Fearing God (3)
Praise the LORD!
Blessed is the man who fears the LORD,
Whodelights greatly in His commandments. Psalm 112.1
Who fears the Lord?
God requires that His people fear Him. Jesus warned us to fear God and to follow in His ways. Paul commands us to bring holiness to completion in the fear of God. Peter insists that we must fear God during our sojourn on this earth.
Clearly, we need to pay careful attention to what fearing God entails.
They are relating properly to God who, having come through faith in Jesus Christ to know the Father, now live daily in love and fear of Him. What characterizes such people? That is, how can we know those who love and fear the Lord?
More to the point, how can we be sure that welove and fear the Lord?
The psalmist tells us plainly: they fear the Lord who delight greatly in His commandments. The reference here is clearly to the Law of God – the Ten Commandments and the statutes, precepts, and rules which guide us in the blameless life of love for God and our neighbors (Lk. 1.6; Matt. 22.34-30). Paul insists that the Law of God is holy and righteous and good (Rom. 7.12), and it is appropriate for those who delight in the God Who gave such laws, to delight in His Law as well.
We fear God when we delight greatly in His Law. Not delighting in God’s Law may be an indication that we do not fear Him as He requires.
Delighting in God’s Law
But what does it mean to delight greatly in the Law of God?
First, we cannot delight in what we do not know. From time to time, Susie and I have enjoyed a wonderful dinner of rice, black-eyed peas, and chicken livers, swathed in bacon. Prior to marrying Susie, I would never have thought that such food could delight my palate so richly. I remember, as a child, seeing my mother and grandmother enjoy a lunch of liver, onions, and bacon from time to time. And I recall vowing that I could never eat such horrid smelling food. It took marrying Susie for me to learn otherwise, and to take delight in this and many other foods – except, of course, eggplant – which I would otherwise never have known.
If we would delight in the Law, therefore, we must first come to know it. And the only way to come to know it is to begin feeding on it daily (Jer. 15.16).
For many believers, this will be a new experience – like sitting down to chicken livers for the first time. In the contemporary Church, we have become persuaded that the Law of God is not for us. We’re “under grace” rather than “under the Law.” We fear that keeping the Law might turn us into legalists or detract from the gracious salvation we know through Jesus Christ.
But once you begin to read, study, and meditate on the Law of God, you will discover such clear guidance for loving God and neighbors, such profound wisdom and beauty, such right and true counsel for everyday living, and such a wealth of common sense instruction for maintaining a just and orderly society, that you will not be able to help yourself. You’ll delight in what you’re learning.
As you develop a taste for God’s holy and righteous and good Law, your delight in it will grow. The more you feed on God’s Law, the more you will understand of His holiness, as well of your sin (Rom. 7.7). And the more you learn of these, the more fear of God and love for Him will increase in you.
The righteous person delights to meditate in God’s Law day and night (Ps. 1); and he finds no contradiction whatsoever in the salvation which we receive by grace through faith, and the salvation which we unpack through obedience to the gracious Law of God.
Doing the Law
But it doesn’t stop here. As we begin to delight in studying the Law of God, we will delight even more in obeyingit. We will learn to say with the psalmist, “Oh how I love Your law!” (Ps. 119.97), and the Law will become such a source of joy to us that we will hasten to add, “I delight to doyour will, O my God” (Ps. 40.8). In doingthe Law of God we walk in the paths of love for God and neighbor that mark out the course of divine grace as it flows through us and before us (1 Jn. 2.1-6).
Rivers of living water will flow through our words and deeds, as the Spirit of God fills, teaches, and empowers us to obey the Law of God (Ezek. 36.26, 27; Jn. 7.37-39). We will discover depths of transforming grace and power that we have never known before, as we work out our salvation in fear and trembling by submitting to God’s Law (Phil. 2.12, 13).
The Law of God is not a burden to be reluctantly learned and grudgingly obeyed. It is, rather, the very source of full and abundant life to all who delight in it (Lev. 8.1-5). They who fear the Lord nurture and manifest that fear by delighting greatly in His Law. Loving God and fearing Him thus go hand in hand, through the joyful, consistent, increasing study and practice of the holy and righteous and good Law of God.
We are commanded to fear God, and in fearing Him, we enter His pleasure. The way to that fear, and into that pleasure, is by learning and obeying the Law of God.
1. By Law of God, we mean the Ten Commandments and the various civil and ceremonial laws that detail how to practice those commandments. What has been the role of the Law of God in your Christian life?
2. We’re not saved by good works, but we’re not saved without them. In the same way, we’re not saved by the Law, but this does not mean we reject the Law as irrelevant to Christian life (cf. Rom. 3.31). How should the Law of God function in a believer’s walk with the Lord?
3. Meditate on Psalm 1. How might you begin to give the Law a more prominent and fruitful place in your Christian life?
Next step – Transformations: Look up all the passages cited in today’s column. Taking them all together, write a brief description of what you think your attitude should be toward the Law of God. Share that description with some of your Christian friends. Will they agree?
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.