KJV - 7 For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities: but fear thou God.
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I struggled with this very issue. How can God be my loving father, and demand that I fear Him at the same time. I thought perhaps the word for fear should be translated as respect rather than fear. So I looked up the original Hebrew word used in Proverbs 1:7. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction." The word is Yir-ah which is fear. The only way I could see this perceived dichotomy living in harmony is by understanding the Righteous of God. God's righteousness demands that he does not allow sin to go unpunished. God is also a merciful God, and He may allow sin to go unpunished until the final day of judgement. The Bible says the rain falls on both the righteous and the wicked. So here is the wisdom of fearing God. All men are sinners, and must repent of their sins. Salvation first begins with reconciliation to God through Jesus. You cannot be reconciled without the understanding that you need a Savior and you need to repent. Wisdom is fearing the judgement of God, and the knowledge of salvation through Jesus. Matthew 10:28 KJVS And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. After our children understanding they are sinners and need to accept Jesus as Savior, then God becomes their Heavenly Father. Our obedience to God is based gratitude for what He has done for us, and not fear of judgement.
In my opinion, children should be taught to "fear" God in the same way that they should "fear" their parents and other rightful authority figures -- that is, to give Him respect and obedience; to learn His commandments and standards for human behavior; to realize that there can be adverse temporal and (in the case of God) eternal consequences for disobedience; and therefore to want to do what is pleasing to Him. Such fear is, as the Bible says, the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). At the same time, children should also learn from an early age about the love that God has shown to them in Christ; and that God, through Jesus, is their heavenly Father; so that they may come to Him (as Luther said) "with all boldness and confidence, as dear children [to] their dear father".
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