Fear of God—Can It Benefit You?
Fear the true God and keep his commandments. For this is the whole obligation of man.”—ECCLESIASTES 12:13.
1, 2. (a) On what should our worship of God be based? (b) What else, however, does God require? (Deuteronomy 10:12)
DOES the expression “fear of God” sound strange to you? Many may feel that if they really love God, they should not have to fear him too. Do we really have to do both? If so, how does the fear of God benefit us?
2 The Scriptures show that our worship and service of God must be based on love. Jesus made this clear when he told us to love Jehovah with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. (Mark 12:30) But the importance of fearing God is also stressed in his Word. Very pointedly, we are told at Ecclesiastes 12:13: “Fear the true God and keep his commandments. For this is the whole obligation of man.” Is Jehovah inconsistent in asking us to fear him and to love him at the same time?
3. Concerning fear, what must be kept in mind?
3 Not really—if we keep in mind that there are different kinds of fear. When people think of fear, they usually have in mind a morbid feeling that destroys hope and makes us discouraged. Obviously, Jehovah would not want us to feel that way about him! Our heavenly Father wants us to come to him just as a child would come to his father, confident of his father’s love and yet at the same time fearing to displease him. Such fear will help us remain obedient to our heavenly Father when tempted to do wrong. This is a proper “godly fear” that Christians must have.—Hebrews 5:7; 11:7.
4. What type of fear would love eliminate?
4 Jehovah is not like an unfeeling judge who simply punishes his servants each time they slip. Rather, he loves them and wants them to succeed. So if we make a mistake or commit a sin, fear of Jehovah should not restrain us from speaking to him about it. (1 John 1:9; 2:1) Our respectful fear of Jehovah is not a fear of being rebuffed or rejected. As we read at 1 John 4:18: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love throws fear outside, because fear exercises a restraint.” “Perfect love,” however, would not eliminate the deep respect and proper fear that we should have for Jehovah as our Creator and Life-giver.—Psalm 25:14.
Consider the Benefits
5. (a) How only can wisdom be gained? (b) What prompted a former drug addict to change his unwise course in life?
5 Let us consider some of the benefits that flow from “the fear of Jehovah.” For example, it leads to our gaining true wisdom. Men have tried in many ways, they have spared no effort, to gain such wisdom, but they have failed because they ignore a basic principle: “The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom.” (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 9:10) Consider how such fear helped a former drug addict to act wisely. He explains: “As I took in knowledge of God, I also developed a fear of hurting or displeasing him. I knew he was watching, and I had a longing to be approved in his sight. It moved me to destroy the drugs that were in my possession by flushing them down the toilet.” This man overcame his bad practices, dedicated his life to Jehovah, and is now a minister in Johannesburg, South Africa.
6. How will “the fear of Jehovah” protect us against bad things, and to what will it lead us?
6 Would you like to avoid what is bad? “The fear of Jehovah means the hating of bad.” (Proverbs 8:13) Yes, this proper fear can keep you from many bad habits that God condemns, such as smoking, drug abuse, drunkenness, and sexual immorality. Besides pleasing Jehovah, you are protecting yourself against the horrible things that happen to people, including the fearsome diseases to which they expose themselves. (Romans 1:26, 27; 12:1, 2; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8) Fear of God not only will help you to guard against what is bad and perverse but will lead you to what is pure and wholesome, for we are told that “the fear of Jehovah is pure.”—Psalm 19:9.
7, 8. (a) How did one young girl experience that “the fear of Jehovah” leads to happiness? (b) Mention further benefits that come to those who fear Jehovah.
7 Happiness is another goal sought by most people. How can you gain it? Says God’s Word: “Happy is the man in fear of Jehovah.” (Psalm 112:1; 128:1) The experience of a teenage girl verifies this. She had become involved in all types of illicit sex, as well as spiritism and stealing. She then began to study the Bible and saw the need to listen to and fear Jehovah. She says: “Knowing Jehovah is the best thing that has happened to me. Jehovah helped me so much in finding the truth and happiness. I feel I owe so much to him because he opened my eyes and gave me the chance really to think and find him. I now want to help other people find this happiness.”
8 Jehovah also promises that he will reward ‘those fearing his name.’ (Revelation 11:18) Furthermore, “the fear of Jehovah tends toward life, and one will spend the night satisfied; one will not be visited with what is bad.” (Proverbs 19:23) Really, it is “the fear of Jehovah” that will bring to us all that we would ever need. When linked with humility, the result is “riches and glory and life.”—Proverbs 22:4; 10:27.
9 Does this not give us every encouragement to fear the true God? Indeed, “the fear of Jehovah” is most appealing. It leads to all the things that will bring us true satisfaction—a rare experience today. How encouraging these inspired words are: “Although a sinner may be doing bad a hundred times and continuing a long time as he pleases, yet I am also aware that it will turn out well with those fearing the true God, because they were in fear of him. But it will not turn out well at all with the wicked one, neither will he prolong his days that are like a shadow, because he is not in fear of God”! (Ecclesiastes 8:12, 13) Who is the man that does not desire matters to “turn out well” for him? This happy experience will be enjoyed only by those who fear God.—Psalm 145:19.
10. What are some vital reasons that should move us to fear God?
10 Should this not make us determined to have a profound reverence for our heavenly Father Jehovah, yes, an awe of him? Really, we should have a wholesome dread of displeasing him. We deeply appreciate all the loving-kindness and goodness that he has shown to us. Everything we have has come from him. (Revelation 4:11) Moreover, he is the Supreme Judge, the Almighty, with power to put to death those who disobey him. “Keep working out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” urges the apostle Paul.—Philippians 2:12; Hosea 3:5; Luke 12:4, 5.
11. (a) What attitude should be avoided by Christians in these last days? (b) What spirit should be developed?
11 There is no indication here that we can gain salvation by adopting a lackadaisical attitude, doing as little as possible and hoping that somehow things will turn out well. This is not the attitude to be displayed by Christians who in these last days are striving to maintain a relationship with the One who can see right into their hearts and who knows their innermost thoughts and intentions. (Jeremiah 17:10) Only those who have a proper recognition of Jehovah will be acknowledged by him. He says: “To this one, then, I shall look, to the one afflicted and contrite in spirit and trembling at my word.”—Isaiah 66:2.
We Must Learn to Fear Jehovah
12. (a) In what ways was the nation of Israel favored above other nations? (b) What did Jehovah expect in return?
12 Considering Jehovah’s dealings with Israel can further impress on our minds the need to fear him. No other nation experienced such care and attention from the Sovereign of the universe. (Deuteronomy 4:7, 8, 32-36; 1 Samuel 12:24) With their own eyes the Israelites saw what Jehovah did to the Egyptians, who, having no fear of him, enslaved and oppressed his people. What did he expect in return? “Congregate the people, the men and the women and the little ones and your alien resident who is within your gates, in order that they may listen and in order that they may learn, as they must fear Jehovah your God and take care to carry out all the words of this law. And their sons who have not known should listen, and they must learn to fear Jehovah your God all the days that you are living upon the soil to which you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of it.”—Deuteronomy 31:12, 13; 14:23.
13. What should be of primary concern to parents regarding their children?
13 As with the Israelites, God’s modern-day servants “must learn to fear Jehovah.” What a responsibility this places on all of us—parents especially! Parents, ask yourselves: ‘How can I assist my children to gain a heart that fears Jehovah?’ One day when they grow up and leave home, what will provide better protection for your children, spiritually, mentally, or materially, than that? Jehovah himself stresses the importance of this when he pleads: “If only they would develop this heart of theirs to fear me and to keep all my commandments always, in order that it might go well with them and their sons to time indefinite!”—Deuteronomy 5:29; 4:10.
14. Name one factor that parents should keep in mind in training their children to be fearers of Jehovah, and explain how this should be applied.
14 Any Christian who has raised a family will readily agree that this is not an easy task. Nevertheless, God’s inspired Word brings several vital factors to the attention of parents. One is to start when the children are young. How young? When the Israelites met to receive instruction from Jehovah, the “little ones” were included. (Deuteronomy 29:10-13; 31:12, 13) Obviously, Israelite women came with their babies on such occasions, since all were required to be in attendance. Right “from infancy,” their sons and daughters would learn the need to be quiet and listen at such gatherings. (2 Timothy 3:15) So bring your “little ones” with you to the meetings. Also, involve them in field service as soon as they are able to have a share. Many youths have learned to present a magazine or a tract even before they begin attending school. Start early to teach your “little ones,” in little ways, “the fear of Jehovah.”
15. What is a second factor, and how can parents accomplish it?
15 Another factor is to be consistent. This can be done if we always stick to God’s Word in the training, discipline, and instruction we give to our children. Even when it comes to relaxation or recreation, be consistent in allowing Bible principles to dictate what will be allowed on such occasions. (Ephesians 6:4) This will require effort, as God’s Word so clearly indicates when it says: “And these words that I am commanding you today must prove to be on your heart; and you must inculcate them in your son and speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 4:9; 11:18-21) Such consistency over the years will do much to help your children to develop a heart that fears Jehovah.
16. (a) What is the third factor, and why is this so important? (b) What questions could parents ask themselves?
16 Parents must also strive to impress on the minds and hearts of their children that they themselves, as parents, are “fearers of Jehovah.” (Psalm 22:23) One way in which they can do this is by applying theocratic counsel when training and disciplining their children. This is the third factor to be considered. Ask yourself: ‘Am I regularly having a Bible study with my children?’ ‘Do I put to full use for my younger children such aids as My Book of Bible Stories and Listening to the Great Teacher?’ ‘As they grow older, am I using the book Your Youth—Getting the Best out of It and the “Young People Ask” articles in Awake!?’ ‘Do I arrange for wholesome recreation and entertainment that will not have a detrimental effect on my children?’ ‘Have I accepted what has been said by Jehovah’s organization about higher education?’ ‘Am I instructing my children accordingly?’ ‘Are the goals that I have set for my children ones that will help them to have “godly fear”?’—Hebrews 5:7.
17. Who benefit when children learn to fear Jehovah? Illustrate.
17 The benefits and joys will come not only to your children but also to you for doing all you can to instruct them in “the fear of Jehovah.” For example, a Witness who at the end of a day feels, as she says, “battle-scarred” considers everything worth while when she hears her seven-year-old daughter pray to Jehovah. Tears come to her eyes and a lump to her throat as she listens to her daughter’s prayer: “Loving Jehovah, thank you for all the good things you’ve done for me today. And thank you for my food. Help all the brothers in prison and the concentration camps to get food, Jehovah, and all the thin brothers and sisters in other lands. Help them also to get enough food, Jehovah. And those who are sick, help them get better so they can go to the meetings. Let the angels please look after me while I sleep in the night, Jehovah, and my mommy and daddy, and my brother, and my granny and grandpa, and all the brothers and sisters in the truth. Through your Son Jesus, Amen.”
18. How do we affect one another in this matter of fearing Jehovah?
18 In this matter of fearing Jehovah, we must remember that we affect one another by the example we set. Parents affect their children. Elders and ministerial servants affect their congregations. Traveling overseers affect those whom they serve. Obviously, this is why the kings in Israel were instructed to read God’s Law all the days of their life so that they “may learn to fear Jehovah.” (Deuteronomy 17:18-20) The example that the king would set in fearing Jehovah could affect the entire nation.
19. To what does history testify regarding the Israelites?
19 History testifies to the fact that Israel, as a nation, lost their fear of Jehovah. They thought that having the temple in Jerusalem would serve as a protection for them, like some sort of “lucky” charm, regardless of whether they obeyed his laws or not. (Jeremiah 7:1-4; Micah 3:11, 12) But they were wrong. Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed. Later, when they were reestablished as a nation, they again failed to show proper fear of Jehovah. (Malachi 1:6) There is much we can learn from this experience, which will be covered in the next article.
20. How could we sum up why we should fear Jehovah?
20 Remember, then, that fear of Jehovah does not weaken our love for him; rather, it strengthens and reinforces it. Obedience to all his commands will prove not only that we fear Jehovah but that we love him. Both are vital. It is impossible to have the one without the other. How important it is for parents to inculcate this godly fear of Jehovah and love for him into their children! And what great joy this brings to both old and young! May we, therefore, feel the same way as the psalmist did when he said: “Unify my heart to fear your name.”—Psalm 86:11.
Points to Ponder
□ How can we both love and fear Jehovah?
□ What are some of the benefits of fearing Jehovah?
□ What three factors can help parents to assist their children to develop a heart that fears Jehovah?
□ How do we affect one another in the matter of fearing Jehovah?
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Fear of Jehovah will help youths reject temptations to do what is bad
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Parents should help their children to develop a wholesome fear of Jehovah
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“It will turn out well with those fearing the true God.”—Ecclesiastes 8:12
By courtesy of Hartebeespoort Snake and Animal Park