What is the fear of the Lord? The dictionary meaning of the word “fear” is that it is an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm, that is terrific, horrific, frightening etc. But the wisdom writer uses this word ‘fear’ in a different sense in Proverbs 1: 7.

The word ‘Fear’ in Proverbs 1:7 means a sense of ‘awe’, a sense of ‘reverence’ to the Lord our creator. In other words, when we love the Lord we are in ‘awe’, in a sense of ‘reverence’ to our creator God. This sense of awe and reverence influences, guides all the aspects of our life.

The awe and reverence we have for our God at least influences and guides our life in two ways. Firstly, it helps us to please God. This fear – awe, reverence of God will help us to please God in all that we think, we do and plan.

Secondly, this fear of God will help us to keep away, prohibit us, inhibit us from doing, thinking things that will not please God. There by, a person who fears God will try to please God in all that they do and will keep away from all that will grieve God, make God feel sorry.

In Genesis chapter 39, we find the story of Joseph who is an epitome of self – discipline. Joseph feared the Lord. Below, we shall note three things that happened in Joseph’s life because he feared the Lord.

1. Fear of the Lord and Blessings (Gen 39: 2 – 3)

Joseph was the most loved son of Jacob. Because of sibling jealousy and rivalry, Joseph landed in the bottom of the dry well and had to be sold as a slave. But the Lord was with Joseph and he became a successful man. The Lord was with Joseph (Vs. 2) and he found favor in the eyes of his superiors, the Egyptian Potiphar (Vs. 4) and the prison keeper (Vs. 21). The Lord blessed Potiphar for Joseph’s sake (Vs. 5). Whatever Joseph did, he succeeded (Vs. 23). Both Potiphar (Vs. 6) and the prison keeper (Vs. 22) put everything in their charge under Joseph and they were least worried of it.

2. Fear of the Lord and Fear of Sin (Gen 39: 9)

Joseph was not only a successful and a blessed person. He was also handsome in form and appearance (Vs. 6). When Potiphar’s wife demanded sex from Joseph, he refused to lie down with her for two reasons. a) He asked, how can I do this sin against God (Vs 9b). b) Potiphar, my master has put everything in my charge, except you, because you are his wife (Vs. 9a).

As Joseph was conscious of the presence of God in his life, he would not do that which displeases God. But Potiphar’s wife turns the table against him by accusing that Joseph tried to rape her. Joseph lands up in the prison.

Two questions can be asked here: a) What should have been the future of Joseph if Potiphar’s wife did not cast her eyes on Joseph and demanded sex? (Vs. 7) b) What should have been the future of Joseph if Joseph would have yielded to the demand of Potiphar’s wife? The answer for both the questions are same. Joseph would have continued to serve in the house of Potiphar throughout his life as a head slave.

In literary genre, Potiphar’s wife is called as a trickster. A trickster’s role is to be crafty as well as to promote the protagonist. For Joseph to be promoted, Potiphar’s wife is needed as a trickster. Now, we need to ask the question what did Joseph achieve by being faithful to God and by being loyal to his master – Potiphar? Joseph was in his first steps to become the Prime minister of Egypt, second to Pharaoh – the king of Egypt.

3. Fear of the Lord and Lord’s Steadfast Love (Gen 39: 20-23)

Joseph did not have an easy life. Joseph had ups and downs in his life. He was the most loved son of Jacob. But he was hated by his brothers. He was in the bottom of the dry well, he was in the prison. But, the Lord’s steadfast love for Joseph continued all through his life.

Friends, let us fear the Lord, thereby, we will keep away from sin, always try to please God alone and none other. When we fear the Lord, we will be blessed and the steadfast Love of God will continue all the days of our life.

Prayer: God help us to fear you and you alone. Let the fear of the Lord control us, control us in all the aspects of our life. Amen

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Dr W S Annie is presently serving as Associate Professor of Theology at Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India.