“Blessing” and “Fear”
Last Sunday during our interactive online Sunday morning service a couple of questions were raised. One participant sought clarification as to the meaning of the word “Blessed.” Another was curious about the word “Fear” – does it really mean we are to “be afraid” of God, or simply that we should respect Him? We can learn much about these words simply by examining the original Greek (NT) or Hebrew (OT) word from which they were translated.
In the O.T. Hebrew the word “fear” ( יראה / yir’âh ) when used of our conduct before Almighty God carries the sense of fear, terror, fearing, as of an awesome or terrifying thing.
Job is described as one who “feared God and shunned evil.” (Job 1:1) When the Ten Commandments were given the people trembled as Mount Sinai smoked amid thunder, lightning and trumpet blast. “God has come to test you,” said Moses, “so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” (Exod. 20:20). Years later wise King Solomon wrote “To fear the LORD is to hate evil” (Prov. 8:13). It is clear from these passages that a wholesome “fear of God” and a steering clear of sin go hand in hand.
We find a similar sentiment in the N.T. Greek ( φοβέω / phobeō ) which means to put to flight by terrifying, to fear, to be afraid, or seized with alarm!
Speaking of the fear we should have toward God Jesus is very direct. “…I will show you whom you should fear,” He says, “Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” (Luke 12:4-5; See also Matt. 10:28). “Conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth,” writes Peter (1 Peter 1:17). Fear of God is among our most fundamental of obligations. “Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.” (1 Peter 2:17).
Like it or not, fear of God – real, trembling man before Maker fear – is fundamental to Christian faith. It is essential to repentance, to recognition of our absolute need to make peace with our Creator! Here, “respect” just won’t do. When, in recognition of this, a soul cries out “O God! Save me!” miracle of miracles is this: He does!
What amazing good news it is that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). The Christian recognizes what a fearful God has received him and now enjoys “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). He knows how horrid and consequential a thing sin is and he desires never again to arouse God’s displeasure.
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Prov. 9:10) It is the seed… the core of the full grown fruit. Without it we have but a shell, a shapeless religion devoid of eternal gratitude for salvation from wrath.
“Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Cor. 7:1).
It is perhaps only against this backdrop of the fear of God that we can best appreciate what it is to be “blessed” of God. Literally, the word simply means “happy” or “fortunate” but what a woefully weak word “happy” is in this context. To no longer be under the wrath of God, but to be graced by undue favour instead – all because Christ bore this wrath for us. To even be accepted by God at all! This is to be blessed!