Isaiah 11, Part 2: Fearing the LORD
Isaiah referred to fear of the LORD as something admirable.
Isaiah 11:3 (ESV) His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
The root word of "fear of the LORD" is a word meaning an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat (The New Oxford American Dictionary). "Fear" comes from an Old English word meaning calamity or danger.
Adam feared punishment after disobeying God's command regarding the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 3:10). Jacob feared the loss of his wives after tricking Laban (Genesis 31:31). The Israelites feared pain and injury from serpents, scorpions and desert (Deuteronomy 8:15).
Rather than describing someone running away from something fearful, Isaiah described God's Righteous Judge as having delight in fearing the LORD.
Things pleasant or desirable easily become associated with their smell. A farmer regards the smell of a growing field as a reminder of profit and security (Genesis 27:27). Perfume or incense will awaken a desire for worship or love (Exodus 30:38). A warrior's horse smells a battle and paws the ground in eagerness (Job 39:25).
That which is frightening about God is what the Righteous Judge would regard as a sweet aroma. This Judge would regard every reminder of God's dangerous ability to bring calamity or danger as something delightful.
Isaiah speaks as though the poor and meek of the earth would benefit from the decisions of a Judge Who could punish and kill wicked people with perfect righteousness and equity.
"Forensic" refers to the scientific investigation of crime.
So, how can something that causes fear be a good thing? How does God's potential for calamity and danger be connected to experiencing something right, pleasant or prosperous?
People who are poor or meek will experience true righteousness and equity only if those who steal or oppress them are punished or destroyed.
People who are dangling, weak or thin, whether in body or mind, are easily oppressed. People who are forced to listen, or forced to watch and obey, easily become brow-beaten or depressed in posture and conduct. Gentleness or humility may be a positive character quality, but it could also be a result of bullying or subservience.
Without strength in themselves, poor or meek people will find rescue only in Someone perfectly right and good Who is capable of enforcing righteousness and equity.
A Judge who is powerful and sovereign, and acts out of righteousness and equity, may indeed be something delightful...especially for those who are poor or meek.