I have had my own position on "the fear of the Lord" for many years. However, the topic recently came up at our church service. Looking through the New Testament, I see that the words rendered "fear" most often involve terror or reverence. How do you interpret "the fear of the Lord"?—Donald Norman

I think the words associated with fear of the Lord denote terror and reverence, to be sure. But also respect, willingness to obey God's voice, and making the Lord our absolute authority (as opposed to fearing men). I guess how I take it depends on the context. Some believers trivialize the fear of the Lord, dismissing it as a circumlocution for mere piety. At the other extreme, others dwell so much on the Lord's awesomeness that it feels impossible that we could ever have any real personal relationship with him. Try to use common sense, with sensitivity to contextual clues, as you determine what exactly the phrase “fear of the Lord” means in any particular passage. As is so often the case in biblical interpretation, "context is king."

This article is copyrighted and is for private use and study only. © 2006. Reprints or public distribution is prohibited without the express consent of Douglas Jacoby.