The Fear of the Lord

Bible Book: Proverbs  19 : 23
Subject: Fear of God; God, Fear of

The Fear of the Lord

(Proverbs 19:23)


The fear of the Lord is major biblical theme. For example, Deuteronomy 8:6 reads, “Therefore you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him.” Joshua 24:14 reads, “Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD!” Psalm 2:11 reads, “Serve the LORD with fear, And rejoice with trembling.” Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 reads, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil.” Isaiah 8:13 reads, “The LORD of hosts, Him you shall hallow; Let Him be your fear, And let Him be your dread.” Acts 9:31 reads, “Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.” Ephesians 5:21 reads, “submitting to one another in the fear of God.”1 Peter 2:17 reads, “Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.” Dr. A. W. Tozer (1897-1963) comments, “The fear of God is... astonished reverence. I believe that the reverential fear of God mixed with love and fascination and astonishment and admiration and devotion is the most enjoyable state and the most satisfying emotion the human soul can know.”1

Proverbs 9:10 reads, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Psalm 111:10 reads, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.” Dr. Stephen F. Olford (1918-2004) explains, “In other words, reverencing or having regard for the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The Spirit of wisdom deepens this reverence into a real experience of God.”2

Dr. H. A. Ironside (1876-1951) writes, “This verse [Proverbs 19:23] is a synoptic statement of the precious truth unfolded in Psalm 91-the portion of the man who dwells in the secret place of the Most High, abiding under the shadow of the Almighty. He who fears the Lord has no anxious concerns as he rests in the enjoyment of God's omnipotent power and unchanging love. He can rest satisfied, knowing that he cannot be visited with evil; all things must work together for the good of one who is trusting God. What seems to be evil will become a means of blessing by causing the heart to cling more closely to the God of all grace. See Paul's song of triumph in Romans 8:28-39.”3

Proverbs 19:23 reads, “The fear of the LORD leads to life, And he who has it will abide in satisfaction; He will not be visited with evil.” Rev. John G. Butler explains, “This is exactly the opposite that Satan would teach. He says devotion to the Lord is a kill-joy, not life, it will disappoint, not satisfy, and it will bring many evils upon you. We need to turn a deaf ear to Satan's lies and listen to what God says instead. Reverence for God is the life of blessing.”4

Note three things about the fear of the Lord.

I. The fear of the Lord extends and expands life.

Proverbs 19:23a reads, “The fear of the Lord leads to life. . . .” This speaks of the length and breadth of life. The fear of the Lord adds years to your life and life to your years. Dr. Thoralf Gibrant (1919-2006) explains, “The fear of the Lord is the first requirement of gaining wisdom (1:7), and wisdom is the source of life (3:18; 8:35), so that obedience to wisdom, which is the essence of the fear of the Lord yields life (10:27; 14:27; 22:4; cf. 16:6).”5

Proverbs 1:7 reads, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge,

But fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 3:18 reads, “She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, And happy are all who retain her.” Proverbs 8:35 reads, “For whoever finds me finds life, And obtains favor from the LORD.” Proverbs 10:27 reads, “The fear of the Lord prolongs days, But the years of the wicked will be shortened.” Proverbs 14:27 reads, “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, To turn one away from the snares of death.” Proverbs 22:4 reads, “By humility and the fear of the LORD Are riches and honor and life.” Proverbs 16:6 reads, “In mercy and truth Atonement is provided for iniquity; And by the fear of the LORD one departs from evil.” Proverbs 8:13 reads, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverse mouth I hate.” Job 28:28 reads, “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, And to depart from evil is understanding.” Proverbs 2:1-5 reads, “My son, if you receive my words, And treasure my commands within you, So that you incline your ear to wisdom, And apply your heart to understanding; Yes, if you cry out for discernment, And lift up your voice for understanding, If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will understand the fear of the Lord, And find the knowledge of God.”

II. The fear of the Lord enriches and enhances life.

Proverbs 19:23b reads, “. . .And he who has it will abide in satisfaction. . .” Dr. J. Vernon McGee (1904-1988) explains, “The fear of the Lord does not mean that you are cringing, constantly in dread, living a life of terror. This proverb makes it clear that the real fear of God means that you can rest satisfied. It means that you recognize Him, you have looked to Him, you have accepted Him, and you want to follow Him. Now you can rest satisfied.”6 The following Scriptures affirm how the fear of the Lord enriches and enhances life:

Psalm 128:1 reads, “Blessed is every one who fears the LORD, Who walks in His ways.” Psalm 25:14 reads, “The secret of the LORD is with those who fear Him, And He will show them His covenant.” Psalm 33:18 reads, “Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him,

On those who hope in His mercy.” Psalm 34:7 reads, “The angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him, And delivers them.” Psalm 34:9 reads, “Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him.” Psalm 103:13 reads, “As a father pities his children, So the Lord pities those who fear Him.” Psalm 115:11 reads, “You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord; He is their help and their shield.” Psalm 115:13 reads, “He will bless those who fear the Lord, Both small and great.” Psalm 128:4 reads, “Behold, thus shall the man be blessed Who fears the Lord.” Psalm 147:11 reads, “The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, In those who hope in His mercy.” Proverbs 15:16 reads, “Better is a little with the fear of the Lord, Than great treasure with trouble.” Proverbs 31:30 reads, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.”

III. The fear of the Lord emancipates and embays life.

Proverbs 19:23c reads, “. . .He will not be visited with evil.” The term "embay" means "to put in a shelter." Keep in mind the sanctuary and security of Psalm 91 here, where we read the following:

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.’ Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day, Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, And ten thousand at your right hand; But it shall not come near you. Only with your eyes shall you look, And see the reward of the wicked. Because you have made the LORD, who is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place, No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone. You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot. ‘Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, And show him My salvation.”

Romans 8:28-39 reads, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

On Proverbs 19:23, Rev. William F. Clarkson shares in The Pulpit Commentary, “It is a living principle in every sense of the word—hath the promise of life in both worlds. It provides for the soul satisfaction, rest, the consciousness of present and eternal security.”7 Rev. Clarkson observes, “But is not the good man visited with evil? Do not his crops fail, his vessels sink, his shares fall, his difficulties gather, his children die? Does not his health decline, his hope depart, his life lessen? Yes; but:

From the worst evils his piety secures him. The ‘fear of the Lord,’ that Holy One before whom he stands and with whom he walks, keeps him from folly, from fraud, from vice, from moral contamination, from that ‘death in life’ which is the thing to be dreaded and avoided.

 And the troubles and sorrows which do assail him lose all their bitterness as they wear the aspect of a heavenly Father's discipline, who, in all that he sends or suffers, is seeking the truest and the lasting well being of his children. The man who is living in the fear of God, and in the love of Jesus Christ, may go on his homeward way with no anxiety in his heart, for he has the promise of his Saviour that all things shall work together for good—those things that are the least pleasant as well as those that are the most inviting.”

Rev. William John Deane (1823-1895) explains, “Under our present dispensation Christians expect not immunity from care and trouble, but have hope of protection and grace sufficient for the occasion, and conducive to edification and advance in holiness.”8


Now, let’s put our text, Proverbs 19:23, in context. Proverbs 19:20-29 reads, “Listen to counsel and receive instruction, That you may be wise in your latter days. There are many plans in a man’s heart, Nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand. What is desired in a man is kindness, And a poor man is better than a liar. The fear of the Lord leads to life, And he who has it will abide in satisfaction; He will not be visited with evil. A lazy man buries his hand in the bowl, And will not so much as bring it to his mouth again. Strike a scoffer, and the simple will become wary; Rebuke one who has understanding, and he will discern knowledge. He who mistreats his father and chases away his mother Is a son who causes shame and brings reproach. Cease listening to instruction, my son, And you will stray from the words of knowledge. A disreputable witness scorns justice, And the mouth of the wicked devours iniquity. Judgments are prepared for scoffers, And beatings for the backs of fools.” Dr. Arno C. Gaebelein (1861-1945) explains, “Beginning with the twentieth verse of chapter 19 the personal address begins again and we read repeatedly the phrase ‘My son’ up to the twenty-fifth chapter. This section corresponds therefore with the first nine chapters, containing the instructions which Solomon received from the Lord and which he records in these chapters.

Once more there is the call, like in the opening chapters, to hear, to give attention. ‘Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end.’ The Lord knew beforehand what ‘the latter end’ of Solomon would be. The wise man who warned against the fool, the backslider, the unjust and the man who forsakes counsel and the Lord, himself illustrates the truths given in these proverbs by turning away from the Lord. Alas! he did not hear counsel, and therefore instead of being wise in his latter days he became a fool. The truth expressed in verse 22 was Solomon's portion as long as the fear of the Lord governed his conduct. He was satisfied, had peace and prosperity; but when he no longer feared the Lord, evil came upon his kingdom and it was divided. ‘Wherefore the Lord said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou has not kept My covenant and My statutes which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant’ (1 Kings 11:11).”9

Shortly before her death in Deadwood, South Dakota, in 1903, Calamity Jane reportedly said, “Leave me alone and let me go to hell by my own route.”10 You might be able to go to hell by your own route, but not to heaven! Romans 3:10-18 reads, “As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.’ ‘Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit’; ‘The poison of asps is under their lips’; ‘Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.’ ‘Their feet are swift to shed blood; Destruction and misery are in their ways; And the way of peace they have not known.’ ‘There is no fear of God before their eyes.’” (Emphasis mine)

Proverbs 19:23 reads, “The fear of the Lord leads to life, And he who has it will abide in satisfaction; He will not be visited with evil.” Dr. Roy B. Zuck (1932-2013) shares, “In the Westminster Abbey a monument to Lord Lawrence has inscribed on it his name, date of death, and these words: ‘He feared man so little because he feared God so much.’”11 Make certain you are living in the fear of the Lord.

1A. W. Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1985), 30-31.

2Stephen F. Olford, According to Your Word: Morning and Evening Through the New Testament (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2008), 162. Database © 2012 WORDsearch Corp.

3H.A. Ironside, Ironside Expository Commentary Proverbs: Revised Edition. Database © 2007 WORDsearch Corp.

4John G. Butler, Analytical Bible Expositor – Proverbs to Song of Solomon, 154. Database © 2013 WORDsearch Corp.

5Thoralf Gilbrant, The Complete Biblical Library – Proverbs-Song of Songs.(Springfield, MO: World Library Press Inc., 1988) Database © 2010 WORDsearch Corp.

6J. Vernon McGee, Thru The Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Proverbs (Pasadena, CA: Thru the Bible Radio, 1981). Database © 2013 WORDsearch Corp.

7William Clarkson, “The Praise of Piety”, Accessed: 12/27/16 .

8The Pulpit Commentary – Proverbs by W.J. Dean, S.T. Taylor-Taswell, and W.F. Adeney, edited by H.D.M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell. Database © 2012 WORDsearch Corp.;view=1up;seq=7

9Arno C. Gaebelein, The Annotated Bible – Volume 4: Proverbs to Ezekiel, 31. Database © 2015 WORDsearch Corp.

10True West Magazine, Jana Bommersbach, “A Few Words We Shouldn’t Forget”, May 26, 2016. Accessed: 12/13/16 .

11The Speaker’s Quote Book, Roy B. Zuck (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic & Professional, 2009), 41. 


Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort 30775 Jay Drive Spanish Fort, Alabama 36527

Author of Don’t Miss the Revival! Messages for Revival and Spiritual Awakening from Isaiah and

Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice [Both available on in hardcover, paperback and eBook] & /   / (251) 626-6210

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