Enjoy Life in the Fear of Jehovah
“Fear Jehovah, you holy ones of his, for there is no lack to those fearing him.”—PSALM 34:9.
1, 2. (a) In what different ways has Christendom viewed the fear of God? (b) What questions will we now examine?
PREACHERS in Christendom who teach the fear of God frequently do so on the basis of the unscriptural teaching that God punishes sinners eternally in hellfire. Such a doctrine is contrary to what the Bible teaches about Jehovah as a God of love and justice. (Genesis 3:19; Deuteronomy 32:4; Romans 6:23; 1 John 4:8) Other ministers of Christendom take the opposite approach. They never mention the fear of God. Instead, they teach that God is permissive and accepts almost anyone regardless of the kind of life he lives. That too is not what the Bible teaches.—Galatians 5:19-21.
2 In fact, the Bible encourages us to fear God. (Revelation 14:7) That truth raises questions. Why does a loving God want us to fear him? What kind of fear does God require? How can fearing God benefit us? We will consider these questions as we continue our discussion of the 34th Psalm.
Why Fear God
3. (a) How do you view the command to fear God? (b) Why are fearers of Jehovah happy?
3 As Creator and Sovereign Ruler of the universe, Jehovah deserves to be feared. (1 Peter 2:17) However, such fear is not abject terror of a cruel god. It is reverential awe because of who Jehovah is. It is also the fear of displeasing him. Godly fear is noble and uplifting, not depressing or terrifying. Jehovah, “the happy God,” wants his human creation to enjoy life. (1 Timothy 1:11) To do so, however, we have to live in harmony with God’s requirements. For many, that means a change in lifestyle. All who make the necessary change experience the truthfulness of the psalmist David’s words: “Taste and see that Jehovah is good, O you people; happy is the able-bodied man that takes refuge in him. Fear Jehovah, you holy ones of his, for there is no lack to those fearing him.” (Psalm 34:8, 9) Because they have a good relationship with God, all who fear Jehovah lack nothing of lasting value.
4. What assurance did both David and Jesus give?
4 Notice that as it applied in his day, David dignified his men by calling them “holy ones.” They were part of God’s holy nation. They were also risking their lives to follow David. Although they were on the run from King Saul, David was confident that Jehovah would continue supplying their basic needs. David wrote: “The maned young lions themselves have had little on hand and gone hungry; but as for those seeking Jehovah, they will not lack anything good.” (Psalm 34:10) Jesus gave similar assurance to his followers.—Matthew 6:33.
5. (a) What was the background of many followers of Jesus? (b) What counsel did Jesus give on the matter of fear?
5 Many of those who listened to Jesus were from the disadvantaged, lowly class of Jews. Thus, Jesus “felt pity for them, because they were skinned and thrown about like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36) Would such lowly ones have the courage to follow Jesus? To do so, they would need to cultivate the fear of Jehovah, not of men. Jesus said: “Do not fear those who kill the body and after this are not able to do anything more. But I will indicate to you whom to fear: Fear him who after killing has authority to throw into Gehenna. Yes, I tell you, fear this One. Five sparrows sell for two coins of small value, do they not? Yet not one of them goes forgotten before God. But even the hairs of your heads are all numbered. Have no fear; you are worth more than many sparrows.”—Luke 12:4-7.
6. (a) What words of Jesus have strengthened Christians? (b) Why is Jesus the best example of displaying godly fear?
6 When fearers of Jehovah are pressured by their enemies to stop serving God, they may call to mind Jesus’ counsel: “Everyone that confesses union with me before men, the Son of man will also confess union with him before the angels of God. But he that disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God.” (Luke 12:8, 9) Those words have strengthened Christians, especially in lands where true worship is banned. Such ones keep on praising Jehovah discreetly at Christian meetings and in their public ministry. (Acts 5:29) Jesus sets the best example in displaying “godly fear.” (Hebrews 5:7) Speaking of him, the prophetic Word foretold: “Upon him the spirit of Jehovah must settle down, the spirit . . . of the fear of Jehovah; and there will be enjoyment by him in the fear of Jehovah.” (Isaiah 11:2, 3) Hence, Jesus is eminently qualified to teach us the benefits of godly fear.
7. (a) How do Christians, in effect, respond to an invitation similar to one that David extended? (b) How can parents follow David’s good example?
7 All who follow Jesus’ example and who obey his teachings are, in effect, responding to an invitation similar to one that David extended: “Come, you sons, listen to me; the fear of Jehovah is what I shall teach you.” (Psalm 34:11) It was natural for David to address his men as “sons” because they looked to him as their leader. For his part, David gave spiritual help to his followers so that they could be united and enjoy God’s favor. What a fine example that is for Christian parents! Jehovah has given them authority regarding their sons and daughters to “go on bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” (Ephesians 6:4) By daily discussing spiritual matters with their children and by conducting a regular Bible study with them, parents help their young ones to enjoy life in the fear of Jehovah.—Deuteronomy 6:6, 7.
How to Practice Godly Fear
8, 9. (a) What makes a God-fearing lifestyle so appealing? (b) What is involved in safeguarding our tongue?
8 As noted earlier, fearing Jehovah does not deprive us of joy. David asked: “Who is the man that is delighting in life, that is loving enough days to see what is good?” (Psalm 34:12) Clearly, the fear of Jehovah is the key to enjoying a long life and seeing good. However, it is easy to make the claim, “I fear God.” It is another matter to prove it by our conduct. Hence, David proceeds to explain how we can show godly fear.
9 “Safeguard your tongue against what is bad, and your lips against speaking deception.” (Psalm 34:13) The apostle Peter was inspired to quote this part of Psalm 34 after he counseled Christians to treat one another with brotherly affection. (1 Peter 3:8-12) Safeguarding our tongue from what is bad means that we will avoid spreading harmful gossip. Instead, we will always strive to be upbuilding when we talk to others. Further, we will strive to be courageous and speak the truth.—Ephesians 4:25, 29, 31; James 5:16.
10. (a) Explain what it means to turn away from what is bad. (b) What is involved in doing what is good?
10 “Turn away from what is bad, and do what is good; seek to find peace, and pursue it.” (Psalm 34:14) We avoid things that God condemns, such as sexual immorality, pornography, theft, spiritism, violence, drunkenness, and drug abuse. We also reject entertainment that features such disgusting things. (Ephesians 5:10-12) Instead, we use our time to do what is good. The greatest good that we can do is to share regularly in the Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making work, helping others to gain salvation. (Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20) Doing good also includes preparing for and attending Christian meetings, contributing to the worldwide work, caring for our Kingdom Hall, and being concerned about the needs of disadvantaged Christians.
11. (a) How did David practice what he preached about peace? (b) What can you do to ‘pursue peace’ in the congregation?
11 David set a good example in pursuing peace. Twice he had the opportunity to kill Saul. On both occasions, he refrained from violence and later spoke respectfully to the king, hoping to restore peace. (1 Samuel 24:8-11; 26:17-20) What can be done today when a situation threatens to disturb the peace of the congregation? We should “seek to find peace, and pursue it.” Thus, if we sense that relations between us and a fellow believer are strained, we obey Jesus’ counsel: “First make your peace with your brother.” Then we continue with other aspects of true worship.—Matthew 5:23, 24; Ephesians 4:26.
Fearing God Brings Rich Rewards
12, 13. (a) What present benefits do fearers of God enjoy? (b) What grand reward will faithful worshippers shortly enjoy?
12 “The eyes of Jehovah are toward the righteous ones, and his ears are toward their cry for help.” (Psalm 34:15) The record of God’s dealings with David proves that those words are true. Today, we experience deep joy and inner peace because we know that Jehovah is watching over us. We are confident that he will always respond to our needs, even when we are under great stress. We know that soon all true worshippers will face the foretold attack of Gog of Magog and the “fear-inspiring day of Jehovah.” (Joel 2:11, 31; Ezekiel 38:14-18, 21-23) Whatever situation we then have to face, David’s words will be true in our case: “They cried out, and Jehovah himself heard, and out of all their distresses he delivered them.”—Psalm 34:17.
13 How thrilling it will be at that time to see Jehovah magnify his great name! Our hearts will be filled with greater awe and reverence than ever before, and all opposers will meet a humiliating end. “The face of Jehovah is against those doing what is bad, to cut off the mention of them from the very earth.” (Psalm 34:16) What a rich reward it will be to experience that grand deliverance into God’s righteous new world!
Promises That Help Us Endure
14. What will help us to endure despite calamities?
14 Meanwhile, to continue obeying Jehovah in a corrupt and hostile world requires endurance. Godly fear is a great aid as we cultivate obedience. Because of the critical times in which we live, some servants of Jehovah experience extreme hardships that break their heart and crush their spirit, as it were. However, they can be absolutely sure that if they look to Jehovah, he will help them to endure. David’s words convey true comfort: “Jehovah is near to those that are broken at heart; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.” (Psalm 34:18) Encouragingly, David went on to say: “Many are the calamities of the righteous one, but out of them all Jehovah delivers him.” (Psalm 34:19) No matter how many calamities befall us, Jehovah is strong enough to deliver us.
15, 16. (a) What calamity did David learn of soon after composing Psalm 34? (b) What will help us endure trials?
15 Soon after composing Psalm 34, David heard of the calamity that had befallen the inhabitants of Nob, when Saul massacred them and most of the priests. How distressed he must have been to recall that it was his visit to Nob that provoked Saul’s wrath! (1 Samuel 22:13, 18-21) David no doubt turned to Jehovah for help, and he surely took comfort in the prospect of a future resurrection of “the righteous.”—Acts 24:15.
16 Today, the resurrection hope strengthens us too. We know that nothing our enemies do can cause us lasting harm. (Matthew 10:28) David expressed similar conviction in these words: “He is guarding all the bones of [the righteous] one; not one of them has been broken.” (Psalm 34:20) That verse had a literal fulfillment in the case of Jesus. Though Jesus was cruelly put to death, not one of his bones was “crushed.” (John 19:36) In an extended application, Psalm 34:20 assures us that no matter what trials anointed Christians and their “other sheep” companions face, they will never be permanently disadvantaged. Their bones will never be crushed, figuratively speaking.—John 10:16.
17. What calamity awaits unrepentant haters of Jehovah’s people?
17 For the wicked, the situation is different. Soon they will reap the bad they have sown. “Calamity will put the wicked one himself to death; and the very ones hating the righteous one will be held guilty.” (Psalm 34:21) All who continue to oppose God’s people face the worst possible calamity. At the revelation of Jesus Christ, they “will undergo the judicial punishment of everlasting destruction.”—2 Thessalonians 1:9.
18. In what sense are the “great crowd” already redeemed, and what will they experience in the future?
18 David’s psalm concludes with these reassuring words: “Jehovah is redeeming the soul of his servants; and none of those taking refuge in him will be held guilty.” (Psalm 34:22) Near the end of his 40-year reign, King David said: “[God] redeemed my soul out of all distress.” (1 Kings 1:29) Like David, fearers of Jehovah will soon be able to look back and rejoice at being redeemed from any guilt because of sin and rescued from all their trials. Already, most anointed Christians have received their heavenly reward. “A great crowd” from all nations are now joining the remaining ones of Jesus’ brothers in serving God and as a result enjoy a clean standing before Jehovah. This is because they exercise faith in the redeeming power of Jesus’ shed blood. During the coming Thousand Year Reign of Christ, the full benefits of the ransom sacrifice will be applied to them, raising them to human perfection.—Revelation 7:9, 14, 17; 21:3-5.
19. What are members of the “great crowd” determined to do?
19 Why will all these blessings come to the “great crowd” of God’s worshippers? Because they are determined to continue fearing Jehovah, serving him with awe-filled wonder and reverential obedience. Indeed, the fear of Jehovah makes life enjoyable now and helps us “get a firm hold on the real life”—everlasting life in God’s new world.—1 Timothy 6:12, 18, 19; Revelation 15:3, 4.
Do You Remember?
• Why should we fear God, and what does fearing him mean?
• What effect should godly fear have on our conduct?
• What rewards come from being God-fearing?
• What promises help us to endure?
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Fearers of Jehovah use discretion when under ban
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The greatest good we can do for our neighbors is to share with them the good news of the Kingdom