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What does it mean to “fear the lord”?

Hello, my name is Remmo, and today I want to talk about fear. 

Specifically, what does it mean to “fear the Lord”? 

Fear is an intense and unpleasant emotion. It rears its ugly head when we become aware of,  or anticipate, danger or evil. It is therefore something we wish to avoid, to flee away from.

Yet God’s Word tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom. 

So what does this mean? How can “fear”, something that we have such a negative reaction to, lead us to something that is positive? What does it mean to “Fear the Lord”?

This is what we will explore in this episode of Caleb’s Journal. We will see that the Hebrew perspective of fear, in this case, is different to what we understand fear to be in our Western thinking. By changing our perspective of what it means to “Fear the Lord”, we will become aware of a new path that will allow us to walk with Jesus more intentionally

What does it mean to Fear the Lord?

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Proverbs 9:10

Does this mean that we are to be scared of God? Are we to live our lives gripped by fear of judgement, and that this fear somehow motivates us to lead good and acceptable lives in order to escape the anger of God?

I don’t think so… let me explain.

The Hebrew word translated here as fear is the word y’ray יִרְאָה which more fully means “awe” and “reverence”.

So we can rephrase our verse as:

The awe of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

What is Awe?

So what is awe? Let’s just think about this for a moment. How do you feel when you gaze up on a clear dark night at the countless stars of the Milky Way? Or when you stand at the beach on a warm summer night beholding the symphony of colour as the sun slips beneath the horizon?

Moments like these do not fill you with fear, dread or anxiety, but rather with a sense of reverence and awe. You may be so moved that you even feel led to worship. At moments like these you are experiencing y’ray יִרְאָה.

Awe is Experiential

y’ray יִרְאָה is experiential. It is something that must be lived. No matter how many photos of beautiful sunsets you see, your expression of awe is on a totally different level when it is experienced, as only then can you fully see and understand. 

When your feet touch the sand, when you feel the warm breeze on your skin and when you taste the salt on your lips, and your eyes see the light it is then that what you hold in your head is transferred to your heart and your life is transformed.

It is moments like these that we experience and see the hand of God at work.

The connection between experiencing Awe and seeing

Now it is interesting that our word יִרְאָה y’ray contains the Hebrew root ראה, ray, which means “see” or “understand”.

Hebrew is a pictographic language. So each letter is actually a picture, and when these pictures are combined they illustrate the meaning of the word.

So looking at our word y’ray יִרְאָה we see that it illustrates:

  • The hand – י
  • That we see – ראה

We fear the hand that we see

Our word y’ray יִרְאָה is also used in Proverbs 14:26:

In the יִרְאָה of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.

When we see the hand of God, when we see the reality of His awesome power, how He guides us like  a shepherd guiding His flock, we can have strong confidence, and as a result wisdom will grow.

This awareness of God’s intimate presence is what allowed David to declare:

I will fear no evil, for you are with me.

Psalm 23:4

However, if we do not see the hand of God in our lives, then all that we can see, and fear, is the hand of man.

Awe is only the beginning

Back to our verse in Proverbs 9:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom

It tells us that having y’ray יִרְאָה is not the end, rather it is the beginning. Standing in the awe of God is the beginning of our journey.

When we stand in awe of God we are at the point where we recognise that He guides and directs our life. He leads us through both the good times and the bad.

This awareness of the intimacy of God’s presence, which we gain through experientially living out this reality, fills us with confidence – allowing us to walk the narrow path of righteousness, giving expression to the Kingdom of God on earth.

This is what the word y’ray יִרְאָה means. Understanding it in this way allows us to move forwards through the chaos of our world today without fear – as our vision is not directed at the changing landscape of our lives but rather to the hand of our God who guides us through it.

Thanks for watching, if you have found this video helpful please give it a thumbs up and subscribe to our channel if you haven’t already done so. To get in touch with us, and to see more of our content please visit us at calebsjournal.com. If you’d like a transcript of this video please click the link in the description.

See you again next time.