In the Old Testament, the fear of the Lord is connected to great joy. Proverbs 28:14 declares, “Happy is the one who fears always.” Psalm 130:4 notes, “Forgiveness comes from you – therefore you are feared.” Grace then, does not dismiss fear, it increases it. In fact, we are to develop, to grow in this fear and reverence of the Lord. Or, to express the concept differently – a signature of spiritual maturity is found in the depth of awe and fear one has before God (2 Chronicles 26:5; Psalm 34:11). And yet, this fear does not stand alone. It is accompanied by a delight of God, by a sense of wonder (Psalm 40:3; Isaiah 11:3). If the fear about which we spoke here was servile fear, a mere dread, a self-interested fear, it would have been dismissed by the act of forgiveness. But in Scripture, it increases (cf. Psalm 130).
The fear of the Lord is not merely subjective, that is, it is not about us – but rather, it is a characterization of the awe-filled relationship with the incomparable God. “Is He safe?” the question is asked of Aslan, the Lion figure in the The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, “Course he isn’t safe,” we are told – He is not safe, “But he’s good. He’s the king, I tell you.” To walk with God is to walk with One by whom we are overwhelmed. It is to be with One before whom we never lose our sense of wonder. It is understanding, increasingly by us that nothing compares to His greatness. It means that we grow in an appreciation for His holiness and awareness of our own depth of sin; and only thereby do we understand His love and mercy. Before such grace one trembles. Such grace constrains us (II Corinthians 5:14). It urges holiness upon us.
Jesus would say,
Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom you shall fear: Fear him, which after he has killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him … the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: you are of more value than many sparrows. Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God: But he that denies me before men shall be denied before the angels of God. (Luke 12:4-9)