Scared to Life
“And he said to man, ‘The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding’” —Job 28:28, NIV
It is what it is.
In the original Hebrew the word “fear” used here means:
1) fear, terror, fearing
a) fear, terror
b) awesome or terrifying thing (object causing fear)
c) fear (of God), respect, reverence, piety
There is no denying that there are some people who should be terrified of God. The difference in meaning; for example what makes one person terrified and another respectful, is the context. An unrepentant sinner should be terrified—he lives outside of God’s grace, teetering on the edge of hell. One who belongs to God through faith in Christ needs to treat God, and the things of God, with great reverence. Though he has no fear of judgment, no reason to be terrified in anticipation of being punished for his sin, his gratitude for the grace of God leads him to live as far away from what offends God as he can.
Job’s words are a warning to sinners. If you’re smart you will be so terrified of the judgment of God on your life that you will run from sin right into the arms of God and beg for mercy.
Some people insist that being “scared” into the kingdom of God isn’t a good thing. Job begins this passage by asking the question: “…where can wisdom be found? Where does understanding dwell?” (28:12, NIV). He concludes that the only one who knows the answer to that is God. God’s conclusion is that wisdom is found in fearing him, whatever degree of that might be appropriate in an individual’s context, and then in running from evil. God doesn’t seem to think that the fear of him is a bad motivation at all.
The wonderful truth about being “scared” into the kingdom is this: once you get there, you discover the love that provided the entrance to that kingdom, and your “fear” becomes a different thing.