The Fear of the Lord Pt. 2
Reid A Ferguson
Psalm 139; Deuteronomy 10:12–13; Proverbs 2:1–5
Last time we began to look at this topic of “The Fear of The Lord.” A phrase found all through the Scriptures and given significant emphasis in places like: Deuteronomy 10:12–13
Deuteronomy 10:12–13 ESV / “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good?”
At first blush, fearing God seems counterintuitive to loving Him and being loved by Him.
But as we began to see, there is no disparity between the reverential awe that is brought on by contemplating God in His greatness, attributes, nature and acts, and loving Him. In fact, the more we see Him as He really is, the more awed we are at Him AND, the more we come to love Him. Because what is revealed about Him makes Him the most lovable of all objects and beings in the universe.
But we cannot get to that place without looking beyond the glory of His immensity, genius and power in Creation – to the glory of His self-revelation in His Word, and His acts.
So you’ll recall that we are following this outline:
The Fear of the Lord:
1 – Why Should I Care?
2 – What it isn’t.
3 – What it is.
4 – How it is obtained.
5 – What are its benefits?
We dealt with #1, #2 & #3 last time, and suggesting a boiled down definition of “the fear of the Lord” to 2 words: Reverential Awe.
Then moving on to #4 we began to explore how a reverential awe is birthed in us when we rightly explore how it is obtained.
Gaining the Fear of The Lord
- The Word
- His Acts
All 3 of which confront us with God’s nature such that a speechless, reverential awe is all we are left with. One which then ought to fill our hearts and minds so as to govern all of life.
And as I mentioned last time, Scripture informs us this fear of the Lord must be intentionally sought. It does not come automatically.
This becomes very clear in Proverbs 2:1-5
Proverbs 2:1–5 ESV / My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.
So here is where see how God’s Word is that 2nd means of encountering and fostering the fear of the Lord.
Note this text: Receiving God’s Word, storing up His commands, being attentive to His wisdom, turning our hearts to understanding, calling out (i.e. -praying for discernment and understanding), seeking it like precious metal and hidden treasure. THEN – you will understand how to fear the Lord. You will gain knowledge of Him that brings the soul into reverential awe.
It is clear then that we need more revelation than Creation can give us.
As Paul tells us, a certain amount can be known about God in Creation: Romans 1:19-20, says we can grasp something of His genius, rationality, power and transcendence in how Creation manifests immensity, timelessness, symmetry and order and its design to bless and sustain human life.
But what we cannot know from creation is our relationship to Him, the nature of sin and redemption and His plan of salvation. For these we need some special revelation – a revelation which we receive above all in His Word.
His Word explains Creation and the God behind it. And so some Biblical passages especially lend themselves to fostering this reverential awe in unique ways.
One thinks of Daniel 4 for instance and the testimony of the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar after his recovery from the madness God visited with to humble him: Daniel 4:34-35
Daniel 4:34–35 ESV / At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”
This is a profound revelation of God’s sovereign rule over mankind and the affairs of mankind. Not so as to obliterate human responsibility, but so as to demonstrate how God still works and rules within this sphere to bring about His sovereign plan even while man acts out of his own fallen will.
In fact, an prominent feature of New Testament preaching from the Day of Pentecost on was to point to God’s active rule over human affairs, even as humanity acts according to its will, and the Enemy of our souls does as well: But God rules over all.
Or think of Isa. 40 or Acts 17 where we not only read of God creating all things but of his active role in the affairs of men.
But there is one passage which in appealing to 3 attributes of God stands out as a particularly useful means of creating the right and reverential awe of God – and it is the 139th Psalm.
It is laid out in this wonderful pattern:
- vss. 1-6 / God’s Omniscience.
- vss. 7-12 / God’s Omnipresence.
- vss. 13-16 / God’s Omnipotence.
- vss. 17-24 / 3 Applications.
- vss. 1-6 / God’s Omniscience.
If you are not familiar with it, OMNISCIENCE is just a fancy word for saying God knows EVERYTHING.
And the text bears out the nature of this “everything” by bringing it down to a very personal level.
And we need to grasp the contrast here: The God who we looked at last time, who spoke this vast universe into existence in all of its unfathomable immensity, complexity and wonder – and who continues to operate and sustain it all – is the same God who knows us individually on an unimaginably intimate and minute scale.
Something God Himself testifies to regarding EVERY single creature in Job 38-41.
So what does David, a single man say about how God “knows” him?
- Ps. 139:1
English Standard Version Psalm 139 / O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
Listen to this. David testifies that this God of creation doesn’t just know OF David – but KNOWS David – and has even “searched” him. Scrutinized him. Examined him. And just how extensively will be brought out as we go.
- Ps. 139:2a
English Standard Version Psalm 139 / You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
One would think such a massive God would have no time or inclination to note such things but here is the testimony. He knows every time I sit down and every time I get up. The most mundane, repetitive and ordinary of things. Nothing, nothing – escapes His all-seeing eye and notice.
- Ps. 139:2b
English Standard Version Psalm 139 / you discern my thoughts from afar.
Imagine this! How he drills down even deeper. Now some interpret this phrase to mean that God, being far off in Heaven, still detects even our thoughts.
But I tend to consider this as Spurgeon did when he wrote: “Before it is my own it is foreknown and comprehended by thee. Though as yet I be not myself cognizant of the shape my thought is assuming, yet thou perceivest its nature, its source, its drift, its result.”
God knows our every thought even before it is fully formed in our own minds. And He is aware of us all on this level – everyone of us, all at once.
- Psalm 139:3a
English Standard Version Psalm 139 / 3 You search out my path and my lying down,
You search out where in life I am going, and even where and how I take my rest.
- Psalm 139:3b
English Standard Version Psalm 139 / and are acquainted with all my ways.
He knows every foible, every quirk, every tendency and reasoning, feeling, action and reaction. ALL our ways.
- Psalm 139:4
English Standard Version Psalm 139 / Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You know everything I say. More! Everything I WILL say even before I say it.
- Psalm 139:5
English Standard Version Psalm 139 / You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.
And every step I take is guided by your providence, in all my progress, all my digressions, all my future and all my past. You have your hand on me personally.
And when David considers all of this he can only gasp out: Psalm 139:6
English Standard Version Psalm 139 / Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.
To even imagine this level of God’s personal knowledge of just me as one lone human being is so overwhelming, I can’t really grasp it. It is too far above my capacity to really take in sufficiently. It is way over my head.
And beloved- this is God’s knowledge of you too! And it ought to fill us with just as much awe and wonder.
Nothing is hidden from His gaze. As Hebrews 4:13 reminds us –
Hebrews 4:13 ESV / And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
And so will anyone dare to imagine they can approach this God with clean hands? Without His intimate knowledge of every foul thought, every empty and filthy imagination, every doubt, bad attitude and preoccupation with the worthless things of this world? Every inward inclination toward abuse, anger, greed, prejudice, selfishness, impurity, pride, faithlessness, jealousy and autonomy from His Lordship – He knows them all in their most wretched depths.
And yet in Christ He accepts us and loves us and receives us as His own.
And not at arm’s length, but as the father of the prodigal son in Luke 15 – falling on our necks, weeping over us and preparing a glad feast in our honor when we return to Him in repentance and seeking forgiveness.
What a glorious God!
And how I wish we had time this morning to unpack the other 2 portions here in the same detail. But let me just skim them quickly so we do not lose them altogether.
- vss. 7-12 / God’s Omnipresence.
Yes, our God is Omniscient, but He is also Omnipresent – always with us in every place we go.
Psalm 139:7–12 ESV / Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.
Now we are struck with a conundrum aren’t we? I don’t know about you but when I stop to consider such a God as this, I want to hide my face from Him. Like Adam and Eve in their sin, I don’t want to be found out in my guilt and sinfulness. I want to seek some way of covering myself from that all penetrating gaze: But it can’t be done.
Once again, as Spurgeon notes: When David asks: “where shall I go from your Spirit?”
“No answer comes. From the sight of God he cannot be hidden, but that is not all—from the immediate, actual, constant presence of God he cannot be withdrawn. This makes it dreadful to sin, for we commit treason at the very foot of his throne. His mind is in our mind, himself within ourselves. His Spirit is over our spirit; our presence is ever in his presence.”
And isn’t this both, glorious and disturbing. Disturbing in that we cannot hide anything of our weakness, failings and sins from Him – but glorious in that nothing can ever befall His own that He is not right here with us. In every sorrow, grief, struggle and fear, we have a God who is never far off, never distant, but with us every step of the way. The very thing Jesus needed to remind His disciples of when He was preparing to leave them physically: Matthew 28:18-20
Matthew 28:18–20 ESV / And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Our Omnisicent – all-seeing, all-knowing God, our every present God, who is also Omnipotent – our all-powerful God.
- vss. 13-16 / God’s Omnipotence
Once again time will not allow a full treatment here but look
again at how the Holy Spirit through David puts the spotlight on this attribute of God by focusing it on the personal.
Oh how it ought to fill each one of us with awe to know that we have been personally crafted by the hand of this God to be who we are.
Psalm 139:13–16 ESV / For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
What a wonder – what a miracle, what a display of infinite wisdom and power is the creation of the human being in body, soul and spirit.
18th century theologian Andrew Fuller noted in this passage: “The human frame is so admirably constructed, so delicately combined, and so much in danger of being dissolved by innumerable causes, that the more we think of it, the more we tremble, and wonder at our own continued existence.”
How then does David apply this tour of God’s omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence to his own life?
English Standard Version Psalm 139 / How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.
- vss. 17-18 Application 1. I can trust you with my weakness. Sleep. We are never more vulnerable and helpless than when asleep. Utterly defenseless. But because God thinks on us immeasurably – because we are the object of His deep scrutiny and consideration – we need fear nothing else.
Psalm 139:19–22 ESV / Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me! They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain. Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies.
- vss. 19-22 Application 2. BUT! I can trust you with my trials. Your enemies become my enemies. Be they human opposition, sin, or adverse Circumstances. I can call on the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present one to stand up in my defense.
Psalm 139:23–24 ESV / Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
- vss. 23-24 Application 3. I can trust you with my sanctification.
Since you know me, since you rule over me, since you are near me so as to know my most inner being: Work in me to make me like Jesus. I can trust you not just to detect, but todetect and deal with all my sin. Lead me after yourself.
David’s direction to us? Such considerations produce humility, and the desire to follow after our great and wonderful God.
And are the considerations of God’s awesome nature in His all-knowing, everywhere-and always present and all-powerful glory not fitting considerations as we come to the table this morning?
Think about this as you come today – if you are His:
1 – He knows our sin. All of it. The full extent of it beyond anything we are aware of. And still He loves us in His limitless grace.
2 – He has the power to deal with our sin in its totality. As to its guilt and defilement in the Cross, its remaining power by His indwelling Spirit, and its very presence in the resurrection.
3 – He is present with us. In the person of His Spirit. “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Philippians 2:13
Philippians 2:13 ESV / for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
He knows our sin better than we.
But His power is such that all sin is met in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ – so that the worst of all sinners may be fully cleansed, forgiven and justified before Him.
And He so joins Himself to us as to always be with us, at all times, in all things. Never forsaking the trophies of His grace.