Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death (NIV).
Words and their meanings change over time. A fort in our day is a place of military training and a launching place for operations. Before the invention of gunpowder and modern weaponry, a fort or fortress was a place of security. When all else failed, the army and to some extent the people the army fought for could hide behind its high, thick walls for protection. A fortress would be a place of hope when all seemed hopeless.
Twenty-first-century families need fortresses in the older sense of the word. Most families are really not much more than people staying in resort hotels with cable TV and internet access. They’re strangers who might meet each other in the breakfast buffet occasionally, while they rush from one activity to another. But few families are places of security, refreshment, and hope.
In our text, the Holy Spirit points the way for a man to provide his family with a fortress. He is telling every man what must be real in him, so that we and our families can enjoy a place of security, refreshment, and hope. The Lord wants us to be encouraged and have confident expectation about the family in a time when many have lost all hope. So then, let us see how this word from God can lighten our way for us and our families. A man should fear the Lord
Some people wrongly suppose that Christians should not fear the Lord. They base this on a wrong understanding of 1 John 4:18. However, the New Testament Scriptures plainly direct us to fear the Lord (Luke 12:4-5; 1 Peter 2:17). If you read the context of First John, you will find that the apostle is talking about assurance and how the believer should not fear judgment. That is different from the fear of the Lord.
What does it mean to fear the Lord? It means to worship him—to regard his awesome power and majesty as God, Creator and Preserver of heaven and earth. The word “fear” itself operates through various shades of meaning from terror to respect to reverence to worship (cf. Jonah 1:9-10). The fear that is worship involves a person in various responses to God. And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good? (Deuteronomy 10:12-13 NIV). Notice what God wants from people in a way of life that recognizes his worth. There is an interchange between the ideas of awe and adoration (“worship”, “love”) and service and obedience (“walk”, “serve”, “obey”). See also Deuteronomy 10:20-21.
The fear of God that is worship develops in two ways: It progresses in a person’s heart as a proper response to God’s redeeming works (cf. 1 Samuel 12:24). To the new covenant believer, this means responding with joyous praise for God’s plan of redemption and forgiveness in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:3-14). If you would fear God, take a long look at the cross, and realize the holiness, justice, and love that joined together to save us from our sins. It develops in a person’s heart as they properly read God’s word (Deuteronomy 4:10; 17:19). By a proper reading, I mean not a quick skimming but thoughtful meditation. True spirituality conforms to the Bible. As we read and think on God’s holy word, we gain a fuller, richer appreciation for his glory as God, and then we want to worship and serve him. When a guy has his mind set on buying a car, what does he do? He reads all the available info about it, talks to his friends about it, and then slips into a dealership one day to see about a test drive. He wants a full knowledge about the car. We should seek to know God better!
“When God is the object of fear, the emphasis is again upon awe or reverence. This attitude of reverence is the basis for real wisdom” (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Vol. 1, p. 102). Men can go on a thorough search of this whole world and discover great treasures, but in all this, we cannot find the meaning of life or what makes humans significant. God provides us with the answer. It is the fear of God that is worship that provides wisdom (Job 28:28).
In Psalm 111 we read of a man pondering all the works of the Lord, especially in his provision of redemption and faithfulness to his covenant people. When you grasp how great God is and how he is fully trustworthy, a man comes to understand that the fear that is worship is the starting point of wisdom. In Hebrew poetry, one line explains or expands or contrasts with another. Therefore, we are told in Proverbs 9:10 that the fear of the Lord consists in knowing God, which fully means knowing God in Christ (John 17:3).
The man who has a secure fortress and a fountain of life is a man who fears the Lord. This is not a fear of terror, but a fear of worship, of knowledge of God’s majesty, of framing one’s life in conformity with God’s ways. All this is based on knowing the Lord Jesus Christ and relying on redemption in him. This kind of man has a fortress for his family.
Grace and peace, David