Monday, March 09, 2015

Wisdom Study Session 5: "Fear of the Lord" = Recognition of and Submission to God's Complete Authority

Respect for and acceptance of God’s awesome power and authority is the most basic, most essential, element of fearing God. We see it in the Hebrews’ response to God’s appearances and actions during the Exodus. Deuteronomy 5:24-29, Joshua 4:19-24. We also see it in Abraham’s and Job’s acceptance God’s authority to completely upend their lives. Genesis 22:1-12, Job 1. The Psalms connect fear of the Lord with being in awe of and submission to God. Psalm 22:23; 33:8-9; 76:7-12; Ps 128:1. This fundamental aspect of fearing God is also described in the wisdom books. Proverbs 1:20-30 and 24:21-22; Sirach 2:15-17.

Is this still applicable after Jesus came to us in humility, calling us to Himself with gentleness?  Absolutely.

Jesus himself tells us that we must continue to fear God’s awesome power. Matthew 10:28, Luke 12:5. The Apostles, those closest to Him, displayed and taught this, both before and after His resurrection/ascension. Luke 5:9-11, Matthew 28:16-17, Acts 9:3-7, Philippians 2:9-12, 1 Peter 5:6, Revelation 1:17-18. Others who encountered Jesus displayed it. Matthew 2:11-12, Mark 5:32-33, Luke 8:43-48. It continues right now in heaven. Revelation 14:7.

So how do we reconcile the continuing need to recognize and respect God’s truly awesome authority with Jesus’ loving and approachable nature?  Two sets of verses come to mind.

The first is Matthew 11:28-30:
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (NASB)

The second is Luke 18:15-17:
And they were bringing even their babies to Him so He would touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they began rebuking them. 16 But Jesus called for them, saying, “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” (NASB).

In both, Jesus expressly invites us to approach him in close, intimate, ways. Indeed, in the Luke passage He acts to remove barriers to Him.

Yet in both, he demands recognition of and submission to His authority. The yoke and burden in the Matthew passage show that we must submit to His direction and do His work. See Sirach 6:23-31. And babies, the exemplar Jesus uses in the Luke passage, are subject to adults’ complete control. So although we can freely approach God through Jesus, we must still recognize and submit to His complete authority.

Consistent with that, Jesus stressed that we must actually live out what God commands. Matthew 7:21-27, Luke 6:46-49; Luke 8:19-21; Luke 11:27-28; John 13:17; John 14:15; John 14:21; John 14:23; John 15:10. His closest disciples also recognized that. See James 1:22-25; 2:3-5;  3:24;  5:3; 2 John 1:6

Wisdom Study Session 4: Introduction to the "fear of the Lord."

Proverbs 1:7 tells us that “fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” Proverbs 9:10 teaches that “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  Other scripture links “fear of the Lord” to well-being. Psalms 103:11, 112:1, 115:13, and 128:3. “Fear of the Lord” is therefore a concept we need to understand.

Scripture does explicitly or comprehensively define the term in any particular passage, but it does allow us to understand it. Various Old Testament passages describe certain aspects of the concept, sometimes by giving examples and sometimes by connecting fear of the Lord to certain types of conduct. And given the importance of the concept, it’s not surprising that Jesus and the New Testament writers also stress those aspects, even though they may not explicitly call them “fear of the Lord.”

So what does it mean to  “fear of the Lord”?

Very briefly stated, it means living a truly God centered life, resulting in right relationship to God and other people.  

Each of the posts on this topic will explore one of the more specific aspects of fearing the Lord. We’ll first look at what the Old Testament says about it. Then we’ll consider how that aspect carries over into the New Testament. 

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Wisdom Study Session 3--We should always seek more wisdom.

“Let the wise listen and learn yet more” Proverbs 1:5, (NJB)

This verse tells us that we should never stop seeking wisdom, even if God has already given us some.  There is always more to learn, and God will teach us if we keep striving to learn.

We see that principle in other verses from wisdom literature.  Proverbs 9:9 tells us that “a wise man… will be still wiser,” and that a righteous man will “increase in learning” if he to opens himself to further instruction.   Sirach 6:18 similarly teach that we can still find wisdom, even after we have “gray hair.”        

Jesus also told us about that principle. In Matthew 13:12 he taught that ”to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance[.]”  That precept is repeated throughout the Gospels. See, Matthew 25:29; Mark 4:24-25, Luke 8:18,  John 15:2.

So how do we do that? Three things come to mind.     

First, make good use of the wisdom God has already given you. God will further bless those who make good use of what he has already given them, but we are unlikely to get more wisdom if we don’t bear fruit with what we already have. Matthew 25:14-30, Luke 19:12-26, John 15:2.

Second, we must be humble, accept that there is a LOT that we don’t know. We have to open our selves to that, recognize that there is more to learn.  Maybe that was what Solomon was getting at when he wrote “let the wise hear.” Proverbs 1:5 (ESV).  In other words, we have to get over ourselves. See Proverbs 11:2, Matthew 23:12, Luke 7:36-50, Luke 18:9-14

Third, we have to make a conscious, intentional, effort to learn; be on the alert for insights from God.  Jesus told us to “pay attention to what you hear.” Mark 4:24. Accord, Luke 8:18 (“Take care then how you hear”). One way to do that is to keep thinking about a particular scripture throughout the day. See, Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:1-2; Philippians 4:8. It is amazing what God will teach you if you keep “chewing on’” a particular part of His word.