When the Israelites were about to enter the Promised Land, 10 of the 12 spies sent to assess the situation presented a discouraging report, causing the people to become so fearful they were ready to rebel against Moses and return to Egypt (Numbers 14:1-4).
This was the generation that witnessed the mighty miracles of the plagues in Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea. They had been led by the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night and had witnessed God’s awesome display of power at Mount Sinai. But when faithless fear gripped their hearts, they forgot about God’s presence and promises and wanted to give up.
In contrast Joshua and Caleb, the only two spies who brought back a positive report, displayed the courage that deeply respects God and His promises (Numbers 14:6-9). God rewarded them by allowing them to be the only ones from their generation to enter the Promised land (Numbers 14:24, 38).
King David, wrote about the positive fear of God that includes a deep reverence for Him and His Word: “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who delights greatly in His commandments. His descendants will be mighty on earth...Wealth and riches will be in his house, and his righteousness endures forever” (Psalms 112:1-3).
Attributes Of Godly Fear
- The Apostle Paul points out a genuine fear of God comes as a gift of His Spirit: "...work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13).
- The right kind of godly fear also keeps us from thinking too highly of ourselves, guiding us to acknowledge how small we are before the infinite majesty of God. “But on this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit [that is, humbly repentant], and who trembles at My word” (Isaiah 66:2).
- Godly fear amounts to more than respect for God, it also acknowledges there is a reckoning that will take place: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ...” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
- If we develop the proper fear of God we will also grow in godly courage, as David pointed out: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?“ (Psalms 27:1). Paul also encouraged Timothy to have godly courage and to avoid cowardly fear: “...stir up the gift of God which is in you...For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:6-7).
- When we fear God we develop His attitude towards sin and evil. Proverbs 8:13 tells us, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate” and Proverbs 16:6 adds, “...by the fear of the Lord one departs from evil.”
- One of the requirements to serve God in a leadership role is to rightly fear Him. Moses, following the advice of his father-in-law, set up leaders with the following qualities: “able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness” (Exodus 18:21). Those who possess godly fear will resist the urge to take advantage of others by abusing their positions of authority.
- The early Church was characterized by godly fear and love that led to an affectionate fellowship among the brethren: “Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied” (Acts 9:31).
Developing the proper fear of God leads to loving Him and others and helps us put God first in our lives.