|Monthly memory verse: “Teach me Your way, O LORD, that I may walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name” (Ps 86:11).
Dearly beloved saints of Covenant of Grace,
It was, as always, the highlight and joy of the week to worship with you this past Lord’s Day. In the time since, I have been praying for each of you, your households, and our congregation as a whole. It has been my prayer, and it is my hope, that as you read this letter you are filled with a Spirit-wrought fear of the Lord, both for the sake of His glory and for your good.
Of course, the idea that His people should fear Him strikes many as a bit strange, wondering if we’re supposed to think of Him as a harsh tyrant, living on eggshells, terrified at the thought of misstepping and drawing His ire. But the biblical fear of the Lord is something quite different. Yes, it involves an appropriate awareness of His threatenings against the wicked and a corresponding desire not be found among them, but it more centrally involves an awe-filled childlike posture that recognizes and rightly responds to His awesome majesty, sovereign power, perfect knowledge and wisdom, and all-excelling holiness. It is a reverence that esteems the Lord more highly than anything or anyone else, humbly desiring to know, treasure, love, learn from, submit to, obey, and be blessed by Him who is the Source of all goodness. It is a longing to see Him magnified not only in all things, but in ourselves and our lives, so that we willingly and meekly draw near to Him, asking of Him mercy, strength, and direction so that we might more and more faithfully confess and display His glory in all that we are and do. It is the essence of approaching Him rightly, and of living for Him in a way that truly pleases Him. As such, the Word of God repeatedly entices us to pursue the fear of the Lord, holding forth wonderful benefits to us. They are too many to consider them all here, but consider a few.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (cf. Prov 1:7). That is to say, while even unbelievers can collect a great deal of information in this world, until we truly recognize the Lord as the sovereign Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer that He is, we will never be able to properly understand the true source, purpose, and end of all things. Without all things, ourselves included, being set in the context of being part of the Lord’s creation, we will never be able to discover how it all fits together. We won’t know Him, we won’t know ourselves as we really are, and we won’t understand the beautiful, unified order that surrounds us and reveals itself in science, mathematics, and so on. We won’t understand how everything from individual lives, to families, to nations are to be ordered. In short, life simply won’t make any real sense, and we won’t be able to give an explanation for why we’re inclined to look for order in the world if it all comes from chaos, or nowhere, or whatever we posit in place of the true God. Without Him, all knowledge is not only incomplete but unattached from its proper place in relation to the whole. Whereas, on the other hand, when we fear and know the Lord, we will begin to see a glorious, cohesive, wisely designed, wonderfully united order everywhere we look. Yes, it is marred by sin, but, by God’s grace, much coherence remains and some sense can be made of it, allowing for fruitful pursuits in everything from family life to academics to politics. Without the Lord we are fools, but with Him there is knowledge.
Closely related to this, the fear of the Lord is also the beginning of wisdom (cf. Prov 9:10). That is, the capacity not only to rightly understand certain facts or gather information in its proper context, but the ability to properly apply this knowledge to achieve a desirable end, suitable to the proper end of all things, which is the glory of God. Humbly learning from His wisdom as revealed in His Word, we can begin to discern how to behave ourselves in our own lives, how to shape our families, how to run our businesses, and how to order society at large in a way that is truly beneficial for people made in God’s image, and that magnifies the One who made us for this very reason. Without the wisdom from above, all of life is inevitably disordered. Even outwardly good deeds done without a desire to honor the Lord from a proper reverence for Him aren’t pleasing in His sight, but sin – drawing not His pleasure but His displeasure. Yet, the same deeds done from a heart of love for the Lord, guided and fueled by a desire to know and live by the wisdom revealed in HIs Word, are well-pleasing in His sight, such that He promises to reward them in due time. Until one learns to fear Him, nothing is or can be done aright, not in the ultimate sense. But, when once one has learned to fear the Lord, everything that we do can be done to the glory of our God. In Him, there is wisdom that is beneficial or this life and that which is to come.
The fear of the Lord is further said to be the key to His covenant (cf. Prov 25:14). Those who too proud, too haughty, too puffed-up to bend low and come before Him seeking His blessing are only know by Him from far off. But, he draws near to the one who is broken in heart and contrite in spirit, revealing His glorious salvation in Christ to them, forgiving all their sins, adopting them into His family, and beginning to grow them into maturity as citizens and heirs of His kingdom. When we come with a proud attitude that says, “I’m a good person, I have all I need,” we find the way to the favor of the Lord barred by a firm blockade. But, when we come beating our breasts, as it were, saying, “Lord, have mercy on me, the sinner,” we find that the gate to His forgiveness and favor stands wide-open, as He welcomes us, washes us, and begins to pour out upon us blessings beyond measure in His Son. To be stiff-necked with noses lifted high is to know nothing of His covenant mercies, but to come with head bowed and eyes to the ground, as it were, acknowledging His holiness and our sinfulness, holding Him in high esteem and ourselves in low regard, is to be wrapped-about by the arms of His covenant kindness.
Thus, the fear of the Lord is said to be the key to His mercy (cf. Lk 1:50). Mary praised the Lord with this declaration when His angel spoke to her of the Son the Lord was sending into the world through her. She humbled herself, willing to be the Lord’s instrument and amazed at the grace He was declaring and preparing to show through the Son to be born. To her, and to all who similarly humble themselves to hear and submit to the Lord in whatever manner He deems fit to use us, receiving His mercy and ready, from now on, to live for Him, the Lord holds forth overabundant mercy – plenteous redemption – in His Son, Jesus Christ.
Let us then pray for hearts and lives that, while much could be said of them, can well be summarized as being grounded in and motivated by, “the fear of the Lord.” May He make it so in your case. And may He thus grant you to grow in knowledge, wisdom, and the experience of His countless covenant blessing and mercies!
Join us for the prayer meeting each Wednesday in the Fellowship Hall. Dinner is served at 6:00pm, followed by a brief lesson and a time of prayer at 6:30. Or, join us for prayer each Thursday at 10:30am in the adult Sunday School room.