Fear of the Lord Part 4
Reid A Ferguson
Psalm 19; Deuteronomy 10:12–13; 1 Samuel 2:12
Audio for this Sermon can be found here
We’ve been working through the topic of the Fear of The Lord.
And I trust it has been useful in both disabusing some of you of false notions of what it means to fear the Lord, as well as a means to instill a right fear of Him that as Psalm 19 says: “rejoices” the heart.
You will recall that we have been taking this 5 step approach:
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?
So by way of very quick review –
Why Should I care?:
1 – Because Scripture addresses it so often.
2 – Because Scripture places such emphasis upon it.
3 – Because a lack of the fear of the Lord is the signal mark of those who are Godless and lost.
What is isn’t:
1 – Slavish fear
2 – Fear of one who is unpredictable, unreasonable, touchy or irrational.
3 – Has some secret thing against me
What it is:
1 – The Fear of the Lord is: A right perception of God that produces a heart and mind governed by a fitting response to the revelation of God in His Creation and Word regarding His; Nature; Position; Word and Acts.
2 – Reverential Awe
How it is obtained:
1 – Creation
2 – The Word
3 – His Acts
Just before we move into the last portion examining some of the benefits of applying ourselves to seeking out and obtaining this right fear of the Lord, let me expand on the role of the Word of God in this.
I do not believe this part can be overemphasized.
First, because it is in the Word that we find out how and why the Creation begins to bring us to a right fear of the Lord.
If we did not have Genesis 1:1 – we might interpret all of creation from a purely materialistic point of view.
Indeed, many try to do just that.
But to explain all that exists by postulating that everything just came to be without rhyme or reason out of nothing – leaves us with utter and complete hopelessness.
Not only that, it is both unreasonable and contrary to God’s revelation.
Everything coming out of nothing without any cause is a tough pill to swallow. And its implications are staggering.
So it is the famous British Chemist and Scientist Peter Atkins could write: “We are children of chaos, and the deep structure of change is decay. At root, there is only corruption, and the unstemmable tide of chaos. Gone is purpose; all that is left is direction. This is the bleakness we have to accept as we peer deeply and dispassionately into the heart of the Universe.”
This comes from an atheist – one who fully adopts the view that everything just randomly came out of nothing. And even he has to admit that thinking this way leads to this very empty conclusion.
Second, it is only in the Word that we come to know of the incarnation, God’s plan and purpose in it, and the wonder of the atonement as Christ Jesus offered up Himself in our place that our sin might have a full and complete remedy in His blood.
The plan of redemption cannot be worked out through human wisdom or imagination. 1 Cor. 1:21
1 Corinthians 1:21 ESV / For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.
By God’s design – human wisdom, uninformed by His revelation – can never come to the right ultimate conclusions about such things. He made us in such a way that we cannot know the truth without knowing Him as He discloses Himself.
In addition, let me take you to Psalm 19 to show you how the fear of the Lord and the Word are absolutely tied together.
Psalm 19:7-9 / Most of you are pretty familiar with the structure of this Psalm, but vss. 7-9 are what I’d like to call your attention to in its unique pattern.
There are a series of synonyms that you see in the text.
The LAW of the Lord
The TESTIMONY of the Lord
The PRECEPTS of the Lord
The COMMANDMENT of the Lord
The RULES of the Lord
The purpose of referring to the same thing – the Word of God these various ways is so that we do not think of God’s law as just a roster of cold commands.
The whole Bible is “God’s law” – His ordering of all things – like the law of nature or physics. It reveals the framework, structure and arrangement of all existence.
And so it is also His testimony – His declaration of all reality. And that it is truthful.
And yes, the Word reveals His precepts, the principles by which He governs all things. The behind the scenes revelation of how the universe – especially the moral universe works.
His commandment – and note this is in the singular – What is His one, all encompassing command? How are we to think of that? As one lexicon puts it, we can consider it as His commission – His divine plan for all things.
And of course His rules: His judgments and decrees about how all things are to work.
But those of you who are quick on the draw here have already noticed I omitted one synonym that casts this entire section into a whole new light – for vs. 9 also takes note of The FEAR of the Lord.
Do you see that? In other words, the law, testimony, precepts, commandment and rules of the Lord can also be classified as the FEAR of the Lord.
How does that work?
It is comprehended in this thought: When one fears the Lord, they take Him seriously in all He says. His Word and revelation become fully authoritative. And it is awesome!
The one who fears the Lord, takes His Word as supremely authoritative in their lives.
Or as one passage we’ve looked at previously reminds us: “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” Isa. 66:2b
I cannot stress this issue enough.
No one can say they “fear the Lord” if they do not tremble at His Word as the ultimate authority in their lives.
This is what separates true Believers from nominal ones or mere religionists.
In fact, let me take you to a very interesting passage in this regard in 1 Samuel that makes this so very clear by means of contrast.
1 Sam 2:12 in the ESV reads: / Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the Lord.
But the NET picks up a nuance in the Hebrew which is really worth noting: “The sons of Eli were wicked men. They did not recognize the Lord’s authority.” The NET Bible 1 Sa 2:12.
This is of the utmost importance. For if the Bible is not the ultimate authority in my life, then how can I depend upon it to tell me the truth about myself, my sin, who God is, who Jesus is, what He has done, what sin is, how it is to be remedied, how I can be restored to a right relationship with the Father, what life is all about and where it is all going?
Either it is authoritative in all it teaches, or it is not. Either it holds that place in my own heart and mind or it doesn’t.
Each of us desperately needs to know where we stand in this regard.
All of us accede to SOME authority in these matters, be it some person, some system, some religion, or just ourselves.
But the one who is in right relationship to God must own Him as the supreme authority in their lives, which authority is expressed through His Word and the Spirit – which, by the way, ALWAYS agree with one another.
As the old Puritan Thomas Brooks wrote:
The Spirit never loosens where the Word binds;
The Spirit never justifies where the Word condemns;
The Spirit never approves where the Word disapproves;
The Spirit never blesses where the Word curses.
The notion that some have advanced that the Spirit of God has somehow intimated things to them in any way contrary to what He has revealed in His Word is quite telling. It tells you they have no fear of the Lord.
Now all that said, this brings us to the final consideration in this entire topic:
The Fear of The Lord: What are its Benefits?
And for this – we have an absolute treasure trove to pick through in the Scripture. But so as not to lose the impact of some of these by virtue of trying to take in too many – I’ll confine myself to just 10 or 12 here.
But let me take you back to Psalm 19 for one minute so that you can have a sort of handy quick-reference guide to use on your own whenever you need a quick reminder.
Let me take you on a bit of a whirl-wind survey.
Here you see this incredible table in the text that makes you both wonder and admire how the Spirit put all of this together.
The Law of the Lord, everything He teaches is perfect – blameless – and so it revives the soul which is what makes it so valuable.
God’s testimony which opens reality to us is sure – trustworthy as true – and so it imparts true wisdom and that makes it sweet to the soul.
The precepts of the Lord – His governing principles are right – straight and not crooked or devious, and so they rejoice the heart by warning us from all true danger.
The commandment or purpose of the Lord is pure – singular, not a mixed bag and so it enlightens the eyes, clears up mysteries and then guarantees the rewards He promises.
The fear of the Lord is clean – it isn’t mixed with dark suspicions of God and His purposes, He remains ever the same and so He can reveal to us the dark places in our own hearts reliably.
God’s rules, His judgments and decrees about how all things are supposed to work in His universe are true – trustworthy and always righteous, never nefarious and so they keep those who fear them back from great sins – especially the greatest of all – unbelief.
If we only had this Psalm, we’d have so much – but let me just quickly run by some other pertinent passages.
2 Kings 17:39 / “but you shall fear the Lord your God, and he will deliver you out of the hand of all your enemies.”
Scripture tells us that as Christ’s we have 3 enemies: The World system, our own Flesh and sinful tendencies, and the lies and temptations of the Devil.
Those who fear the Lord alone will find a full and free deliverance from these.
Those alone will find the wisdom, the will, the courage and the wherewithal to overcome.
Psalm 25:12 / Who is the man who fears the Lord? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.
Those who fear the Lord learn how to make the right choices in life. How to choose righteousness and refuse evil.
To choose with eternity in view and not just today.
Psalm 25:14 / The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.
When we gain the fear of the Lord, we are drawn into a personal friendship and intimacy with Him that no others can know.
Only 1 man in all of Scripture is said to have been God’s friend – Abraham (James 2).
And Moses is the only one Scripture says God spoke to face to face as a man speaks to a friend. (Exodus 33)
And it is this singular friendship Scripture says belongs to them that fear Him.
Not a fear that produces standoffishness, but wonder at such grace – that such majesty bows to walk with us in such closeness.
Psalm 33:18 / Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love,
What is this but the assurance that God take special note of those who fear Him. That He watches them especially. That they are assured of His notice of their every need, concern, care and circumstance.
Psalm 34:7 / The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.
Those who fear the Lord are privy to special angelic attention and protection.
The singular here may mean it refers specifically to Christ Himself, of that special agent of God sent to guard and protect His people as Michael was uniquely assigned to Israel.
In either case, what a thing to contemplate that we receive such special attention at His hand.
Albert Barnes “Nothing is more clearly or constantly asserted than that the angels are employed in defending the people of God; in leading and guiding them; in comforting them under trial, and sustaining them in death…The most lonely, the most humble, the most obscure, and the poorest child of God, may have near him and around him a retinue and a defence which kings never have when their armies pitch their tents around their palaces, and when a thousand swords would at once be drawn to defend them.”
Psalm 34:9 / Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack!
The Lord is our Shepherd – we’ll not lack for anything our soul needs. Ever.
Those who fear Him know His supply in times of outward distress, inward worry, doubt and fear. In all places at all times – the great needs of our soul are always met. Even when we are weakest and most insensible we are being met that way.
Psalm 103:13 / As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
Who among us who are Christ’s can’t testify to how compassionate He is toward us in our sins and failings?
Oh how He takes such pity on us and how sin has ravaged our hearts, souls, minds and body.
He is a God of great compassion. A compassion that is most tenderly and lovingly bestowed on those who fear Him – not generically, but as a Father to His dearest children.
Psalm 103:17 / But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children,
And what else?
Those who fear Him do not just know His love for them, but His steadfast love – His unending, unbreakable, faithful, abiding, never wavering love. A love that knows no ups and downs but remains at all times and under all circumstances.
Psalm 147:11 / but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.
Some of you today desperately need to hear this: That the Lord does not just tolerate those who fear Him – He takes PLEASURE in you. He delights in you. He smiles at the thought of you. He watches you the way a parent delights in watching their child play.
As Zeph. 3 records: “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”
He is not disappointed in you and gritting His teeth at your weakness. Those who fear Him are assured that He takes pleasure in them.
Proverbs 10:27 / The fear of the Lord prolongs life, but the years of the wicked will be short.
What comes to those who fear the Lord? The grant of eternal life!
If the fear of the Lord only increased our age numerically in this life, we would have nothing more than sometimes accrues even to the unjust.
But it is not so with us.
The word here doesn’t just carry with it the idea of extending time – but of increasing life itself, enhancing and filling it. It is akin to Jesus’ words in John 10 where He says He came to give abundant life: Extraordinary, over and above, remarkable.
Life lived in the full realization of what life is for, what it is all about and what life in Christ will ultimately lead to.
It is life with confidence for today and the certainty of eternity.
Malachi 3:16-18 / Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name. “They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.
Those who fear the Lord are especially noted by Him – with this amazing phrase, that He writes their names down in a book of remembrance: So that on the final day, they are well marked out by name as His treasured possession.
All that remains for us today is to enquire: Am I one who fears the Lord?
Do I know Him with something of this reverential awe as I consider His creation, His revelation of Himself in His Word, and especially in His great redemptive work in Jesus on the Cross?
Has His Word filled me with fear of His judgment on sin so that I run to Him in all of His awesome wonder with the hope only of His promise in Christ?
If so – all these benefits and more are yours today.
And if not, why not? Why not come to Him today?
In all of His unimaginable glory He holds His hands out to you today and says: “Come.” There is forgiveness, cleansing, and reconciliation in the blood of Jesus Christ for you.