What do you fear? For some, it may be snakes, spiders, or clowns. Others, it is speaking publicly to being stuck in a small space. We usually associate the word “fear” in a negative sense. We encourage people to face their fears and to be courageous. As Christians we may even say “Fear is a liar.” But, is there a healthy fear that one should have and what does the Bible say about this?
I was reading a passage from the Bible to my children. I knew they would ask me a particular question. I was waiting and ready for them as I saw the wheels in their heads spin and try to process what it means. The part of the Bible I read was from Deuteronomy 6 where Moses is given a reminder to the new generation of Israelites before they enter the Promised Land. The word “careful” or “carefully” appears several times in Deuteronomy because Moses wants these new Jews to live in light of all that God has commanded to be mindful of how they pass that information on.
Deuteronomy 6 begins with, “Now this is the commandment-the statues and the rules- that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long (Deuteronomy 6:1-3 ESV). I stopped after just three verses and I can tell that one phrase caught their attention. My oldest asked, “Why do you want to fear the Lord?
This is a great question. She associated the word fear just like she does with fearing snakes, bad dreams, or scary things with fearing God. As a Christian, this is a good question. Do we understand what it means to have a healthy fear of God and do we teach our children this? There are passages like this one in Deuteronomy or Psalm 112:1; Psalm 115:13; Proverbs 22:4; Proverbs 28:14; or Proverbs 15:16.
To have a proper fear of God means that you have a proper perspective of God. You understand that He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and ever-present. God is holy and we understand that God can’t have anything to do with sin. When we look at ourselves with this perspective we can’t help but realize how limited, small, and sinful we are. This causes us to not only respect God but we realize our smallness in comparison to his bigness. I love the example that C. S. Lewis gives to the character Aslan, in the Chronicles of Narnia series. In the Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe. One of the children, Susan, who came through the wardrobe into Narnia was asking about the King of Narnia. She wanted to know who he was and what is he like. Susan is talking to Mr. and Mrs. Beaver and this is the dialogue between them, “Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh,” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr. Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
The picture shows the proper fear of God. God who is God is good and allows His children to come to Him because of the Gospel work of Jesus. Whenever the Bible referee to having a fear of God it is reference to reverence, respect, obedience, and awe of God. How can parents point their children to have a reverence, respect, and desire for obedience?
As Moses points Israel in the right direction, we too are reminded of this truth by what is written in Deuteronomy 6
“Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, 2 that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. 3 Hear, therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey (Deuteronomy 6:1-3 ESV).”
For Israel, this is the greatest commandment. Jesus summarizes and gets to the heart of this by saying that the greatest command is to Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37). We first need to teach it as we ourselves are taught from God’s Word.
Teaching is something that is found all throughout the Bible. Teach these commands and statutes as Moses writes. Or, Solomon uses the words listen to instruction in the book of Proverbs which means there are intentional training and teaching going on. As a parent, if I never intentionally instruct my children in the ways of the Lord I am not teaching them. I am not instructing them. I am not training them.
To teach your children what it means to fear the Lord in the right way starts with opening up the Bible and showing them how great and awesome God is.
hing is not just talking about the greatness of God, it also needs to be modeled before them. Moses continues in Deuteronomy 6 by instructing parents in what this teaching looks like.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).”
The teaching them when they walk, lie down, and rise up is not just instruction but demonstration. They are to hear the truth but see it modeled before them as they spend time with you.
As a parent raising their children to fear the Lord must not only be taught but it also must we walked. Children need to see their parents having a reverence for God. True fear of God is wanting to live in such a way that shows who God is and ones desire to please him.
Just like anything involved in training or raising to stick in life, it must be repeated. There is a blessing to those who walk in the fear of the Lord (Psalm 115:13) and what a blessing it is for parents and children to walk this way. This is something we do each day, moment by moment. We repeat it throughout the day.
I am reminded of my imperfections as a parent and how many times I have failed in raising my children in fearing the Lord the right way. I rest completely in God’s grace. I ask for forgiveness in failing in this area personally as well as failing to teach it to my children. As I confess my sin to the Lord, I can also confess before my family as we move forward as we walk in the fear of the Lord. Let me encourage you today as you raise your children in ways of the Lord, teaching them to fear God the right way, you rest in His grace to do it.