There are two words in Hebrew used for “fear”: Pakhad – פחד – is fear in general. Yir’ah – יראה – is more a reverential fear associated with authority, power, and holiness.
In Greek there is primarily one word, – Phobeo, from which are derived words having to do with “phobia”. This word is found some one hundred times in the New Covenant, and seven times in Luke 12; the chapter in which Yeshua defines the fear of the Lord.
Although there is only one word in the Greek of Luke 12, there are three different meanings, according to the context. Two are bad; one is good.
- Verse 4 (twice): Cowardice, fearfulness, fear of man, fear of evil – bad
- Verse 5 (three times): Holy reverential fear of God – good
- Verses 7, 32: insecurity, worry, afraid that God rejects you – bad.
Luke 12:4 – Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but afterwards can do no more.
As believers in Yeshua and the God of Israel, we should be fearless and courageous. Cowardice is not part of our character, because it is not part of the character of God. We do not fear evil; nor evil people; nor the devil; nor any wickedness. We have no “fear of man.”
On the other hand, we do fear God.
Luke 12:5 – I will warn you whom to fear; fear Him who has the authority to kill and afterwards cast into hell. Yes, I say to you, fear Him.
God is holy and all-powerful. He punishes evil. The fear of the Lord is eternal. The pure reverence of His holiness, power and hatred of evil is beautiful. When there are great miracles, there must be an accompanying fear of God. He who is powerful to heal sickness is also powerful to punish sin. Sin and sickness are both evil. God’s holy power destroys evil.
If we are to rejoice at His power to heal the sick, so should we have an awesome fear of His power to punish sin. His power to destroy evil is awesome. “Awe” is a good way to define the fear of the Lord. He is awesome; we have awe.
Luke 12:7, 32 – Do not fear; you are more precious than many sparrows… Do not fear, little flock, for it is the will of your Father to give you the kingdom.
We are not afraid of God as if He were evil. God is good. He loves us. We are precious in His sight. He wants to give us everything good. We do not suffer from insecurity, nor lack of confidence, nor fear of rejection, nor self-condemnation.
God loves us all so much that any form of doubt or worry is driven out of us. We are totally accepted in His love. Let’s find this beautiful balance: we have neither cowardice nor insecurity; but we do have the holy, awesome beautiful fear of the Lord.
Asher serves as president of Tikkun Global family of ministries and congregations, dedicated to the dual restoration of Israel and the Church. He is founder of the Revive Israel five-fold ministry team, and oversees both Ahavat Yeshua and Tiferet Yeshua congregations in Israel.
He and his wife Betty share a passion for personal prayer and devotion, local evangelism and discipleship in Hebrew, and unity of the Body of believers worldwide.
Asher was raised in a conservative Jewish home and holds degrees from Harvard University, Baltimore Hebrew College and Messiah Biblical Institute. He has authored numerous books, tracts and articles.