Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Wisdom Study Session 7: Those who "Fear of the Lord" Focus on Knowing God's Ways

Another key aspect of fearing the Lord is actively, intentionally, seeking to know His ways.  That is consistent with our working definition of “fear of the Lord”—living a God centered life. We focus our energy on what we are centered on.

The two primary passages on this are Proverbs 2:1-5 and Sirach 14:20-15:1.  Although they speak in terms of seeking after wisdom, that is the same as seeking after God. As we shall explore in a later post, wisdom is an analog of Jesus, and since Jesus is fully God, seeking after Him is seeking after God.

All right then, what do Proverbs 2:1-5 and Sirach 14:20-15:1 tell us to do to learn about God? Three things.

First, we must concentrate on it. This is not a casual, do it when its convenient, inquiry. We must be willing to alter our day-to-day routine. These passages direct us to “turn [our] ear[s],” “apply [our] heart[s],” and  “fix [our] gaze” upon the subject. We must move from where we are to where God is, getting close enough to figuratively peep through His windows, listen at His doors, and be in His shadow. This focused, intentional, inquiry must be a priority.

Second, once we’re there, we must exert serious, and continuing, effort to gain knowledge about God. We are to  “look for it as for silver,” search “for it as for hidden treasure,” and purse it “like a hunter.”

Third, we have to be humble enough to ask for His help. We must “call out for insight 
and cry aloud for understanding.”

That is not easy, but it is essential. Sirach 15:1 tells us that “[w]hoever fears the Lord will do this, “ and Proverbs 2:5 promises that those who do so “will understand the fear of the Lord
 and find the knowledge of God.”

Those principles still apply.

We too must concentrate our efforts to know God. Jesus tells must be confine ourselves to His narrow path, Matthew 7:13-14, Luke 13:22-24, and to be willing to give up other things. Matthew 13:44-46. Paul wrote that we must be willing to leave our old ways behind in order to focus on God. Philippians 3:8.  Peter also recognized that reality. 1 Peter 4:1-4.  This is a prioritized, focused, pursuit.

We too must work hard at the process, sticking with it over time. Jesus told us that we must be persistent in our efforts. Luke 11:5-13Luke 18:1-8Paul also described the continuing effort involved, Philippians 2:12-13, 3:12-14. The writer of Hebrews 12:7-13 did too. James 1:22-25 warns us against “listening and forgetting,” and therefore directs us to “look steadily…and keep[] to it.” (NJB).

And we too must ask for God’s help. Jesus tells us that God will be “give the Holy Spirit to those who ask," so we should ask, seek, and knock on God’s door.  Luke 11:9-13, Matthew 7:7-8. St. Paul similarly told us that God will respond to such prayers and petitions. Philippians 4:6-7. We see the same advice in Hebrews 4:14-16 and James 1:5.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Wisdom Study Session 6: "To fear the Lord is to hate evil.”

Another key aspect of fearing the Lord is to abhor, be repulsed by, evil. Exodus 18:21, Sirach 8:13, cf. Psalm 36:1. Therefore, those who fear the Lord avoid situations where they will be tempted to evil. Tobit 4:21, Job 1:1 & 8, Job 2:3, Psalm 34:11-14, Proverbs 3:7, Proverbs 23:17. They also do their best to get rid of/away from evil when it comes into their lives. Job 28:28, Psalm 34:11-14. They refuse to engage in it when confronted by it. Exodus 1:17. Proverbs 8:13 puts it well: to “fear the Lord is to hate evil.”

Jesus and the New Testament writers share that hatred of evil. They too stress the need to avoid evil. Matthew 6:13, Matthew 26:41, Mark 14:38, Luke 11:14, Luke 22:40, Luke 22:46, 1 Corinthians 10:12, 1 Peter 5:8-9, 2 Peter 3:17, 2 John 7-8. They place great emphasis on removing it when it is in our lives. Matthew 5:29-30, Matthew 18:8-9, Mark 9:43-47, 2 Timothy 2:22.

So how do we do that? After all, there is a LOT of evil in this world. Scripture gives us several specific instructions.

Initially, we must be alert to the fact that evil and temptations to it exist, and be on our guard against them. Matthew 26:41, Mark 14:38, 1 Corinthians 10:12, 1 Peter 5:8-9, 2 Peter 3:17, 2 Peter 3:17, 2 John 7-8.  We need to pay particular attention to our “triggers,” things that predictably lure us into sin. Jesus was very clear on this point—we have to identify them and do whatever it takes to get/keep them out of our lives. Matthew 5:29-30, Matthew 18:8-9, Mark 9:43-47.

Prayer is key in this. Jesus and His disciples placed great emphasis on explicitly asking God to help us avoid sin and evil. Matthew 26:41, Mark 14:38, Luke 22:40, Luke 22:46. Indeed, that is one of the things He told us to ask for when He taught us the Lord’s Prayer/Our Father. Matthew 6:13, Luke 11:14.

Another, related, approach is to stay focused on God and on affirmatively doing good. Tobit 4:21, Psalm 34:11-14, 2 Timothy 2:22, 2 Peter 3:17-18. We can do that by keeping our minds on particular tasks, things, He wants us to be working on and by keeping our eyes open for ways to help folks in need. 

Another way is by surrounding ourselves with godly folks. 2 Timothy 2:22, 1 Peter 5:8-9

Consciously, intentionally, focusing on scripture is yet another powerful technique; Jesus gave us a great example of this in His triumph over temptation. Matthew 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-13

The common dynamic in all of these is that we are far less likely to engage in evil if we are actively seeking God and to advance is kingdom