Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The fear of the Lord

One of the many things i have valued about my year on Relay has been the oppotunity it's given me to 'get off the beaten track' of the Bible. To study books like Zephaniah and Hosea, which have much to tell us about the Gospel and much to say to the glory of God. At the recent Relay 3 conference Mo taught from Proverbs every morning. Proverbs a book with little written on it by evangelical scholars, which is a shame because we're the ones who are supposed to have the highest view of the Bible out of everyone, and yet we ignore vast chunks of it. This is not good.

Two things really stood out for me from this book, and the first of those is 'the fear of the Lord'. I remember when i first heard this expression, used to describe Christians years ago i didn't really like it. We don't fear the Lord, i thought, we love Him, we worship Him and we are in relationship with Him. What sort of relationship, i thought, had fear at the centre of it. As it turns out, a right and good one in this context.

This is not, of course, fear in the cowering in the corner sort of way. Yes the Lord is that terrible, and when He comes some will call for rocks to crush their brains rather than face His judgement (Rev 16:6). But not those who love Him. And yet we are still called to fear Him. Proverbs 1:7 says that 'the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom'. So according to Soloman you can't know anything in a really, Biblically wise way without fearing the Lord. Proverbs also exhorts us to 'get wisdom' (Proverbs 4:5)...so clearly fearing the Lord is a major part of our faith. But what does it mean?

Fearing the Lord is an attitude to God. It's an attitude that persues God in place of other things, that has God at the centre of ones affections and desires. It's an attitude to evil in our hearts and in the world. Proverbs 8:13 says that fear of the Lord is the hatred of evil. The fear of the Lord is an attitude to ourselves, it is intruction in wisdom and humility as Proverbs 15:33 says.

Fear of the Lord manifests itself in that we don't envy sinners, or ignore God, or fear people. Instead we honour and respect and love the Lord in all situations and in all relationships all the time. We fear the Lord because it is good for us to do so. It will help us to live properly and mulitply our lives (9:10-12), the fear of the Lord is a secure fortress. How amazing that fearing the Lord is good for us! It really shouldn't surprise us that following Biblical commands would make us happy, but it still kind of does! When we deal with the Lord, we deal with ultimates and eternals, we must deal rightly with these things.

So the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the fear of the Lord seems to be, to cut a long story short and put it into classic evangelical language; 'living with Jesus as the Lord of your whole life'. And thats wisdom. Wisdom is honouring and rejoicing and serving Jesus as King in every area of life all the time. And that's totally borne out by Soloman's experiece in Ecclesiastes 1. He's built more, got more, slept around more and worked more than anyone probably before or since. And his conclusion? Vapour, meaninglessness. Because he wasn't living with the fear of the Lord at the centre of His life. He was living with Jesus as King of all that he did. And that, and that alone is the way to life, because thats how the universe is set up. It's bound to be the way to wisdom if all of creation is set up to display the massive value and worth of Jesus Christ. Now on one level that's a massive massive calling, and no one can do it. But on the other hand, how liberating to know that we can be 'wise' in all of life. That we can serve God in all of life. In our work and our rest and our play, there is nothing outside of God's sphere. What good news that whether you're a pastor or a dentist or a speech therapist or a bus driver, you can live wisely by fearing the Lord in that situation. You can honour God in every area of life. There is no division between secular and sacred, it's all about Jesus!

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