When the fear of God is present, there is a tendency for certain things to happen. Many of these things are so wonderful, that it leaves us questioning why anyone would ever want to not fear him! It is a great shame and a horrible evil, that false teachers so often try to turn people away from the fear of God - often under the pretext that "fear of God" and "fear of punishment" are the same thing, or that "fear of God" and "love of God" are incompatible opposites! They steal from people the very blessings, love and acceptance from God that they so greatly long for!
Some of the verses listed below may have application in a specific setting; others will have application at all times. In the Old Testament, some passages may have a greater focus on the physical blessings which are the result of such fear, and these may have less relevance at the present time (since we are under a different covenant - Hebrews 8:7-13). Yet even those with limited application, when viewed with the rest, will help to illustrate basic principles and trends. (Comments about the issue of "blessings" are included at the end of the study, and may help in providing a better understanding of how verses about blessings apply to us today.)
Since the concept of "fear" can be translated several ways (including words such as "afraid" and "reverence"), it is put in italics, where present in the verses listed below. Verses are summarized; check the Bible (and the context of the verses) for a better understanding of their significance. Consider this outline a worksheet that can be used to help develop one's "fear concept," rather than the final conclusion.
1. God's gracious attitude toward those who fear him.
a. Love and compassion.
Psalm 103:11 - As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love toward those who fear Him.
Psalm 103:13 - As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.
Psalm 103:17-18 - The Lord's love is on those who fear him.
Psalm 118:4 - Those who fear the Lord should say, "His love endures forever."
Luke 1:50 - His mercy is extended to all who fear him, from generation to generation.
c. Delight in them.
Psalm 147:11 - The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him.
d. Remembering them.
Malachi 3:16 - The Lord listened and heard those who feared the Lord, when they were encouraging each other. A scroll was written in his presence to remember those who feared the Lord and honored his name.
e. Accepting them.
Acts 10:35 - God accepts people from every nation who fear him and do what is right.
f. Watching over them / help / security / deliverance from harm.
Psalm 33:18 - The Lord watches over those who fear him.
Psalm 34:7 - The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.
Psalm 60:4 - For those who fear you, you have raised a banner (of war) to be unfurled against the bow (of the enemy).
Psalm 115:11 - Those who fear the Lord... he is their help and shield.
Proverbs 14:26 - He who fears the Lord has security and ... a refuge for his children.
Isaiah 8:13-14 - The Lord Almighty ... is the one you are to fear, ... to dread; and he will be a sanctuary (place of security) to you.
2. Tangible blessings from God.
a. Promises kept.
Psalm 111:5 - ... for those who fear him, he always remembers his promise.
b. Prayer requests heard and answered; desires fulfilled.
Neh. 1:11 - Hear the prayer of ... your servants who delight to revere your name. [Fear is the basis for expecting God to pay attention to the prayer.]
Psalm 145:19 - He fulfills the desires of those who fear him...
c. God becomes the foundation for life (salvation, wisdom and knowledge).
Isaiah 33:6 - The Lord will be your sure foundation ... the storehouse for salvation, wisdom and knowledge. The fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.
d. Blessings and good circumstances - general comments.
Deut. 5:29 - Oh, that they would be inclined to fear ... so that it might go well with them and their children forever!
1 Samuel 12:14 - If you fear the Lord... good!
Psalm 31:19 - How great is your goodness. You have stored it up for those who fear you; you have bestowed it on them (in the sight of others).
Psalm 34:9 - Those who fear him lack nothing.
Psalm 61:5 - You have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.
Psalm 112:1 - Blessed is the man who fears the Lord.
Psalm 115:13 - He will bless those who fear the Lord, both small and great.
Proverbs 28:14 - Blessed is the man who always fears [the Lord].
Eccles. 8:12 - It will go better with God-fearing men, who are reverent before God, than with a wicked person who seems to prosper in his sin.
Jeremiah 32:39 - ... so that they will always fear me, for their own good and for the good of their descendants.
e. Blessings / prosperity / life - specific examples. (Note the comments about blessings at the end of this outline.)
Exodus 1:21 - The midwives feared God; he gave them families of their own.
Deut. 6:24 - (We are to...) obey these decrees and fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and our lives be preserved.
Psalm 111:5 - He provides food for those who fear him.
Psalm 128:1, 4 - Blessed are all who fear the Lord... (Examples in v. 2-3 - blessed in all his activities and in his family...) This is how the man is blessed, who fears the Lord.
Proverbs 3:7-8 - Fear the Lord... This will bring health and vitality.
Proverbs 10:27 - The fear of the Lord lengthens one's life.
Proverbs 14:27 - The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life. It keeps a man from the snares of death.
Proverbs 19:23 - The fear of the Lord leads to life, secure and protected from harm.
Proverbs 22:4 - Humility and the fear of the Lord are the path to riches, honor and life.
f. Deserved judgment withheld.
Jeremiah 26:19 - Hezekiah feared the Lord and sought his favor. And the Lord ... did not bring the disaster he pronounced against them.
Zeph. 3:7 - (The people of Jerusalem, after seeing judgment come to others.) Spoken by God: I said, "Surely you will fear me and accept instruction." Then their dwelling would not be cut off ... [It would have been this way. But in this instance, they were eager to continue in their corrupt ways. So the judgment, which God didn't want them to have, had to come.]
g. Rewards given at the future judgment.
Rev. 11:18 - The time has come ... for rewarding ... those who fear your name both small and great.
3. Issues related to salvation.
a. Good news of salvation sent to those who fear God.
Acts 13:26 - This message of salvation was sent both to children of Abraham and to those among you (non-Jews) who fear God - all of us.
b. Salvation / deliverance by God.
Psalm 145:19 - He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry for help and saves them. (In the context, there may be a focus on deliverance from their physical enemies. If so, it would still be a picture or illustration of spiritual deliverance.)
c. Trust in / dependency on God.
Psalm 40:3 - Many will see (our expressions of praise) and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.
Psalm 115:11 - You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord. He is their help and shield.
Isaiah 50:10 - Who fears the Lord and obeys his servant? Let them (who walk in darkness and need light) trust the Lord and depend upon him.
d. Repentance and confession of sin.
Acts 19:17-18 - Those who heard about it (certain miraculous events) were seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was greatly honored. Many who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. (Example - practicing the occult, v. 19.) [Note: In the book of Acts, "believing" does not indicate a person is saved. It must be accompanied by repentance and confession of sins.]
e. A desire for others to be saved.
2 Cor. 5:11 - Since we know what it means to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others (about the coming judgment - v. 10; also about Christ's love, and his death in our place, which enables us to live for him and not for ourselves - v. 14-15).
4. The God-fearing person's response toward God.
a. Praise to God.
Psalm 22:23 - You who fear the Lord, praise him!
Psalm 135:20 - You who fear him, praise the Lord.
Rev. 19:5 - (A voice came from the throne and said...) "Praise our God, all you who serve him, you who fear him, both small and great!"
b. Jesus honored and others told about him.
Acts 19:17, 20 - Those who heard about it (certain miraculous events) were seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was greatly honored. ... The message of the Lord spread widely and with great power.
c. Complete reverence and humility when in God's presence (aware of one's own sinfulness).
Exodus 3:6 - (God spoke to Moses from the burning bush.) Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
Acts 7:32 - (God spoke to Moses from the burning bush.) Moses shook with fear and dared not look at him.
d. Willing to obey God / not withholding anything from him.
Genesis 22:12 - I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son.
Hebrews 11:7 - Noah, in holy fear (and because he believed God's warning), built an ark to save his family.
e. Vows and offerings to God - made and kept.
Psalm 76:11 - Make vows to the Lord your God and fulfill them; let all ... bring gifts to the One to be feared.
Jonah 1:15-16 - (After throwing Jonah overboard and seeing the sea grow calm...) They greatly feared the Lord. They offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.
5. Influence/effects on one's self and character.
a. Learn Wisdom.
Proverbs 15:33 - The fear of the Lord teaches a person wisdom.
b. Learn what the Lord has done (opportunity to hear about God's wonders).
Psalm 66:16 - All you who fear God - let me tell you what he has done for me.
c. Understand how to live. (The main focus here is probably on moral issues; but there would be implications for all areas of life.)
Psalm 25:12 - The man that fears the Lord... He (God) will instruct him in the way he should go.
Psalm 25:14 - The counsel of the Lord is given to those who fear him; and he will reveal to them (the meaning of) his covenant.
d. Becoming holy and pure.
2 Cor. 7:1 - Since we have these promises (about God living among us), we must cleanse ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit. (This is how) we must grow our holiness to maturity, in the fear of God.
e. Avoiding extremes.
Eccles. 7:18 - The man who fears God will avoid both extremes. (He will avoid both wickedness and self-righteousness.)
f. Qualified for leading / advising (if other necessary qualifications are also present).
Exodus 18:21 - Select capable men - men who fear God - and appoint them as officials.
Ezra 10:3 - Let us make a covenant before our God ... in accordance with the counsel of ... those who fear the commands of our God.
g. Able to avoid the reproach/ridicule which would be caused by the opposite way of life.
Neh. 5:9 - Shouldn't you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our enemies?
h. NOT choosing to sin.
Exodus 20:20 - ... the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.
i. NOT willing to obey other people's commands to sin.
Exodus 1:17 - The midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded. (He wanted them to kill the baby boys.)
6. Interacting with others.
a. Making choices that promote life.
Genesis 42:18 - Joseph said to them, "I fear God, so do this and you will live..." (Context - Joseph wanted to see his brother, but wasn't yet ready to let them know who he was.)
Exodus 1:17 - The midwives feared God and ... they let the boys live.
Exodus 9:20 - Those ... who feared the word of the Lord hurried to bring their slaves and their livestock inside (to spare them from the disaster that was about to come).
b. Encouraging each other.
Malachi 3:16 - Those who feared the Lord spoke to one another...
c. Promises/vows (to God) kept in their presence.
Psalm 22:25 - I will fulfill my vows in the presence of those who fear you.
d. Associating with and rejoicing in others who follow God.
Psalm 119:74 - Those who fear you will rejoice when they see me, for I have put my hope in your word.
Psalm 119:79 - May those who fear you turn to me, those who understand your decrees.
e. Honored / befriended by those who love God.
Psalm 15:4 - (The person who wants to be in God's presence) ...honors those who fear the Lord.
Psalm 119:63 - I am a friend to everyone who fears you, everyone who follows your precepts.
Proverbs 31:30 - A woman who fears the Lord should be praised.
f. Submitting / obeying, as appropriate.
Ephes. 5:21 - Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. [Three specific ways are mentioned in the context that follows.]
Col. 3:22 - Slaves, always obey your earthly masters - not only when they are watching you so that you can win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. ["Always" obeying does not include any command to do something sinful, for obedience to God comes first.]
g. Considering the rejection of God to be sheer folly.
Psalm 52:6 - The righteous will see (the judgment experienced by such a foolish person) and fear; and will laugh at him (for rejecting God and trusting in himself).
h. (Leaders) Judging and leading carefully (and the consequences of doing so).
2 Samuel 23:3-4 - He who rules in the fear of God, is like the (refreshing) light of the morning.
2 Chron. 19:7 - Let the fear of the Lord be upon you. Judge carefully (because there is no injustice or partiality or bribery with God).
2 Chron. 19:9 - You must serve in the fear of the Lord, faithfully and wholeheartedly.
Neh. 5:15 - Out of reverence for God I did not lord over the people (extorting money from them).
i. (On a national level) Peace / lack of war.
2 Chron. 17:10 - The fear of the Lord fell on all the surrounding kingdoms, so that they did not go to war against Jehoshaphat.
2 Chron. 20:29 - The fear of God came upon all the surrounding kingdoms (so there was peace).
7. Misc. unsorted results.
a. (Old Testament) About the King - he will have descendants on the throne.
Deut. 17:19-20 - (He must...) learn to fear the Lord his God (etc.) ...Then he and his descendants will rule a long time over Israel.
b. (Prophecy) Healing strength, restoration (referring to the outcome of the Day of Judgment).
Malachi 4:2 - For you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and skip about like calves released from the stall. (In contrast, the wicked will perish - v. 1.)
c. Trying to hide from God (an example).
Genesis 3:10 - I was afraid ... so I hid. (Context: They had sinned and were awaiting judgment, which they knew they deserved. This "fear" is different from the type found in most of the other passages in this outline.)
8. Comments about blessings (a note about Section 2).
a. Note the context of the verses. Under the New Testament covenant, there may be a lesser emphasis on the present physical blessings (though at times such blessings may still exist).
b. The follower of Jesus and the merely religious "church-goers" will often view blessings in opposite ways. The "church-goer" will often be focused on himself and his enjoyment of blessings, and on how he can get more blessings and enjoy them further. In contrast, the follower of Jesus will be focused on how he can love God and neighbor, whether or not the blessings are present.
c. Blessings are not a guarantee of God's approval. In this present life, wicked people sometimes do experience blessings:
(a) Mere external obedience to God may result in some blessings, even though the obedience may not be a genuine expression of the person's heart.
(b) The blessings received by those who do fear God may benefit others around them who don't fear God.
(c) Injustice may result in temporary blessings for the wicked; but they will lose them in the end, and face a greater judgment than if they had not had them.
d. Not all blessings are immediately received. In fact, some may not be received (at least in their fullness) until the Day of Justice.
e. Many blessings (especially those we call "spiritual blessings") are not dependent on circumstances, and can exist even when circumstances are unpleasant. Come what may, those who fear God are blessed. (This is why scripture can tell us to rejoice when we are going through trials. Example - James 1:2.)
f. Many of the passages in this study focus on the normal tendency that will occur when fear of God is present. Yet we also find passages which tell us that injustice in the world sometimes keeps physical blessings from occurring. (Look at Job's example, or at Asaph - Psalm 73.) We need to remember this, and (if applicable), look forward to the future Day of Justice, when all will be made right.
83 passages (92 verses): Genesis 3:10; 22:12; 42:18; Exodus 1:17, 21; 3:6; 9:20; 18:21; 20:20; Deut. 5:29; 6:24; 17:19-20; 1 Samuel 12:14; 2 Samuel 23:3-4; 2 Chron. 17:10; 19:7, 9; 20:29; Neh. 1:11; 5:9, 15; Psalm 15:4; 22:23, 25; Psalm 25:12, 14; 31:19; 33:18; 34:7, 9; 40:3; 52:6; 60:4; 61:5; 66:16; 76:11; 103:11, 13, 17-18; 111:5; 112:1; 115:11, 13; 118:4; 119:63, 74, 79; 128:1, 4; 135:20; 145:19; 147:11; Proverbs 3:7-8; 10:27; 14:26-27; 15:33; 19:23; 22:4; 28:14; 31:30; Eccles. 7:18; 8:12; Isaiah 8:13-14; 33:6; 50:10; Jeremiah 26:19; 32:39; Jonah 1:15-16; Zeph. 3:7; Malachi 3:16; 4:2; Luke 1:50; Acts 7:32; 10:35; 13:26; 19:17-18, 20; 2 Cor. 5:11; 7:1; Ephes. 5:21; Col. 3:22; Hebrews 11:7; Rev. 11:18; 19:5.