Here are five characteristics of those who fear God.
1. God-fearers draw near to God and enjoy intimacy with Him
"Friendship with the Lord is reserved for those who fear him" (Psalm 25:14 NLT 1996 edition). Friendship speaks of a close relationship. In our lives, we may have many acquaintances, but not all them will be our true friends. However, those who fear God are not merely His acquaintances, they are His friends. This means that they have a very close relationship with Him, in so much that God is able share sensitive information with them. The NKJV translation of this verse reads, "The secret of the LORD is with those who fear Him". God will only share His secret with those who fear Him. Typically, someone will only share a secret with a person who is close to them. Those who fear God have that kind of close relationship with God. According to Strong’s Concordance, the Hebrew word translated “secret” (sôd) implies intimacy. Those who fear God will seek Him and have an intimate relationship with Him.
The good news is that this level of close relationship with God is available to all believers. James wrote, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you" (James 4:8 NKJV). If we draw near to God, God’s Word assures us that He will draw near to us. If you are not as close to God as you would like to be, you can do something about it – “draw near to God”. If you do that, He will draw near to you.
2. God-fearers never speak disrespectfully about God, no matter what happens
The Bible reveals that Job was a man who "feared God" (Job 1:1). Job lost his family, wealth and health, but in it all he never spoke disrespectfully about God. We read that “in all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong” (Job 1:22 NKJV). On one occasion, his wife told him to “Curse God and die” (Job 2:9). But Job refused to. He feared God.
How we speak about God is very important. Through the prophet Malachi, God rebuked those who spoke against Him, saying, "Your words have been harsh agains Me.... You have said, 'It is useless to serve God; What profit is it that we have kepy His ordinance...?'" (Malachi 3:13-14 NKJV). By saying how useless it was to serve God, these people demonstrated that they didn’t fear the Lord. When we say such things, we too demonstrate that we do not fear God. If you say ‘there is no point in me being a Christian, it hasn’t benefited me’ then you are demonstrating that you do not fear God. If you say ‘there is no point in me praying’ you demonstrate that you do not fear God. However, a few verses later, the same chapter reveals that those who fear God speak differently:
Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another,
And the LORD listened and heard them;
So a book of remembrance was written before Him
For those who fear the LORD
And who meditate on His name.
“They shall be Mine,” says the LORD of hosts,
“On the day that I make them My jewels.
And I will spare them
As a man spares his own son who serves him.”
(Malachi 3:16-17 NKJV)
This passage informs us that those who feared God spoke to each other. We are not told what they said, but they certainly did not speak disrespectfully about God as the others had done. God loved it so much, that He promised them that He would make them His jewels and offer them special protection. The fear of the Lord is very precious in God’s eyes, and those who have it will be God’s “jewels”.
3. God-fearers honour the Word of God
Through the prophet Isaiah, God said "But on this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word" (Isaiah 66:2). Those who fear the Lord are described as trembling at God’s Word. Fearing God means that we have a great reverence for His Word. We dare not treat it lightly. We must be quick to do what it says.
Our destiny is directly linked to how we respond to the word of God. Jesus made this plain when He said the following:
“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.
“But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”
The above saying of Jesus reveals a simple truth: those who honour and obey God’s Word are destined to be blessed; whereas those who do not obey are destined to fall. The choice is ours, but those who fear God choose to obey His Word.
If you truly honour God’s Word, you will read it. It is foolish to think that you honour God any more than you honour His Word. The highest honour you can give to God is to hear His Word and to do it. In fact, Jesus said that those whom He considers family, are those who hear the Word of God and do it. Jesus said, "My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it" (Luke 8:21). Jesus defined His family as those who hear the Word of God and do it. Those who tremble at the Word of God are His true family, they are those who are closest to Him. Are you making time to read God’s Word? Are you doing what you read?
4. God-fearers live a holy life
Paul the apostle wrote, "let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Corinthians 7:1 NKJV). Those who fear God will endeavour to perfect holiness. How do they do this? The same verse tells us that they cleanse themselves “from all filthiness”. Notice, it doesn’t same “some filthiness”. It says “all filthiness”. In order to perfect holiness we must cleanse ourselves from all sinfulness. We should not tolerate any sin in our lives, no matter how small.
This does not mean that we should separate ourselves from unsaved sinners. Indeed, we are here to share the gospel with all people. However, it does mean that we cleanse ourselves from all sinful thoughts, words, and actions. We should hate what God hates and only do those things that please God. Are you cleansing yourself from sinful thoughts, words, and actions in your day-to-day life? Notice that the passage does not say that God will cleanse us from all filthiness. It says that we are to “cleanse ourselves”. We have a responsibility when it comes to holiness.
5. God-fearers do whatever God says, no matter what it is
Another man who feared God was Abraham. When Abraham was 100 years old, he had son called Isaac. Twenty-five years earlier, God had promised Abraham a son through whom he would become a great nation. Isaac was the miraculous fulfilment of this promise (both Abraham and Sarah were both well advanced in years, and beyond the age of having children.). So Isaac was a very special child. However, on one occasion, God commanded Abraham to offer Isaac to Him as a burnt offering. This meant that Isaac was to be killed, and then set on fire to be burned before the Lord. Abraham was obedient, and just as he was about to kill Isaac; the angel of the Lord stopped him by saying, "Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not witheld your son, your only son, form Me" (Genesis 22:12 NKJV). Notice what that the angel said to Abraham: “now I know that you fear God”. Abraham’s radical obedience to God demonstrated the fact that he feared God, and that is what God is looking for in us. It is quite possible that God allows us to go through certain things to see if we have this one, precious thing: the fear of the Lord. It is so precious to God, that Isaiah 33:6 says “the fear of the Lord is His treasure” (NKJV). Notice the word ‘treasure’. The fear of the Lord is an extremely valuable attitude to God, and He wants it to be in each of us.
What if God spoke to you and asked you to give up the thing that was most valuable to you? Would you give it up? Perhaps God has been speaking to you to give up something. See to it that you obey Him, for then you will demonstrate what is most valuable to God – the fear of the Lord.
If we fear God, then we will do what God tells us to do, no matter what it is. Has God spoken to you about something? Has He called you to do a particular work for Him? No matter how hard it seems, it is so important that you obey Him. Radical obedience is the virtue that characterises those who fear the Lord.
So, in summary, five characteristics of those who fear God are as follows:
1. They draw near to God and enjoy intimacy with Him
2. They never speak disrespectfully about God, no matter what happens
3. They honour the Word of God
4. They live a holy lifestyle
5. They do whatever God says, no matter what it is
Dr. Stuart Pattico
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