Learning to Find Enjoyment in the Fear of Jehovah
“Come, you sons, listen to me; the fear of Jehovah is what I shall teach you.”—PSALM 34:11.
1. How will fear be banished by God’s Kingdom, but does that mean all fear?
PEOPLE everywhere long for freedom from fear—fear of crime and violence, fear of unemployment, fear of serious illness. What a grand day it will be when that freedom becomes a reality under God’s Kingdom! (Isaiah 33:24; 65:21-23; Micah 4:4) Yet, not all fear will be banished then, nor should we seek to push all fear out of our lives now. There is fear that is good and fear that is bad.
2. (a) What sort of fear is bad, and what kind is desirable? (b) What is godly fear, and how do the cited scriptures indicate that?
2 Fear can be a mental poison, paralyzing a person’s ability to reason. It can undermine courage and destroy hope. Such fear may be experienced by someone who is physically threatened by an enemy. (Jeremiah 51:30) It may be experienced by one who attaches too much importance to having the approval of certain influential humans. (Proverbs 29:25) But there is also fear that is wholesome, the sort that holds us back from doing anything rash, from injuring ourselves. Godly fear includes even more than that. It is awe of Jehovah, a profound reverence for him, coupled with a wholesome dread of displeasing him. (Psalm 89:7) This fear of incurring God’s displeasure stems from appreciation for his loving-kindness and goodness. (Psalm 5:7; Hosea 3:5) It also includes an awareness that Jehovah is the Supreme Judge and the Almighty, who has the power to inflict punishment, even death, on those who refuse to obey him.—Romans 14:10-12.
3. How does fear of Jehovah contrast with that associated with some pagan deities?
3 Godly fear is wholesome, not morbid. It motivates one to be firm for what is right, not to compromise by doing wrong. It is not like the fear associated with the ancient Greek deity Phobos, described as a sinister god that inspired terror. And it is not like the fear associated with the Hindu goddess Kali, who at times is depicted as bloodthirsty, using corpses, snakes, and skulls as ornaments. Godly fear attracts; it does not repel. It is intertwined with love and appreciation. Thus, godly fear draws us to Jehovah.—Deuteronomy 10:12, 13; Psalm 2:11.
Why Some Have It and Others Do Not
4. As shown by the apostle Paul, to what condition has humankind come, and what accounts for this?
4 Mankind as a whole is not motivated by the quality of godly fear. At Romans 3:9-18, the apostle Paul describes how far humans have fallen from original perfection. After stating that all are under sin, Paul quotes from the Psalms, saying: “There is not a righteous man, not even one.” (See Psalm 14:1.) Then he provides details by citing such things as mankind’s negligence in seeking for God, their lack of kindness, their deceitful speech, cursing, and bloodshed. How accurately that describes the world today! The majority of people have no interest in God and his purposes. Any semblance of kindness is too often reserved for occasions when there is something to be gained by it. Lying and foul speech are commonplace. Bloodshed is featured not only in the news but also in entertainment. What accounts for such a situation? It is true that all of us are descendants of the sinner Adam, but when people adopt as their way of life the things described by the apostle Paul, something more than that is involved. Ro 3 Verse 18 explains what it is, saying: “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”—See Psalm 36:1.
5. Why do some people have godly fear, while others do not?
5 Why is it, though, that some people have godly fear, while others do not? Simply stated, it is because some people cultivate it, whereas others do not. None of us are born with it, but all of us have the capacity for it. Godly fear is something that we have to learn. Then, for it to be a powerful motivating force in our lives, we need to cultivate it.
An Appealing Invitation
6. Who extends to us the invitation recorded at Psalm 34:11, and how does this text show that godly fear must be learned?
6 An appealing invitation to learn the fear of Jehovah is extended to us in Psalm 34. This is a psalm of David. And whom did David foreshadow? None other than the Lord Jesus Christ. A prophecy that the apostle John specifically applied to Jesus is recorded in Ps 34 verse 20 of this psalm. (John 19:36) In our day, Jesus is the one who extends an invitation like that in Ps 34 verse 11: “Come, you sons, listen to me; the fear of Jehovah is what I shall teach you.” This clearly shows that godly fear is something that can be learned, and Jesus Christ is superbly qualified to teach us. Why is that?
7. Why is Jesus especially one from whom to learn godly fear?
7 Jesus Christ knows the importance of godly fear. Hebrews 5:7 says regarding him: “In the days of his flesh Christ offered up supplications and also petitions to the One who was able to save him out of death, with strong outcries and tears, and he was favorably heard for his godly fear.” Such godly fear was a quality that Jesus Christ manifested even before he was confronted with death on a torture stake. Remember, in Proverbs chapter 8, the Son of God is described as the personification of wisdom. And at Proverbs 9:10, we are told: “The fear of Jehovah is the start of wisdom.” So this godly fear was a fundamental part of the personality of God’s Son long before he came to the earth.
8. At Isaiah 11:2, 3, what do we learn about the fear of Jehovah?
8 Furthermore, concerning Jesus as Messianic King, Isaiah 11:2, 3 states: “Upon him the spirit of Jehovah must settle down, the spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the spirit of counsel and of mightiness, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Jehovah; and there will be enjoyment by him in the fear of Jehovah.” How beautifully that is expressed! The fear of Jehovah is nothing unpleasant. It is positive and constructive. It is a quality that will pervade the entire domain over which Christ rules as King. He is ruling now, and to all who are being gathered as his subjects, he is giving instruction in the fear of Jehovah. How?
9. How is Jesus Christ teaching us the fear of Jehovah, and what does he want us to learn about it?
9 By means of our congregation meetings, assemblies, and conventions, Jesus, as appointed Head of the congregation and as the Messianic King, helps us to understand clearly what godly fear is and why it is so beneficial. Thus he endeavors to deepen our appreciation for it so that we will learn to find enjoyment in the fear of Jehovah just as he does.
Will You Put Forth the Effort?
10. When attending Christian meetings, what must we do if we are to understand the fear of Jehovah?
10 Of course, our simply reading the Bible or attending meetings in a Kingdom Hall is not going to guarantee that we will have godly fear. Notice what we need to do if we are really to understand the fear of Jehovah. Proverbs 2:1-5 says: “My son, if you will receive my sayings and treasure up my own commandments with yourself, so as to pay attention to wisdom with your ear, that you may incline your heart to discernment; if, moreover, you call out for understanding itself and you give forth your voice for discernment itself, if you keep seeking for it as for silver, and as for hid treasures you keep searching for it, in that case you will understand the fear of Jehovah, and you will find the very knowledge of God.” So when attending meetings, we need to pay attention to what is said, put forth earnest effort to concentrate on and remember key thoughts, think deeply about how the way we feel about Jehovah ought to influence our attitude toward counsel given—yes, open our hearts. Then we will understand the fear of Jehovah.
11. To cultivate godly fear, what should we do earnestly and frequently?
11 Psalm 86:11 draws attention to another important factor, that of prayer. “Instruct me, O Jehovah, about your way. I shall walk in your truth,” prayed the psalmist. “Unify my heart to fear your name.” Jehovah approved of that prayer, for he had it recorded in the Bible. To cultivate godly fear, we too need to pray to Jehovah for his help, and we will benefit by praying earnestly and frequently.—Luke 18:1-8.
Your Heart Is Involved
12. Why must the heart be given special attention, and what does that include?
12 There is something else that we ought to notice at Psalm 86:11. The psalmist was not asking simply for an intellectual grasp of the fear of God. He mentions his heart. The cultivating of godly fear involves the figurative heart, which requires special attention because it is the inner person as manifest in all our activities of life and includes our thoughts, our attitudes, our desires, our motivations, our goals.
13. (a) What may indicate that a person’s heart is divided? (b) As we cultivate godly fear, toward what goal should we work?
13 The Bible warns us that a person’s heart may be divided. It can be treacherous. (Psalm 12:2; Jeremiah 17:9) It may motivate us to share in wholesome activities—going to congregation meetings and out in the field ministry—but it may also love certain aspects of the world’s way of life. This may hold us back from being truly whole-souled in promoting Kingdom interests. Then the treacherous heart may try to persuade us that, after all, we are doing as much as many others. Or perhaps in school or at our place of secular work, the heart may be influenced by fear of man. As a result, in those surroundings we may hesitate to identify ourselves as Jehovah’s Witnesses and may even do things that are not appropriate for Christians. Afterward, however, our conscience bothers us. That is not the sort of person we want to be. With the psalmist, therefore, we pray to Jehovah: “Unify my heart to fear your name.” We want the entire inner person, as manifest in all our activities of life, to give evidence that we “fear the true God and keep his commandments.”—Ecclesiastes 12:13.
14, 15. (a) When foretelling the restoration of Israel from captivity in Babylon, what did Jehovah promise to give his people? (b) What did Jehovah do with a view to implanting the fear of God in the hearts of his people? (c) Why did Israel turn aside from Jehovah’s ways?
14 Jehovah promised that he would give such a God-fearing heart to his people. He foretold the restoration of Israel and said, as we read at Jeremiah 32:37-39: “I will bring them back to this place and make them dwell in security. And they will certainly become my people, and I myself shall become their God. And I will give them one heart and one way in order to fear me always, for good to them and to their sons after them.” In Jer 32 verse 40, God’s promise is reinforced: “The fear of me I shall put in their heart in order not to turn aside from me.” In 537 B.C.E., Jehovah did bring them back to Jerusalem as he had promised. But what about the rest of that promise—that he would give them ‘one heart in order to fear him always’? Why did the ancient nation of Israel turn aside from Jehovah after he had brought them back from Babylon, so that their temple was destroyed in 70 C.E., never again to be rebuilt?
15 This was not due to any failure on Jehovah’s part. Jehovah did, indeed, take steps to put the fear of God in the hearts of his people. By the mercy that he showed in delivering them from Babylon and restoring them to their homeland, he gave them every reason to view him with profound reverence. God reinforced all of that with reminders, counsel, and reproof by means of the prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi; by Ezra, who was sent to them as a teacher; by means of Governor Nehemiah; and by God’s own Son himself. At times the people listened. They did so when they rebuilt Jehovah’s temple at the urging of Haggai and Zechariah and when they sent away foreign wives in the days of Ezra. (Ezra 5:1, 2; 10:1-4) But more often they did not obey. They were not consistent about paying attention; they did not continue to be receptive to counsel; they did not keep their hearts open. The Israelites were not cultivating godly fear, and as a result, it was not a powerful motivating force in their lives.—Malachi 1:6; Matthew 15:7, 8.
16. In whose hearts has Jehovah implanted godly fear?
16 Yet, Jehovah’s promise to put godly fear in the hearts of his people did not fail. He made a new covenant with spiritual Israel, those Christians before whom he set a heavenly hope. (Jeremiah 31:33; Galatians 6:16) In 1919, God restored them from captivity to Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion. In their hearts he has firmly implanted the fear of him. This has brought rich benefits to them and to the “great crowd,” who have the hope of life as earthly subjects of the Kingdom. (Jeremiah 32:39; Revelation 7:9) The fear of Jehovah has come to be in their hearts too.
How Godly Fear Gets Implanted in Our Hearts
17. How has Jehovah put godly fear in our hearts?
17 How has Jehovah implanted this godly fear in our hearts? By the operation of his spirit. And what do we have that is a product of holy spirit? The Bible, God’s inspired Word. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17) By what he has done in the past, by his dealings with his servants now in fulfillment of his prophetic Word, and by prophecies of things to come, Jehovah provides a sound basis for all of us to develop godly fear.—Joshua 24:2-15; Hebrews 10:30, 31.
18, 19. How do conventions, assemblies, and congregation meetings help us to acquire godly fear?
18 It is noteworthy that, as reported at Deuteronomy 4:10, Jehovah said to Moses: “Congregate the people together to me that I may let them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they are alive on the soil and that they may teach their sons.” Similarly today, Jehovah has made abundant provisions to help his people to learn to fear him. At conventions, assemblies, and congregation meetings, we recount the evidence of Jehovah’s loving-kindness and his goodness. That is what we were doing when studying the book The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived. How did that study affect you and your attitude toward Jehovah? As you saw various facets of our heavenly Father’s grand personality reflected in his Son, did this not strengthen your desire never to be displeasing to God?—Colossians 1:15.
19 At our meetings, we also study accounts of Jehovah’s deliverance of his people in times past. (2 Samuel 7:23) As we study the Bible book of Revelation with the aid of the book Revelation—Its Grand Climax At Hand!, we learn about prophetic visions that have already been fulfilled in this 20th century and about fear-inspiring events yet to come. Regarding all such acts of God, Psalm 66:5 states: “Come, you people, and see the activities of God. His dealing with the sons of men is fear-inspiring.” Yes, properly viewed, these acts of God implant in our hearts fear of Jehovah, a profound reverence. Thus we can see how Jehovah God fulfills his promise: “The fear of me I shall put in their heart in order not to turn aside from me.”—Jeremiah 32:40.
20. In order for godly fear to become deeply implanted in our hearts, what is required on our part?
20 It is evident, however, that godly fear does not come to be in our hearts without effort on our part. The results are not automatic. Jehovah does his part. We must do ours by cultivating godly fear. (Deuteronomy 5:29) Natural Israel failed to do that. But with reliance on Jehovah, spiritual Israelites and their companions are already experiencing many of the benefits that come to those who are God-fearing. We will consider some of these benefits in the following article.
How Would You Answer?
□ What is godly fear?
□ How are we being taught to find enjoyment in the fear of Jehovah?
□ To have godly fear, what effort is required on our part?
□ Why does acquiring godly fear involve all aspects of our figurative heart?
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Diligent study is required to understand the fear of Jehovah