What exactly is meant by "fear"?
Webster’s Third New International Dictionary defines "fear" as
“an unpleasant emotional state characterized by anticipation of pain or great
distress and accompanied by heightened autonomic activity especially involving
the nervous system : agitated foreboding often of some real or specific peril”
A primitive root; to fear; morally to revere; causatively to frighten: - affright, be (make) afraid, dread (-ful), (put in) fear (-ful, -fully, -ing). (be had in) reverence (-end), X see, terrible (act, -ness, thing).
1) fear, dread, terror
1a) that which strikes terror
2) reverence for one’s husband
From the above definitions, we can see that essentially there are two elements of fear - dread and reverence. So what exactly is the fear of the Lord?
There really isn't a definition per se in the bible but I have heard preachers describing it as a deep reverence for the holiness of God or the dread of displeasing God but basically the "fear of the Lord" is used to exhort Christians to live a holy life to please God, otherwise be prepared to face the wrath of God.
However, if this is the correct interpretation of fearing God, how then do we reconcile this dread and reverence to Hebrews 4:16 where we are exhorted to "come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need."
It seems contradictory that we are called to fear the Lord and yet encouraged to come boldly to the throne of grace. How do you come boldly with fear?
During my time as a secondary school student, whenever I saw the school principal coming in the distance, I would quickly take a detour to avoid meeting him. I had not done anything against the school rules but somehow I did not want to meet the principal just in case he found some fault with me. Do you feel the same way when you fear the Lord?
Perhaps there is another explanation for the "fear of the Lord"? Let's look at what Jesus said to the devil when he was tempted in the desert.
Luke 4:5-8 (NKJV)
5 Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7 Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.”
8 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’”
In v8, Jesus rebuked the devil by quoting again from scripture (which I have highlighted in bold). The scripture that Jesus quoted was actually Deuteronomy 6:13.
Compare what Jesus said to Deut 6:13.
You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve. (Luke)
You shall fear the LORD your God and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name. (Deut)
As you can see, Jesus used the word "worship" to replace "fear". Hence, I submit that to worship the Lord is in effect to fear the Lord.
Therefore, we can come boldly to the throne of grace in worship, not in the kind of dread and reverence that we used to associate with fear.
Strong's Concordance defines worship as a kiss, even as like a dog licking his master's hand which implies affection, not distance.
From G4314 and probably a derivative of G2965 (meaning to kiss, like a dog licking his master’s hand); to fawn or crouch to, that is, (literally or figuratively) prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore): - worship.
When we come boldly to the throne of grace (take note that it is the throne of grace, not judgment or condemnation), do we come to an empty throne? No! The Father is sitting on the throne!
Daddy God wants us, his children to kiss (worship) Him just as He, like the father in the parable of the prodigal son wants to embrace and kiss us.