One Fear We Don’t Want to Lose: Living with Appropriate Fear of the Lord

cave opening.jpeg

There are things in life that we all need a healthy fear of: open flames, dangerous or abusive people, life-threatening diseases, identify theft, riding with your son or daughter behind the wheel when they have just received their temps. Okay, maybe that last one is a bit funny. But we all honestly know there are things we would be foolish not to fear.

But what does it mean when we hear in the book of Proverbs that we are to live with fear the Lord?

Some people think this means we are to wander around afraid of God all our days. Some might wonder if this means we should live joyless, unhappy lives plagued by fear of God’s activity in the world, saying something like: “You never know what He might do with sinners like us!” There is a sense of terror in some people’s view of God and any talk of “fear of the Lord” seems to play into that.

But that’s not what fear of the Lord means when we really dive into that in Scripture. Look at two key verses in which that phrase appears, Proverbs 1:7 and Proverbs 9:10, which serve as book-ends around the first large section of the book of Proverbs.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7)

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10)

In Scripture, the concept of the fear of the Lord holds in tension two realities. The first is that we stand before a powerful and holy God. The second is that this powerful and holy God wants to relate with us personally and transformationally.

When we consider this we need to remember we are talking about the God who created everything. This is the God who spoke all of creation into being with a word. We are talking about the God who has brought into being more than 20,000 species of fish, some of which exist at depths of 3,000 to 6,000 feet. We are talking about the God who brought more than 250,000 species of plants into being and who actually knows the difference between Poa protensis (bluegrass) and Adansonia digitata (baobab tree). This is the God who, as it says elsewhere, sustains all things, including not only our solar system but also the 200-400 billion solar systems in the Milky Way Galaxy, and the estimated 100-200 billion galaxies in the known universe.

This is the sort of God we are talking about when we approach the scriptures. It is appropriate for us to approach this sort of God with humility. We should realize we are very small and apparently insignificant (although Scripture tells us we do have signifiance). We should approach God with, as one Old Testament scholar writes, “knee-knocking awe.” God is truly the only awesome One. When we realize who we are dealing with in this way, then we are starting to get a sense of what fear of the Lord really means.

But here is the other side of that story. This same awesome God who with a word created such varied beauty and variety in our world and countless wonders throughout the known and unknown universe – this same God actually wants to relate to human beings. In fact, we need to consider that God does not merely want to relate to “human beings” but wants to relate to us—you and me—personally.

That’s what Scripture tells us. Scripture tells the story of God reaching out to human beings, starting with Adam and Eve, and carrying on through characters like Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Jacob, Ruth, Nehemiah, Esther and more. This reaches its pinnacle in the awesome story of God becoming a man – the wonder of incarnation – when Jesus Christ walked our world, died, and rose again. Jesus is the supreme example of God’s outstretched hands to humanity and He is the only Savior from sin and death.

That same all-powerful and tremendously creative God who should inspire knee-knocking awe in us, also wants to inspire intimate relationship with us. He wants us to have reverent trust with Him. And when we realize who we are dealing with in this way, then we are starting to get at what fear of the Lord means.

Knee-knocking awe before the only awesome God.

Reverent trust in relationship with a loving God.

True wisdom comes when we have an appropriate fear of the Lord.

Everyday Fire: Learning to Stop, See, and Draw Aside with Moses

Everyday Fire

There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”

When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

And Moses said, “Here I am.” (Exodus 2:2-4)

Moses notices the “strange sight” in the midst of his ordinary life and chooses to draw aside in wonder. How often do we miss the strange sights of the Lord in the midst of our ordinary lives?

“Certainly,” we say, “I am no Moses.” Yes, this is true. But who was Moses anyway? An adopted son turned runaway? A murderer fleeing for his life? A rescued baby now lost in the wilderness as an adult?

Moses is not so different from us, other than perhaps in his willingness to be captured in the wonder of God’s appearance; captured enough to draw aside and see. It is just that simple: “I will go over and see this strange sight.” What he sees is inexplicable to him, yet he does not brush past it or ignore it. He stops, draws aside, and sees.

Could it be that this is a fundamental practice of the children of God? Could it be that interruptions of the strange are the activities of God? Could it be that curiosity and wonder are the beginnings of wild new journeys with God? How many bushes burning with divine fire will come our way today? We will never know until see stop, see, and draw aside.

Annie Dillard on Worship

crash helmet.jpg

This past weekend at Eastbrook, I preached about worship in a message entitled “Worship in the Beauty of Holiness.” Whenever I think about worship, I always remember this striking quotation from Annie Dillard in her marvelous book, Teaching a Stone to Talk.

On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews.

– Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk, 58.

Word and Deed (discussion questions)

appearing-series-gfx_app-squareHere are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Word and Deed,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This is part of our series, “Appearing.” The text for this week is Luke 4:31-44.

Discussion Questions:

  1. As we continue our “Appearing” series on Jesus’ beginnings in ministry, this week we will study Luke 4:31-44. Begin your time asking God to speak to you from His Word, and then read that passage aloud.
  2. What do the crowds notice about Jesus’ teaching according to Luke 4:31-32?
  3. What do you think it means for someone to speak with authority? How would this apply to Jesus?
  4. Next, in 4:33-37, Jesus works a miracle on the Sabbath as fulfillment of His earlier quotation of Isaiah 61 (Luke 4:18-19). What does this miraculous deliverance tell you about Jesus’ identity and authority?
  5. If you were there in the crowd for this event, how would you have responded?
  6. Jesus’ healing of Peter’s mother-in-law (4:38-39) leads us into another section of Jesus healing and delivering many people (4:40-41). What do you notice about Jesus in this section?
  7. Why does Jesus decide to leave the area where so many good things are happening according to 4:42-44? Why do you think this is important?
  8. What is one way God is calling you into a deeper life with Him through this study? If you are with a small group, discuss that with one another and pray for one another. If you are studying on your own, write it down and share it with someone.

 


Daily Reading Plan

To encourage us together in our growth with God, we are arranging a weekday reading plan through this entire series with the Gospel of Luke. As you read each day, ask God to speak to you from His word.

Follow along with the reading plan below, through the Eastbrook app, or on social media.

Dec. 19     Luke 4:31-37; Matt. 4:13-16
Dec. 20    Luke 4:38-41; Mark 1:29-34
Dec. 21    Matthew 8:14-17; Isaiah 53:1-6
Dec. 22    Luke 4:42-44; Mark 1:35-39
Dec. 23    Matthew 4:23-25