Six times in Deuteronomy, God’s intent for Israel focused on acquiring the fear of the Lord (5:29; 6:2, 2x, and “learn to fear the Lord” in 14:23; 17:20; 31:12). In 4:10, God commanded Moses, “Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.”
In Deuteronomy, God-fearers were typified by an intellectual acknowledgment of God’s voice: “my words” (4:10), “commandments” (5:29), “statutes” (6:2, 24), and “all the words of this law written in this book” (28:58). Behaviorally, those who possessed a heart that fears “serve” and “swear” by the Lord’s name (6:13), “walk in his ways” (8:6), “hold fast to him” (10:20, “obey his voice” (13:4), “read” God’s word (17:19), and “purge evil” from their midst (21:21).
Similarly, throughout the Old Testament, godly fear signified intellectual humility and ethical rectitude typified by Proverbs 3:7: “Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.” So, for example:
Abram did not withhold Isaac from sacrifice, even though it was inconceivable (Gen 22:12).
Joseph rejected Potiphar’s wife’s enticement as a “great wickedness” (39:9).
The Hebrew midwives disobeyed Pharaoh to protect the baby Moses (Exod 1:17).
Yahweh-fearing servants of Pharaoh sheltered their livestock during the plagues (Exod 9:20).
Israelite leaders would not accept bribes (Exod 18:21).
Hebrew kings ruled justly (2 Sam 23:3).
Obadiah feared the Lord and hid the prophets from the wicked king, Ahab (1 Kings 18:4).
And those who still “feared the Lord” after the exile “esteemed his name” (Mal 3:16).
Today, are we also guided by the fear of God? Can you and I point to decisions, actions, or imaginations, we did not embrace because we knew they would dishonor the Lord? Or can you and I point to decisions or actions we did take which did, in fact, dishonor the Lord?
When do not fear the Lord in thought and deed, we should remember the prayer of confession from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer:
Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent, for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.