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

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There are things in life that you 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. No, in all honesty, there are things that we would be foolish not to fear.

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

Some people think that we are to wander around afraid of God all of our days. Some might say that we should live joyless, unhappy lives plagued by God’s arbitrary activity in the world – you never know what He might do with sinners like us. There is a sense of terror in some people’s view of God.

But that’s not what fear of the Lord means when we look at it in the Bible. Let’s read the two key verses 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 the Bible, the concept of the fear of the Lord holds in tension that we stand before a powerful God who also wants to relate with us.

We are talking about the God who created everything…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 who exist at depths of 3,000 to 6,000 feet…we are talking about the God who has 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)….the God who, 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.

We should be humbled when we approach God. We should realize that we are very small. 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 at what fear of the Lord 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; no, not just that, this same God wants to relate to you – YOU – and me.

That’s what the Bible tells us. The Bible is 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.

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.

Wisdom in the Darkness (discussion questions)

Featured Image -- 6321Here are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Wisdom in the Darkness,” on Job 28 from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church. This is the third part of our six-part series “Finding God in the Darkness.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. We continue our series “Finding God in the Darkness” this weekend with a look at Job, chapter 28. Whether you are on your own or with a small group, begin your study in prayer, and then read that chapter aloud.
  2. Background: Job chapter 28 is a unique portion of the book of Job. In one sense, it is an extended proverb or reflection on wisdom itself. Some Bible scholars believe this chapter comes from Job’s mouth in his dialogue with his friends while others view it as a sort of reflective intermission by the author. Either way, the central theme of this passage is where true wisdom is found.
  3. Verses 1-12 use an extended metaphor of mining for jewels to lead into a discussion of wisdom. Verse 12 is the ultimate driving question. How do you think this picture of mining compares to searching for wisdom?
  4. When have you felt like you deeply needed wisdom in your life? What did you do to gain it or pursue it?
  5. Verses 13-20 take us into the pursuit of wisdom. What sources within nature are put forward for finding wisdom?
  6. Multiple times the author talks about the fact that wisdom cannot be purchased. Why do you think this is true?
  7. Verses 21-28 reflect on the search for wisdom and our inability to find it anywhere else but in God. Why do you think it’s important that wisdom, in a sense, is concealed from us? Why do you think it’s important that finding wisdom takes a focused pursuit?
  8. The final verse of the chapter focuses on the ‘fear of the Lord’ as the way of wisdom. What do you think this means? You may want to take a look at Proverbs 1:7; 9:10; 10:27; 14:27; Exodus 14:31; Deuteronomy 31:12; Psalm 33:18; 36:1 for other insights.
  9. What is one specific thing that God is speaking to you through this study? If you are with a small group, discuss that with one another and then take extended time to pray about what you share. If you are studying on your own, write it down, pray about it, and share this with someone during the next few days.

Wisdom in the Darkness

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I continued our series on Job, “Finding God in the Darkness,” this past weekend at Eastbrook with a message from Job 28 entitled “Wisdom in the Darkness.” This message is the centerpoint of the book of Job, focusing on the heart of wisdom that we develop with an appropriate fear of the Lord. This is the third message in a six-part series on the book of Job that takes us through the traditional season of Lent with an accompanying daily devotional.

You can watch the message here, following along with the outline below. You can also follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

Read More »

Facedown in God’s Awesome Presence

At Eastbrook this past weekend, I spoke about living with an appropriate fear of the Lord from Proverbs 1:7 and 9:10. There is a hymn from the 19th century, “Immortal, Invisible God Only Wise,” that conveys the wondrously awesome presence of the Lord. Here are two verses from that hymn:

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessèd, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, thy great Name we praise.

Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
Thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight;
All laud we would render: O help us to see
’Tis only the splendour of light hideth thee.

A contemporary song that captures an aspect of living with an awareness of God’s greatness for me is Matt Redman’s song, “Facedown.” This song reflects John’s response to the glorified Christ in Revelation 1, where he says:

When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though dead. (Revelation 1:17)

The Fear of the Lord

This weekend at Eastbrook we continued our series on Proverbs entitled “Words to Live By.” I lead us through a look at what could be termed the key to the life of wisdom according to the Bible: having an appropriate fear of the Lord. I rooted the message in two texts:

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).

You can listen to my message online at the Eastbrook web-site here. You can also subscribe to the Eastbrook podcast here or follow Eastbrook Church on Twitter.

My message outline is below.Read More »

The Trust I Need

This past Sunday was an interesting one at Brooklife. I preached an unplanned message out of Proverbs called “The Trust I Need.”

Speaking from my own life experience with God, I shared two lessons about life with God that I have learned from Proverbs:

  • Proverbs 1:7: “Fear of the Lord” means having a big picture of God that is filled with awe; it fits together with the amazing love of God
  • Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord” flows out of our big picture of God; He loves us and we can lift up the big issue in our lives that we need His help with and He will answer

You can listen to the message online here or download or podcast via iTunes or RSS feed.

If you’d like to hear the story of how I happened to be giving the message, read on.

About 5 minutes before the first service, our lead pastor, Jason Webb, walked into the pre-service gathering room Read More »

What about ‘Fear of the Lord’?

Those who fear the Lord have a secure fortress,
and for their children it will be a refuge.
The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,
turning a person from the snares of death.
– Proverbs 14:26-27

I am always fascinated with the topic or phrase “fear of the Lord.” I was talking with someone not too long ago over lunch who said they had always been afraid of God until a profound experience in their life. Through clear teaching of the Bible they begin to understand that God deeply loves them and even sent His own Son, Jesus, to die for them. The fear started to dissipate.

What they were saying was that up till recently their religious experience had put a fear-filled distance between them and God. But now, they were experiencing a true intimacy with God that filtered through knowing Him as a loving Father.  This is a right and needed recovery!

But what about ‘fear of the Lord’?

How do we keep from a toothless over-familiarity with God that keeps ahold of an appropriate reverence for God that is spoken of throughout the Scriptures?