Plugged In: What it Really Means to be a G-d-Fearer

“The apostles in the Jerusalem Council decision left Gentiles] with an ambiguous and tenuous status among the people of God that can best be described as that of a God-fearer:  a monotheist non-Jew worshipping in a Jewish context,” Boaz Michael, D. Thomas Lancaster, “ ‘One Law’ and the Messianic Gentile”, Messiah Journal 101.

Some in the Messianic movement teach that Gentiles belong to a class called the G-d-fearer, that Gentiles are not to bother with anything in the Torah more than just being a good person. 

But is that what yirat HaShem really means in the Scripture?

First, let’s observe that yirat is not about trembling in fear but rather:

“Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling,” Psalm 2:11

In this verse we see what looks to be a contradiction:  fearing and rejoicing at the same time.  But the contradiction is resolved once we understand that within the word yirat is the word ra’ah which means to see.  The idea being that once you see how awesome G-d is then your reaction is reverent awe and even an excited trembling with joy wherein your soul desires to return to its source.

It’s like when we see the universe and immediately feel humbled by the power of the Creator:

“When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained; What is man that you take thought of him, And the son of man that you care for him?” Psalm 8:3,4

But what causes our soul (nefesh) to rejoice when we see G-d’s awesomeness?

Well, that’s where the term for “returning” to the L-rd is enlightening:

“When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return [vshavta] to the LORD your God and obey him,” Deuteronomy 4:30

That term for return, shavta, has the same letters as Shabbat.  Why is that?  Because on Shabbat we realize that we are utterly dependent on G-d and we delight in drawing close to our Source! We literally return (shavta) to Him on Shabbat!

And this term shavta is related to meshivat which is translated in English as “restoring” or “converting”:

“The law of the LORD isperfect, converting the soul [meshivat nefesh]: the testimony of the LORD issure, making wise the simple,” Psalm 19:7

Why does Torah convert/restore the soul?  Because it is “perfect” which means it carries the fullness of everything your soul has been looking for.

So “fearing” G-d is really about “returning” to Him by keeping the commandments:

“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man,” Ecclesiastes 12:13

In conclusion, we should not listen to such men who say that fearing G-d results in an ambiguous status and a tenuous connection to His people.  Such men are effectively working to unplug us from our power source.  Heaven forbid!  Scripture says:

 “The secret of the LORD [is] with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant,” Psalms 25:14

“…keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me and take hold of my covenant….all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it…these I will bring to my holy mountain and make them joyful in my House of Prayer,” Isaiah 56:4,6-7

Yirat HaShem means we are so excited that we tremble with joy as we return to G-d by hearkening to His Voice!  We are so awestruck by Him that no man can keep us from pursuing His Torah!  It is our power source!

Don’t let any man discourage you from plugging into the joy that G-d intends for you and your family!

Shalom and Blessings to the True Brothers and Sisters,


Source: Orthodox Messianic Judaism (