The expression, "The fear of the Lord" has puzzled theologians and believers for millennia. Fear is almost universally treated as an undesirable characteristic. The Bible seems to reinforce this impression when it commands- "Fear not!" The unvirtuous side of fear is reinforced by social currency when we generally deride those who experience fear as "scaredy cats", "chickens", "yella bellied" or "wimps". The Bible commands us not to fear. Society condemns us if we do. Why then would God choose such a negative and forbidden emotion and command that people express (and experience) it toward Him?
AN AUTOPSY OF FEAR
Fear is a form of respect. It is an acknowledgement of the unknown, the unpredictable, the potential for harm. Fear grips our attention. It doesn't merely demand it. Fear can be a surrender to the superior. Whether it's an angry dog or an irrate wife, fear betrays our respect, indicates our attention, and reveals our submission.
COMPARISONS TO WORSHIP
Respect, attention, submission. These are symbiotic integers that when added up equal: worship. The Bible doesn't command us not to fear, generally. It commands us not to fear anything other than God. When we are more fearful of something other than God, we are being disrespectful to God. Therefore, when the Scriptures want to instruct us as to how we should worship, the first thing- the "beginning" of worship is: to fear the Lord. He alone is worthy of our ultimate respect, attention and submission.
Last night, I incorporated a children's talk into my Sunday evening sermon. I was dealing with a very delicate topic: Evil, Hell and the Devil. My goal was to contrast these things with God and show how infinitely superior God is to these objects of fear. And this goes right to the heart of our misplaced fears. When we worship a mere facsimile of God, where we have substituted his true identity for some opinion that considers him simply as great rather than the greatest, we are prone to "fear man" (Prov. 29:25), "fear death" (Heb. 2:15), and "fear our enemies" (Deut. 20:3). When we overcome our fears in these areas by accepting the revelation of God's true identity as the All-Sovereign-Almighty-God, we live a life of worship for this God.
Jesus said,"Fear? I'll tell you who to really fear!" (Luke 12:5) And He was referring to His Heavenly Father. The One who He knew as All-Loving, All-Compassionate, and All-Merciful, yet exclusively worthy of fear. In this sense we need to be careful what we fear, because it may be a statement of what we are really worshiping.