Problem: Joshua writes, “You may fear the Lord your God forever” (Josh. 4:24). John writes, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love” (1 Jn. 4:18). Should we fear God or not?
Solution: The Hebrew word yare (pronounced YAR-uh) can be translated as “to fear, be afraid.” But it can also be rendered “to stand in awe of, be awed” or even “reverence, honor, respect.” Sometimes it is rendered as “awesome” (Gen. 28:17; Ex. 15:11; Deut. 7:21), “revere” (Lev. 19:14), and “great and terrible” (Deut. 8:15). The people in this context “revered” Joshua (Josh. 4:14), which is the same word. Like leaning over the Grand Canyon, we should stand in awe or reverence of God. We should respect him.
Elsewhere, God tells people not to fear him. To Abraham, God says “do not fear” (Gen. 15:1). Moreover, 1 John 4:18 commands believers not to be afraid of God’s judgment. But rather, we should respect him.