Friday, 28 March 2008

Fearing the Lord

What does it mean to fear the Lord? 

This question came up as we studied Psalm 25 yesterday. In v. 12, the psalmist asks, "Who is the man who fears the Lord? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose." What does it mean to fear the Lord? And who is that man who fears the Lord? Should we fear the Lord? Some of the ideas we gathered yesterday are:


1. The fear of his wrath, because He is just and mighty. knowing that we are sinful makes us tremble. it is the idea of the consequences of our sin (i.e. death) that makes us fear. ("I feared the anger and wrath of the Lord, for he was angry enough with you to destroy you. But again the Lord listened to me." Deut 9:19)

Thus, the definition of "fear of the Lord" could be a kind of reverence that comes from knowing His character, He is just and our sin offends Him. While that seems viable, it starkly contradicts 1 John 4:18," "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love." It seems, as we are perfectly hidden in Christ, that it is not punishment we should fear... 

After that, we explored some of these verses,

2. Phil 2:12-13, Paul writes, "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure."

3. Exodus 14:31, Moses records,"And when the Israelites saw the great power the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant."

Both 2 and 3 point to the fact that fear of the Lord and salvation come hand-in-hand. For the people not yet saved, they have no fear of the Lord and his wrath because they are blinded by their sin. "An oracle is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before his eyes." Psalm 36:1.

Fear and grace are a package deal as in that verse in Amazing Grace, "tis grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved." (Not saying that this song has authority but it helps illustrate this...)

We know that in Psalm 25:12, the man who fears the Lord is the Messiah because "his offspring shall inherit the land." (v.13) Would it then be logical to say that the answer to "Who is the man who fears the Lord?" is Jesus? Jesus feared His Father. Whoa...

If the Father and the Son were united in love, why would Jesus fear his Father? Maybe it is as in Psalm 22:1, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me from the words of my groaning?" The thought of the Father forsaking him leaves him to cry out by day and find no rest by night (v.2). While it is fair to say that this statement explains the way our sins are atoned for by Jesus as even His Father turns His face away, his grief and sense of pleading is undeniable, his fear comes from knowing the weight of the sin on his shoulders and the consequent wrath of God poured onto him.

If all of that stands, if Jesus feared, then we must fear in the same way. For when we are joined to Jesus, nailed to the cross, died and raised back to life with him, then at the experience of our conversion, we also feel the same fear of the wrath of God before dying to our old selves and being born again. And as in Phil 2:12-13, although we are covered by Jesus and have the certainty of salvation, we still work out (live out, manifest) our salvation in fear and trembling. This continual process points to a daily remembrance of the fear we felt at the cross with Jesus, and the consequent death to our old selves, knowing that we are in Him.

The application, then, might be that it is not that we should fear the Father's punishment, but far from it. It is knowing that we are in Jesus that we can see clearly the fear that we should have felt at the wrath of God, which pushes us towards thankfulness and daily surrender to His will.

What do you think?


eringrace said...

and i just saw the crux of deut 9:19 "but the lord listened to me."

what a lightbulb moment

Jacky said...

what jesus felt on the cross was truly an amalgamation of emotions which i could not put to paper.

it is very insightful when reading Psalm 20-29 it is prophetic into the insight of Jesus' mindset on the cross.. the seeming paradox of being God's son and yet being rejected by his Father.

if we too are nailed to the cross, then we also should also fear God like Jesus did on the cross. yet Jesus knows he will rise on the third day and has the confidence to stay on the cross, and so we should, in spite of the fear of the punishment of sin (death), have the same confidence that we also will arise again into our new bodies.

:) it is that dichotomy again between the flesh fearing, and His Spirit in us as a seal, comforting us. so also Jesus' flesh was tired and tempted to leave the cross, but the Spirit in Him encouraged him to think of his church and complete the salvation process!!!

yemsee said...

how about this then? =)

1 John 4:18 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

eringrace said...

I can't reconcile 1 John 4:18 with Psalm 25:12.

1. Jesus was "the man who fears the Lord" (ps 25:12)
2. Jesus feared the wrath of the Father (ps 22:1)
3. the man who fears has not been perfected in love. (1 john 4:18)
therefore, Jesus feared and therefore had not been perfected in love before his resurrection?

Am i taking 1 John out of context?

arrgh my head is spinning...

Tom Loh said...

Hey guys. I think there is some confusion between the 1 John 4 verses and the others. These are two different fears altogether - or at least fear of two different things. Check out Isaiah 11:1-3. Jesus here is seen as the anointed one - and what does the Spirit teach Christ? - the fear of the Lord. More than this in verse 3 Jesus' delight will be in this fear. Difficult to reconcile this type of fear with a fear of judgement. The sense of fear here is to do with absolutely trusting and abandoning oneself to the Father. He is the only one we totally respect and cherish. Lastly, check out Proverbs 8:13. Interesting definition isn't it?