23 ¶ The fear of the LORD tendeth to life: and he that hath it shall abide satisfied; he shall not be visited with evil.
Psalm 33:8 has fearing the Lord as standing in awe of him.
Psalm 33:8 Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.
The fear of the Lord or the fear of God is not to be the kind of paralyzing terror that makes it hard for one to receive His will. It is awe and reverence. I’m afraid that most people who say they believe in God don’t take Him very seriously as a real person, as an entity that they must contend with every day. He’s mostly an idea to them, a far off cosmic judge or some type of elderly grandpa who grants wishes if you’re a good boy or girl. Part of this is because of the naturalistic determinism we are raised with in schools; that everything that happens can easily be explained by naturally occurring phenomenon. We are taught that and many hold on to that even when what happens can’t be explained by natural phenomenon such as things that defy all odds happening over and over again that seem all out of proportion to what one would expect. The non-believer and carnal Christians call that good luck or bad luck, as in the Vikings’ prizing of a man who seemed to have continual good luck.
However, the most important thing that keeps us from understanding the fear of the Lord is our religion. Mankind either makes up a god out of their own image, someone to rule over them that reflects their own values and judgments, in which case, he can be changed as their opinions change or man places something else in God’s place such as government. When government is expected to act as God’s agent on earth; righting all wrongs and making the uneven places smooth or enforcing religious dogma upon threat of death, imprisonment, or confiscation of property, then, even though that never works out in quite the way it is hoped, the religious person’s faith in the God of the Bible is diminished and soon a nation is turned to a kind of fluid agnosticism where God is believed on and prayed to when convenient but otherwise has no active role in life.
The fear of the Lord or the fear of God produces certain results. The fear of the Lord is wisdom in the first part of this verse.
Job 28:28 And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom…….
The fear of the Lord, as in this verse, is life itself to the believer.
Proverbs 14:27 The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.
“Tendeth to” equals “leads to” (Proverbs 10:16; 11:19; 11:24; 14:23).
Our Proverb, as all of the Proverbs are, is specifically and literally written to the Hebrews under the Law given to Moses, which was not only spiritual law detailing the Hebrew’s relationship with God but also civil law determining the day to day relations that the Hebrew was to have with his fellow citizens of God’s kingdom of heaven on earth and the religious and ritual duty he owed to God.
Evil can be defined based on the context in which it is found as being trouble, calamity, and disaster.
Exodus 32:14 And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.
Numbers 20:5 And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place? it is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; neither is there any water to drink.
Deuteronomy 7:15 And the LORD will take away from thee all sickness, and will put none of the evil diseases of Egypt, which thou knowest, upon thee; but will lay them upon all them that hate thee.
The Hebrew, in this Proverb, individually, as was the entire people of God, was promised that if he had the fear of the Lord and the implied obedience it suggests he would live satisfied and would not be visited with trouble. When God visited anyone it was often to correct them and chastise them for their apostasy or just to punish them.
Jeremiah 11:23 And there shall be no remnant of them: for I will bring evil upon the men of Anathoth, even the year of their visitation.
But there is plenty of trouble that comes with everyday living. As Jesus said;
Matthew 6:34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
The Christian, however, under the doctrines of grace, is never promised that his or her obedience will prevent trouble from ever coming their way (Romans 5:3; 8:35; 12:12). He is promised that God will comfort him and help him comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:4; 7:6) and that God’s Spirit that dwell’s inside of him by virtue of the new birth which Christ revealed (John 3:3; 3:7; John 14:23; Romans 8:9,10) will never leave him (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 4:30), and one day, whether before he sees physical death in the case of Christ calling out His people, His church (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), or after if He tarries even his body shall be redeemed (Romans 8:23). The Christian is promised eternal life (Romans 6:23) by virtue of him believing what Christ said about Himself and that He was raised up from the dead (John 3:36; John 14:6; 14:9; Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9,10).
So, Christian, don’t take this verse written specifically to the Hebrews under the Law as a promise that if you fear God nothing bad will ever happen to you. Don’t gamble the faith that God has given you on some preposterous notion that you’ve made a business deal with God. You live in a dying body (1Corinthians 15:26) on an earth that is in agony (Romans 8:22) and it is not astonishing that trouble comes to you but astonishing that more of it doesn’t come. Quit the foolishness of saying “that earthquake” or “this tornado” or “her cancer” or “his job loss” was a judgment from God. You have no way of knowing that. It is not given to you to know necessarily. Don’t make the mistake of Job’s three friends by misrepresenting God (Job 42:8). Don’t assume that because you or someone else has trouble that God is punishing you. Trouble is a part of life on this earth at this time (Job 5:7). I’m not saying that God doesn’t chastise Christians through the Spirit to correct them. I’m not saying that God doesn’t judge nations. I’m saying simply that suffering is neither a guarantee of God’s approval or His anger for the Christian who faithfully seeks to follow Him and obey Him.
For the Christian, I would say that this Proverb can apply as something like the fear of the Lord; awe, reverence, and Godly fear, leads to eternal life and he that has it God will overcome trouble and comfort them in all their tribulations and trials.