Hebrew, which is the language of the Old Testament, is an economical language. There are fewer words in Hebrew than English. This requires many Hebrew words to have a wider range of meanings. This also makes translation into English difficult at times.
One of these words is the word ‘yirah’, which we find translated most often as ‘fear’. But the meanings of yirah can range from shaking, stark terror, to worship, reverence, respect, all the way to an overpowering sense of awe. Yirah can be very negative, to have the expectation of harm or evil, which focuses on oneself.
It can also be more positive, a sense of wonder and humility in the presence of majesty or holiness, which focuses on the object or our awe. To have a sense of awe in God’s presence, which is all the time, is to recognize how big, powerful, and holy He is. In Jewish synagogues there is an ornate cabinet that houses the Torah scrolls. Over this cabinet, in many synagogues, is the phrase “Know before whom you stand.” Since we constantly stand before Almighty God, it behooves us to always be aware of Him. This is fear of the Lord. Know before whom you stand.