Fear of the Lord

 

My son, if your heart is wise, then my heart, too, will rejoice; and my kidneys will rejoice when your lips speak upright things. Let your heart not envy sinners, rather those in fear of Yahweh always. For there is a latter end, and your hope will not be cut off.

Proverbs 23:15-18

 

In contemplating and seeking to interpret the imperative command to fear the Lord it is necessary to search the Scriptures to discover the various nuances involved in carrying out this biblical injunction.  The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments reveal that “fear” is a necessary experiential attitude that the people of God are to have toward Yahweh—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  For the modern mind terms like fear and jealousy seem to have a negative connotation; however, these terms have important theological connections both to our attitude towards God (i.e. fear) and God’s attitude towards His people (i.e. jealousy).  Fear can be a debilitating emotion when people are dealing with phobias of snakes, spiders, and elevators, but fear can also be a positive force towards preserving life such as seeing a shark at the beach, seeing a poisonous snake in the woods, or hearing a gun shot.  Yet, the biblical definition regarding the fear of the LORD is to depart from evil and do good (cf. Psalms 34:11-14).  However, there is a distinction which must be made, namely, (a) our personal way of defining good and evil (Proverbs 1:31), or (b) the ways and laws of God (Psalms 19:7-9; 119:1-176).  Therefore, the Holy Spirit through the Word of God must speak for itself regarding the paths of life and death.

The Scripture declares that the beginning of wisdom, and the beginning of knowledge both have their roots in the fear of the LORD Yahweh (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10).  In the Torah the command is given to honor the elderly and to fear your God—Yahweh (Leviticus 19:32).  Additionally, the fear of Yahweh is necessary in order to keep His commandments, statutes, and judgments; and that this fear will prolong our days (cf. Deuteronomy 6:1-3).  “The LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear Yahweh our God for our good always, to keep us alive as it is this day” (Deuteronomy 6:24).  We see from these verses that the fear of the LORD (1) is for our good, (2) it prolongs our days, and (3) it enables us to keep the commandments, statutes, and judgments of God.

God’s covenant children are humbled and tested from time to time in order to do us good in the end (Deuteronomy 8:1-5, 16; Hebrews 12:5-11), so that we may walk in His ways and to fear Him (Deuteronomy 8:6).  Yet, the spirit and essence of the Law is revealed in this word…“And now, Israel, what does Yahweh your God require of you, but to fear Yahweh your God, to walk in His ways and to love Him, to serve Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul…you shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with your very all (Deuteronomy 10:12; 6:5).  Thus, “whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17).  So the Scriptures declare that God requires us to fear Him, yet not in an incapacitating fear, but in a way that gives true life to our souls through submission to His will by the Holy Spirit.  Therefore, our spiritual growth in progressive sanctification is a constant training in learning how to fear Yahweh always (cf. Deuteronomy 14:23; Proverbs 23:17).  However, what is the fear of the LORD?  What does it actually mean?  How can I actually learn to fear Yahweh always?

 

  1. The fear of the LORD represents an awe of the majesty of God – Deuteronomy 10:14; Psalm 22:23; 25:14; 33:18; 103:17. As we contemplate the universe above and the majestic beauty of the earth, the myriad creatures, the complexity of DNA-RNA, and to our bodies from organs, tissues, cells, molecules, atoms, and sub-atomic particles, namely all things being held together by God’s Sovereign Decree.  So we declare with the Psalmist, “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well” (Psalm 139:14)

 

  1. The fear of the LORD represents a fearful dread – Psalm 96:9; 102:15; Proverbs 1:29; Isaiah 8:11-15; Malachi 1:6; 3:5; 2 Corinthians 7:9-12; Hebrews 10:26-31. Once we have received new life through Jesus Christ by His one offering, He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified (Hebrews 10:14), and in this new life there are times when our affections are turned away from God and our desires conceive and give birth to sin (Genesis 4:7; James 1:14-15).  Thus, a life of repentance (Mark 1:15) is necessary to restore our confidence (1 John 2:28).  Yet, there are times when we are to recognize the power of justice (Psalm 50:21) against unrighteousness, and this healthy dread is necessary from time to time so we do not degrade the holiness of God into a common thing. The Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) in Chapter 14.2 on Saving Faith states, “By this faith, a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God Himself speaking therein; and acteth differently upon that which each particular passage thereof containeth; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings (cf. Ezra 9:4; Isaiah 66:2; Hebrews 4:1), and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come.  But the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace” (WCF 14.2).

 

  1. The fear of the LORD represents a continuous consciousness of God – Deuteronomy 14:23; Psalm 36:1; Proverbs 2:1-5; 23:17; Malachi 3:16. To have a fear of God actually means to be aware of God.  To be aware of God reveals an immediate knowing that we are subordinate to God since we are His creation.  To know that we are subordinate to God means that all “Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever” (Revelation 5:13).  However, this conscious awareness of God can have a blend of the dread and fear associated to Yahweh’s holiness, as well as an intimate nearness of His Fatherhood and provision from the majesty of His glorious works.  Additionally, there are eight processes given in Proverbs 2:1-4 which ultimately lead to an understanding of the fear of Yahweh and the discovery of the knowledge of God.  These eight processes are (1) receiving God’s Word, (2) treasuring His commands within, (3) inclining our ear to wisdom, (4) applying our heart to understanding, (5) crying out for discernment, (6) lifting up our voice for understanding, (7) seeking wisdom as if it were silver, and (8) searching for wisdom as if it were hidden treasures.  These eight actions have been summed up by Jesus when He commands us to ask, seek, and knock (Matthew 7:7-11; Luke 11:9-13).

 

  1. The Fear of the LORD represents the instruction of wisdom, namely, the way of life – Joshua 24:14; Psalm 34:11-16; 103:17; 128:1-4; Proverbs 14:25-27; 15:33; 16:6; 19:23; 29:25; Jeremiah 32:37-41. The commandments, laws, ordinances, statues, judgments, testimonies, and words of Yahweh are revealed and given unto us so that we may learn to do good and seek justice (cf. Isaiah 1:16-17), seek peace (cf. Psalm 34:14), to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God (cf. Micah 6:8), while also departing from evil, and keeping our tongue from corrupt communication and our lips from speaking deceit (Psalm 34:13-14; Ephesians 4:29-5:7).  God has ordained what is good and evil, and the paths that He has commanded us to walk in are for our good and well-being, and length of days; therefore, we are to fear God because reproofs of instruction are the way of life (Deuteronomy 5:16; 29, 33; 6:3, 18, 24; Proverbs 6:23).

 

As we begin to absorb the sweetness of God’s Word and allow it to dwell richly within us we will cry out to be “cleansed from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit” we will begin to experience the “perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).  The fear of the LORD is an important factor in our spiritual communion with God, because (a) it gives us wisdom in the way we should walk (Psalm 34:11-14), (b) it gives the ordering of the right relationships we should have toward ourselves (Proverbs 1:31; Jeremiah 17:9-10), others (Psalm 118:8-9), and with our Creator (Psalm 27:1-3; Habakkuk 3:17-19), (c) the fear of the LORD Yahweh is a means of grace for communion with the Most High God, and (d) the Holy Spirit which indwells all adopted children of God, also represents the Spirit of the fear of Yahweh (Isaiah 11:1-2).  Therefore, allow the fear of the LORD to be a driving force for your obedience to God.  Let us go forward and “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

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Our World Belongs to God: A Contemporary Testimony

The following section below represents a portion of “Our World Belongs to God” developed originally in 1986, and updated in 2008 by the Christian Reformed Church in North America.  For the full version, which has 58 sections click on the link below.  I originally came across this source in the book:

Our Faith: Ecumenical Creeds, Reformed Confessions, and Other Resources. Grand Rapids, MI: Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2013.

 

Let it be known that you and every person who has ever existed will give an account of how we have used our life-space, and that our thoughts, words, and actions will testify against us in this great accounting.  To be sure, that just as most children don’t like to be told what to do, so too, adults do not like to be told what to do.  Therefore, what is often the case is that we have “children in adult bodies” (see Matthew 11:16-19).  And…in our stubbornness and self-sufficiency we refuse to submit to the natural order of God’s Rule.  Saint Augustine eloquently said, “You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they can find rest in you.”  If God does indeed exist (which I hope to address this issue in future posts) then the Most High Living God must be eternally superior to anything of the created order.  If this first principle is true, which indeed it is, then to elevate anything that is created above the Majesty and Perfection of God is to exalt the inferior over the superior – and to do so is logically foolish, ignorant, and sinful.  This has been the great charge of the sages, prophets, teachers, and apostles of the ages, namely, that we indeed are blind and even “willingly ignorant” until by the Grace of God our eyes are opened to see “as we ought to see.”

 

Let us learn what it means to “redeem the time” (Ephesians 5:15-16; Colossians 4:5-6) and to “put one the armor of Light” (Romans 13:12-14; Ephesians 6:10-18).  I hope you all enjoy the opening sections of this Contemporary Testimony.

Our World Belongs to God

Preamble
1. As followers of Jesus Christ,
living in this world—
which some seek to control,
and others view with despair—
we declare with joy and trust:
Our world belongs to God!

For God’s ownership of all things, see Psalm 24:1 (quoted in 1 Cor. 10:26), Job 41:11, and Deuteronomy 10:14. That this is also “our world”—given to the human race to keep and care for—is one of the themes of the creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2.

2. From the beginning,
through all the crises of our times,
until the kingdom fully comes,
God keeps covenant forever:
Our world belongs to God!
God is King: Let the earth be glad!
Christ is victor: his rule has begun!
The Spirit is at work: creation is renewed!
Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!

For God’s faithfulness, see, among many passages, Psalm 89, 117, 145; Romans 8:31-39; and Hebrews 10:23. For the victory of God in Christ and the rule of Christ, see 1 Corinthians 15:54-57, Philippians 2:9-11, and Revelation 1:13-18. For the Spirit’s work renewing creation, see Genesis 1 and Romans 8.

3. Still, despair and rebellious pride fill the earth:
some, crushed by failure
or broken by pain,
give up on life and hope and God;
others, shaken,
but still hoping for human triumph,
work feverishly to realize their dreams.
As believers in God,
we also struggle with the spirits of this age,
resisting them in the power of the Spirit,
testing them by God’s sure Word.

Psalm 2 expresses the rebellious spirit of the human race. See also Romans 1-3. Ephesians 6:10-17 describes the struggle of believers with the spirits of the age. On testing the spirits, see 1 John 4.

4. Our world, fallen into sin,
has lost its first goodness,
but God has not abandoned the work of his hands:
our Maker preserves this world,
sending seasons, sun, and rain,
upholding all creatures,
renewing the earth,
promising a Savior,
guiding all things to their purpose.

See Genesis 3; 9:8-16; Psalm 104, especially verse 30; Matthew 5:45; and Acts 14:17. For the promises of a Savior, see Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 7:14; 11:1-5; 42:1-7, 53; and Micah 5:2.

5. God holds this world
with fierce love.
Keeping his promise,
he sends Jesus into the world,
pours out the Holy Spirit,
and announces the good news:
sinners who repent and believe in Jesus
live anew as members of the family of God—
the firstfruits of a new creation.

For God’s fierce love, see Hosea 11, especially verses 10-11. For statements of the gospel message, see John 3:1-21, Acts 2:36-39, Romans 10:7-11, and Ephesians 2:1-10. For “firstfruits,” see Leviticus 23:9-14 and James 1:18.

6. We rejoice in the goodness of God,
renounce the works of darkness,
and dedicate ourselves to holy living.
As covenant partners,
set free for joyful obedience,
we offer our hearts and lives
to do God’s work in the world.
With tempered impatience,
eager to see injustice ended,
we expect the Day of the Lord.
We are confident
that the light
which shines in the present darkness
will fill the earth
when Christ appears.
Come, Lord Jesus.
Our world belongs to you.

Among the texts referenced in this paragraph, see Matthew 5:17-20, 48; John 1:1-5, 9-13; 3:19-21; Romans 12:1-2; Galatians 5:1, 13-25; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-5:11; 2 Peter 3; 1 John 2:7-11; and Revelation 22:20.

 

Creation

7. Our world belongs to God—
not to us or earthly powers,
not to demons, fate, or chance.
The earth is the Lord’s.

For references, see the first paragraph.

8. In the beginning, God—
Father, Word, and Spirit—
called this world into being
out of nothing,
and gave it shape and order.

See Genesis 1, where Creator, Word, and Spirit call creation into order. For the role of the Word in creation and Jesus as the Word, see John 1:1-14.

9. God formed sky, land, and sea;
stars above, moon and sun,
making a world of color, beauty, and variety—
a fitting home for plants and animals, and us—
a place to work and play,
worship and wonder,
love and laugh.
God rested
and gave us rest.
In the beginning
everything was very good.

On creation, besides Genesis 1 and 2, see Psalm 19; 33:6-9; and 104.

10. Made in God’s image
to live in loving communion with our Maker,
we are appointed earthkeepers and caretakers
to tend the earth, enjoy it,
and love our neighbors.
God uses our skills
for the unfolding and well-being of his world
so that creation and all who live in it may flourish.

For the image of God, see Genesis 1:26-27; 9:6; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10; and James 3:9.

11. Together,
male and female,
single and married,
young and old—
every hue and variety of humanity—
we are called to represent God,
for the Lord God made us all.
Life is God’s gift to us,
and we are called to foster
the well-being of all the living,
protecting from harm
the unborn and the weak,
the poor and the vulnerable.

See Genesis 1:26-27, Galatians 3:26-28, and Acts 2:5-11. On how we treat the vulnerable among us as a measure of justice, see Isaiah 1:15-17 and James 1:27.

12. Even now,
as history unfolds
in ways we know only in part,
we are assured
that God is with us in our world,
holding all things in tender embrace
and bending them to his purpose.
The confidence that the Lord is faithful
gives meaning to our days
and hope to our years.
The future is secure,
for our world belongs to God.

For the providential care of God, see Isaiah 45:6-7, Matthew 6:25-34, and Luke 12:4-7.

 

 

The highest pursuit in life is the pursuit of Truth.  Peace be with each of you.

 

 

Understanding the Image of God

“No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6b).  This statement is obviously true if one accepts that Jesus the Christ is in fact—“the truth” (John 14:6a).  However, Jesus had to make this claim, because the Christ or “the Messiah” is “the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints (lit. holy ones)” (Colossians 1:26), and the only way back to the pristine state as Adam was first formed is through the “last Adam,” (1 Corinthians 15:45; cf. Romans 5:14) Jesus the Christ.  Thus, Jesus Christ had to be born of a virgin and born of the Holy Spirit, because just as Adam was born from the breath of God (i.e. Spirit of God; Genesis 2:7) and the womb of the earth (i.e. dust) so too the “last Adam” had to be born of the Spirit of God (Matthew 1:20) from the womb of woman (Genesis 3:15).  This was done in order to reconcile the fallen state of man (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17-20) when Adam died a spiritual death (cf. Genesis 2:17; 3:6-7).

 

Genesis 2:17 says, “For in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”  It is clear from the biblical account that Adam lived some 900 years later (cf. Genesis 5:4-5) after “the day” when he partook of the fruit; however, the Rabbinical tradition took the Hebrew words mot tamut (i.e. “you shall surely die”) to literally mean, “dying, you will die.”  This in turn represents a Hebrew double idiom for a double death, hence a physical and spiritual death.  It is by virtue of this spiritual death that Jesus tells Nicodemus, “he must be born from above (or, born again) of the Spirit in order to see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3-8; cf. 1 Peter 1:22-23).  However, the Holy Spirit renews all who are “born from above” back into the “image of His Son” (Romans 8:29), by being “transformed into the same image of the Lord from glory to glory” (τὴν αὐτὴν εἰκόνα μεταμορφούμεθα ἀπὸ δόξης εἰς δόξαν; 2 Corinthians 3:18).  The Spirit of God renews those “born from above” back into “the new man which was created according to God [past tense], in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24; cf. Genesis 1:26-17), and back into “the image of Him who created Him [past tense]” (Colossians 3:10), as “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).

 

Before Jesus was manifested in the flesh, the prophets of old received “the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow” (1 Peter 1:10-11).  Additionally, even Moses “esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt” (Hebrews 11:26).  How can Moses and the prophets of old participate in the work of Christ or the work of the Messiah before the historical Jesus?

 

We see a clear picture that is formed which centers on the work of Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:1-4) before His earthly mission, namely, the Christ is “the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His holy ones.  To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles/nations: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:26-27).  This is the unveiling of the full participation and fellowship with the Godhead, namely with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Therefore, a consistent thread or tapestry throughout the Bible is that the revelation of “the Christ” is to also partake in the process of “Christ being formed within” (Galatians 4:19) or as David says, “I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your Likeness” (Psalms 17:15).  Therefore, let us recognize why Christ Jesus came to earth, to suffer, die by crucifixion, be raised from the dead the third day (cf. Aramaic Targum of Hosea 6:2), and ascend to the Right Hand of YHVH.

 

Coming to the Father through Christ must necessitate a transformation by the Spirit of the Lord to “give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6), because the “new man is renewed in knowledge…” (Colossians 3:10; cf. Proverbs 11:9).  Essentially, Paul uses the metaphor of the “new man, inner man, inward man, new creation” to refer to the process of being transformed into the Image of Christ (Romans 8:29), and it is the Image of Christ who is the original Image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4).

 

The Bible is very clear that Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father, Yahweh יהוה, because Christ represents the original birthright that humanity was originally created into before the spiritual death of Adam.  This is witnessed in Christ Jesus being exemplified as “the glory of Christ who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4), “He is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15), and “who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person” (Hebrews 1:3).  Thus, to reiterate, since humanity was created into the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), and Christ is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3), and those who have been “born from above” (John 3:3) are being transformed into the “same image of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18), and are being “conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29) as the “inward man is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16) through the process of “Christ being formed within” (Galatians 4:19).

 

Therefore, we must ask ourselves and take a good look by examining ourselves (cf. 2 Corinthians 13:5; etc…) to see how we are expressing Christ in all domains of our lives.  Therefore, are you expressing Jesus Christ’s works in and through your life, not to even mention the greater works that we are promised we shall do (John 14:12)?  How are you “bringing every thought captive through the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5), or is this even a concern for you?  What is life all about, and are your behaviors, words, thoughts, emotions, and beliefs aligned with the two greatest commandments—Love Yahweh יהוה your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength – and to love your neighbor as yourself?  “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.  If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:7-8, 20).

 

Now, what does this mean in the daily faith-walk of each believer?  All of this reveals that “The power of Christ may rest (lit. tabernacle, or abide upon) upon us” (2 Corinthians 12:9).  However, when it is discerned what it actually means to “have Christ in you” (Colossians 1:27), and “you in Christ” (Galatians 3:28) – then we can appreciate the spiritual language with its richness and depth by “comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Corinthians 2:13).  When we get off the “milk” of the basic 101 spiritual teaching and dogma (and yes they are necessary—see Hebrews 6:1-3), and enter the realm of embodied direct experience with the Godhead (John 14:17, 20-21, 23; Ephesians 3:19; Revelation 3:20) then we can partake of “the good Word of God and the powers of the age to come” (Hebrews 6:5), yes, even in this life.  Let us call out to be genuinely cleansed of every wicked way within us (Psalms 139:23-24), and seek to be filled with the Spirit of God and Truth in order to serve our Maker and to serve His creation.  This is beautifully said by Paul the apostle, “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).  Oh, what freedom there is in Christ!

 

Thus, as leaders our work is to embody God’s Word as the righteous scripture as “epistles of Christ” (2 Corinthians 3:1-3; cf. Colossians 3:16) by receiving the implanted Word on the good ground that has been tilled and prepared by life to receive it and bear fruit with patience and endurance (James 1:21; Luke 8:15; Jeremiah 4:3-4) and to train others (Matthew 28:20; 2 Timothy 2:4-5, 15) to put aside the lower games of the flesh that masquerade as culturally acceptable religious devotion and spirituality.  Because, “those who belong to Christ have already crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24), so “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God” (Galatians 2:20).

 

Where is this in the Church (i.e. the People of God) today being actively expressed?  To be sure it is actively expressed by those whom the Father has trained and prepared.  Let us reason with what the Scriptures tell us.  What does living as Christ look like, what does it live like, what does it sound like, what does it breathe like, what does it feel like? What does it mean to be a sacrifice that is still living (Romans 12:1)?  What does it truly mean to “transform ourselves by renewing our mind” (Romans 12:2; cf. Ephesians 4:23), or by “setting our minds on things that are above, where Christ is…” (Colossians 3:1-4)?  How can God’s Word be firmly fixed in the Heavens, yet be hidden within our hearts (Psalms 119:11, 89)?  Think…does putting on the armor of Light and the Lord Jesus Christ simply entail behavior modification, or is there something more (Romans 13:12-14)???

 

Peace be with each of you.