Proverbs gives us a good explanation of what the “fear of the Lord” is. Some people are confused by this concept when they see in the New Testament, that “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment…” (1 John 4:18).
To reconcile these seemingly opposing truths, we must understand what it means to fear the Lord. The Hebrew noun yir’ah comes from the verb yare’, “…to venerate, reverence.” It means to be humble toward God, because we acknowledge His power and authority. A small example of this would be the sort of reverence we have toward our parents. We should respect what our parents say. If our father warns us of the danger of smoking, we will not rebel against him. We will fear the consequences of what might happen to us if we get addicted to cigarettes. This is a healthy fear that protects us; it does not torment. Likewise, fearing the Lord means we respect His Word and apply it to our lives.
We read that “perfect love casteth out fear.” If we love God and desire to please Him, we will want to obey Him. If we do not disobey Him, we have nothing to fear. This does not mean we must be perfect, since we all fail God at times, but because of our love for God, we strive to obey Him perfectly. When we fail, we must confess our guilt to God, or the devil will be able to torment us. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
If we fear the Lord, we will hate evil. We will ask Him to deliver us from arrogance and a perverse mouth. If we tolerate evil in our lives, we do not fear God. We may think that God is overlooking wrong attitudes if we are not immediately punished for them. We need to realize that God is being merciful, giving us time to repent so that our sins do not activate the principle of sowing and reaping (Galatians 6:7-8). The fear of the Lord turns us from sin. It causes us to seek His help to resist evil, and it stirs within us a desire to walk in the truth.