In Isaiah’s messianic prophecy on the Root of Jesse we read, “The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.”
We might ask “what can be delightful about fear?” The two words seem directly opposite to one another. But the Hebrew word used by the prophet is yirah which refers not to a fear based on terror but rather a fear based on reverence or awe. It is the feeling we get when confronted by the majesty of God’s creation, the overpowering splendor of the night sky or the endless sea, before which we feel overwhelmed by our own insignificance.
As is often the case with words that become clichés, awesome has been stripped of its power, but it aptly describes the experience of joy and delight Paul describes in his letter to the Church at Philippi, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!”
Fear of the Lord means a filial reverence, an awareness of the inconceivable reality that we are sons and daughters of God, confident in the knowledge of the Father’s unconditional love. As with all the Gifts of the Spirit, Fear of the Lord comes from an intimate personal relationship with Jesus who is the personification of the Father’s unconditional love. (John 3:16).