For a stronger marriage, fear seems an unlikely topic to discuss. But when we’re talking about the fear of the Lord, that’s exactly what it will do.
“…what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, 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
Last week we discussed how the fear of God brings comfort and encouragement to our lives and marriage. This week we will look a little more into how the fear of God makes our marriage stronger.
First, let’s recall what fear means in the Bible.
The word translated “fear” in the New Testament is the Greek word “phobos.” The Hebrew word in the Old Testament is “yirah.” Both have several meanings depending on the context in which they are used.
It can mean to be terrified of or to flee from something or someone. God is all powerful. God is all knowing. He knows everything we do and say, including to each other in our marriage. This kind of fear we might call “terror fear.”
We are told about this in Job 11:7-11: “Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? 8 They are higher than the heavens above—what can you do? They are deeper than the depths below—what can you know? 9 Their measure is longer than the earth and wider than the sea. 10 If he comes along and confines you in prison and convenes a court, who can oppose him? 11 Surely he recognizes deceivers; and when he sees evil, does he not take note?”
So we are right to have fear of God’s discipline if we do not treat each other in marriage as God tells us in His Word.
The Bible tells us we do not need to fear God’s punishment if we have given our lives to Jesus. We read in Romans 8:1: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
However, we do need to fear God’s discipline in the same way we would fear a loving parent who disciplines his children when they do wrong. God will not let our sin go without consequence. It would be bad if we did this with our own children. And it would be bad if God did this with us.
We read about this very thing in Hebrews 12:5-7: “And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says: ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.’ 7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?”
The author of the book of Hebrews continues by telling us the importance of God’s discipline in Hebrews 12:8-10: “If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.”
One example of this is the warning about discipline given to husbands. We read in 1 Peter 3:7: “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.” I certainly fear God not listening to me if I mistreat my wife.
There are many other such warnings in Scripture that apply to us as both husbands and wives. And these should give us a healthy fear of God. A fear that arises when we consider the consequences to our relationship with Him and to each other when we sin.
This type of fear can be seen in Scripture beginning with the creation account. Adam and Eve sinned against God. And immediately they realized their disobedience and hid. When God called out to them, we read Adam’s response in Genesis 3:10: “He answered, ‘I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.’”
A.W. Tozer was a pastor and author of several excellent books on the Christian life. He wrote about this topic as follows: “When men no longer fear God, they transgress His laws without hesitation. The fear of consequences is no deterrent when the fear of God is gone.”
So a healthy fear of God has with it the sense of being afraid of the consequences of disobedience. But there is more.
The other biblical definition of fear is reverence, respect, and honor. It is astonishment or amazement at who God is. We read about this type of fear throughout Scripture as well, and it is essential to our marriage. We will call this “reverence fear.”
God tells us about this kind of fear and how to obtain it in Proverbs 2:1-6: “My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, 2 turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding— 3 indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, 4 and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, 5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. 6 For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.”
We can obtain reverence fear for God as we ask Him for it together as a couple. We gain the tremendous benefits of His reverence fear in our marriage when we study and follow His Word. We obtain the wisdom, knowledge, and understanding of the Creator of marriage itself. The result of all this is the joyous marriage we desire and that God wants for us.
Moving forward in this Proverbs passage, God tells us about these wonderful results: “He holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, 8 for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. 9 Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path. 10 For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. 11 Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you” (Proverbs 2:7-11).
One of the signs of maturity as Christians is that we move from fearing God’s discipline to fearing that we will disappoint Him. We move from terror fear to reverence fear. We actually become thankful that He disciplines us and doesn’t allow us to continue down a path of destruction.
It is much like maturing from boyhood to manhood that I experienced in my relationship with my earthly dad. When I was a boy, I would have terror fear of what would happen when dad came home from work if I had disobeyed my mom or done something else wrong. I knew my dad would never harm me, but the anticipation of a brief spanking or not being able to watch my favorite television show was enough to make me dread it.
But as I got older, it was no longer the physical penalty that bothered me. In fact I would have preferred that. What I really dreaded was hearing him say: “David, I’m very disappointed in you.”
Fear of disappointing God is something I never want to do, though I do it too often. I do it by mistreating my wife, for example. And this is certainly something I want to avoid.
I would much rather treat Sabra according to God’s Word. I want to do as He says in Ephesians 5:25 and love her “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Then instead of disappointing Him, I can hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21).
Having both of these aspects of the fear of the Lord are vital in growing closer to Him. Your heart’s attitude will be to love and serve Him and strive to follow His ways. And this will lead to a greater desire and determination to love and serve each other in marriage. This healthy fear of God will make your marriage stronger and draw you closer together than ever before.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
♦ Read this week’s teaching together. Discuss what God revealed to you through it, especially as it applies to your marriage.
♦ Here are some quotes about the fear of God from some of my favorite Christian writers. Read them together and discuss what they say to you and your marriage.
William Gurnall: “We fear men so much, because we fear God so little.”
♦ As you think about yourselves, your marriage, and your relationship with God, which definition of fear best fits you? Why? What can you do to improve it?
♦ Close your time together in prayer. Ask God to help you to fear Him with the reverence and awe He deserves. Ask Him to use this fear to draw you closer to Him and to each other.
Next week we will look at some ways that God gives us in His Word to deal with fear in our marriages.
May God bless you and your marriage in all His wonderful ways,
Other posts in the FEAR OF GOD IN MARRIAGE series:
The Fear and Comfort of God: Your Marriage Needs Both
Dealing with Fear in Your Marriage
All Scripture is from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Photo by Ben White via Unsplash.com (CC0), cropped/text added.