For Moses, the fear of the Lord was inseparable from God’s promise that Israel was his treasured possession. His awe, wrapped in love, led to a response. Moses believed the Lord more than his own fears. He lived under the God of great love and great power. “You, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving” (Ps 62:11–12).
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). These words from the apostle John tell us that love replaces—it casts out— fear. At first glance, this seems to put the biblical command to “fear the Lord” in jeopardy. But John is writing to those who fear judgment even after confessing their sins. He is not undercutting the importance of the fear of the Lord in our lives or suggesting that such fear was part of a fading, law-oriented era.
Yet, the fear of the Lord remains unclear for most of us, and it is critical to embrace it if we are to grow in wisdom (Pro 1:7). Let’s assume that we benefit from understanding it, and we could use more of it.
The basic idea is that the Lord is with us and he is also over us. He is the great and Holy God and is to be feared. This is a good fear because whatever we fear controls us. When we fear the Lord, we are controlled by him and his words. In short, we do what he says. We can pick out his voice from all the competition. And we certainly need to hear it. When we bow to sinful temptations, we usually ignore the Lord or justify ourselves with “this will be the last time.”