesn’t really help. Look those up and you will find definitions like “alarm”, “dread”, “terror”. We can also find “revere” or “awe” – something relatable to God to be sure – but is fearing God more than just an emotional reaction?

how Scripture answers "What does it mean to fear God?"

To fear God means to revere Him1,2,9, but ultimately to fear God is much more than a raw emotion.  It’s not a reaction11, but a learned behavior3,6,8,13 – a choice10,12 – that can be quantified and taught to others3,7,8. Specifically, it means to obey2,3,4,5 God’s words3,6,7,13.

the answer above is based on and footnoted with the following Scripture Blocks
1
If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been on my side, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God saw my affliction and the labor of my hands and rebuked you last night.
If the God of my fathers, the God of Abraham and Fear [God] of Isaac, had not been with me, surely you would have sent me away empty-handed.  God saw my suffering and all that I had done and judged you last night.

Jacob is confronting Laban after keeping him effectively hostage for twenty years (vs 38) in order to win his daughter Rachel for his wife.

How does it inform?

Jacob uses “Fear” as a metonymy for God, seemingly to show his fathers’ reverence and obedience to God over the course of their lives.

Does it apply? Yes

2

And the Lord said to Satan, Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? Then Satan answered the Lord and said, Does Job fear God for no reason?

God said to Satan, “Have you thought about Job?  That there is none like him on earth – righteous and without blame – fearing God and turning from evil?  Satan answered, “Does Job fear God for no reason?”

The opening discourse of the book of Job between God and Satan, a fallen angel.  Satan’s question back to God is rhetorical as he believes Job obeys God since God has materially blessed him (vs 10).

How does it inform?

Job’s fear of God is manifested by the fact that he is “a blameless and upright man” that “turns away from evil”. He is, in other words, obedient to God’s commands.

Does it apply? Yes

3
Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children— how on the day that you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, the LORD said to me, Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.
Be careful to not forget the things that you’ve seen or you will stray away.  Teach to your children and their children how you stood before God at Horeb, when God told me to gather you together so that you would hear God’s words and learn to fear him for all their generations on earth.

The re-telling of the law of Moses to a new generation of people before entering into the Promised Land.

How does it inform?

Hearing God’s words is how they would learn to obey God.

Does it apply? Yes

4
And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good?
Israel, hear what God requires: that you fear Him, walk in all His ways, love Him, serve Him with all your being and keep His commandments which you are hearing today for righteousness.

The re-telling of the law of Moses to a new generation of people before entering into the Promised Land.

How does it inform?

Fearing God means to walk in all His ways.

Does it apply? Yes

5

Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.

Don’t be wise in your own eyes, but fear God and turn from evil.

A collection of wise sayings primarily collected from Solomon, the wisest to live.

How does it inform?

Fearing God means to turn away from evil.

Does it apply? Yes

6

And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.

When the king sits on his throne, he will write a personal copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests.  He shall keep it with him and read it all the days of his life.  By doing this, he will learn to obey God by adhering to the words and doing them.  It will also keep him humble, not thinking better of himself over others, keeping on the narrow path and living long in his kingdom.

Moses is re-telling the law to the people before they enter in to the Promised Land.

How does it inform?

The king was to “learn to fear” God by reading and doing His word all of his life.

Does it apply? Yes

7

when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law,

When everyone comes before God [to worship] at the place He will choose, you shall read this law for everyone to hear.  Assemble all people – men, women, children, and the foreigner – that they may hear and learn to obey God, being careful to do all the words of this law.

Moses is giving this instruction of public reading to occur every seven years when they are together for the Feast of Booths.

How does it inform?

The “fear of the Lord” is His word that we hear, learn and do.

Does it apply? Yes

8
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.
We will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ in order to receive what is due from our works, whether good or bad. Therefore, knowing the fear of God, we teach others.  God knows those who are His, and I hope you also know.

Paul is speaking of the temporary state the Christian finds themself in – yearning to be “further clothed” but still in this “tent” in which we “groan” to be with Him (vss 1-4).

How does it inform?

The “fear of the Lord” is something that is known and taught to others.

Does it apply? Yes

9
Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!
Let all the earth fear God; let them stand in awe of Him.
A song of Asaph declaring the wonders of creation and the sovereignty of God, the Creator.
How does it inform?

Fearing God is standing in awe of Him.

Does it apply? Yes

10
Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord,
Because they rejected knowledge and chose not to fear the Lord,

The opening of Proverbs and the importance of obtaining the wisdom from above.  This verse is in the midst of the personification of wisdom (vs 20) and its contrast to the foolish and those that don’t head the counsel of God.

How does it inform?

Fearing God is choice coupled with the rejection of obtaining Godly knowledge.

Does it apply? Yes

11
There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears punishment has not been perfected in love.

There is no fear in love; perfect love drives out all fear since fear is associated with punishment.  If one fears punishment he has not been perfected in love.

John is arguing that Christians are to love each other since “God is love” (vs 15) and He “loved us first” (vs 19).  He goes on to say that we know we love our brethren “whenever we love God and obey his commandments” (5:2).

How does it inform?

John is speaking to the emotion of fear, contrasting it to the love we are to have for our brethren “whenever we love God and obey his commandments.” (aka “fear God”).

Does it apply? Yes

12
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. Blessed is the one who fears the Lord always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity.

The one that conceals his sin will not succeed; instead he should confess and turn from them to receive mercy.  Fortunate is he that consistently fears the Lord, but whoever resists will find evil.

A collection of wise sayings primarily collected from Solomon, the wisest to live.

How does it inform?

Fearing the Lord is the opposite of hardening your heart.

Does it apply? Yes

13
My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.
My son, if you do these things then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge [wisdom] of God: (a) receive my words and value my commandments with an attentive ear and a mind to learn them, (b) seek their insight and ask for understanding, (c) search for it as if you were searching for hidden, valuable treasure.

A collection of wise sayings primarily collected from Solomon, the wisest to live.

How does it inform?

Fear of the Lord is an understanding one comes to through a desire and decision to diligently search for it.

Does it apply? Yes

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