“Fear the Lord” – Jeremiah 5:12-25

June 2nd, 2019

Jeremiah 5:12-25

“Fear the Lord”

Aux. Text: Revelation 9:17-21

Call to Worship: Psalm 146

 

Service Orientation: God is all powerful, all knowing, ever present, kind, gracious, merciful, patient, forgiving, just, holy, righteous, and loving.  Why do we find it so hard to trust and obey?

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week: The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death. — Proverbs 14:27

                                                                                                                                           

Background Information:

  • (v. 13) They claimed that the Spirit in the prophets of the Lord was only wind. There is a play here on the Hebrew word rûah, which can mean “wind” or “spirit” (cf. The same usage of the Greek pneuma in the NT).  The prophets believed they had the Spirit of the Lord, the people claimed the prophets had only wind.  Thus the people denied the inspiration of the message of God through Jeremiah.  To label a prophet of God “wind” (“windbags,” so Mof) is the ultimate in irreverence.  And the people had the effrontery to say that the judgment the prophets threatened would descend on the prophets themselves.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 415)
  • (v. 13) Yahweh speaks to Jeremiah: because the people deny God’s power and the inspiration of the prophets, he will make his word a fire in the mouth of Jeremiah to destroy the people. The quotation of the saying of the people continues through vs. 13.  Their attitude is a “practical atheism,” which denies God’s power though not his existence (cf. Ps 14:1; Zeph 1:12).  (George Arthur Buttrick, Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 5, 848-9)
  • (v. 14) The Lord God of Hosts is God’s battle name.  He speaks to Jeremiah and says that he will make Jeremiah’s words a fire that will set the people, like wood, on fire.  His message will consume them with its ferocity.  (Tremper Longman III, Understanding the Bible: Jeremiah, Lamentations, 58)
  • (v. 18) Even in wrath, He remembers mercy (Hab 3:2). The Jewish prophets announced judgment, but they also promised that a “remnant” would be spared.  Isaiah repeated this promise (Isa 1:9; 10:20-22; 11:11, 16; 14:22; 46:3) and even named one of his sons (a remnant returns” (Shearjashub, 7:3); Micah echoed the same promise (Mic 2:12; 4:7; 5:3, 7-8; 7:18).  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 43)
  • (v. 18) God’s punishments are not vindictive but are meant to be restorative of the sinner. God must, and does, preserve a remnant according to his pledged word.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 416)
  • (v. 21) The words Jeremiah uses in v. 21 refer to idols in Ps 115:5-6. Here they refer to the people who had become like the idols they worshiped.  The language is purposely blunt to awaken the people to their dangerous condition.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 417)

 

The question to be answered is . . . Why do people have such a hard time fearing God?

 

Answer: The Fall, our sinfulness, and God’s Otherness create obstacles to having a proper fear of the Lord.

 

(V. 23) Heart is used in Scripture as the most comprehensive term for the authentic person. It is the part of our being where we desire, deliberate, and decide. It has been described as “the place of conscious and decisive spiritual activity,” “the comprehensive term for a person as a whole; his feelings, desires, passions, thought, understanding and will,” and “the center of a person. The place to which God turns.” (J. Stowell; Fan The Flame, 13)

 

Fearing God is the characteristic term for describing OT religion, somewhat like belief in the NT.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 249)

 

“The fear of God” was required in the following ways:  by keeping His commandments (Ex 20:20); by serving Him and keeping His statutes (Dt 6:13, 24); by hearkening to His voice (1 Sm 12:14); and by worshiping in His Temple (Ps 5:7).  Moses’ strict injunction to Israel was, “You shall fear your God” (Lv 19:14b).  Furthermore he said, “the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive” (Dt 6:24).  From early times rewards were promised for Jehovah worship.  (Merrill C. Tenney, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol. 2, 519)

 

To fear God means to be struck with awe in His all-consuming, holy presence; to stand always and forever in breathless exaltation of who He is and what He has done and how vastly and infinitely His greatness overshadows our brief, vaporous existence.  (David Jeremiah, Searching for Heaven on Earth, 311)

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Awe

 

Why do we find it hard to fear and trust the Lord?:

I-  We’ve been lied to.  (Jer 5:12; see also: Gn 3; Dt 11:16-17; 1 Kgs 13:18; Neh 6:12; Ezek 8:12; Zeph 1:12)

 

They have scornfully said, “He will do nothing!” (v. 12).  God, they thought, would not bring calamity on them.  The Lord is not, they assume, responsible for either their blessing or their trials; so they claim to have nothing to fear.  When told that disaster is impending, their response is that God will do no such thing (cf. Zeph 1:12).  So they deny God’s intervention and even his interest in their ways.  They were practical atheists.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 414)

 

Our problem is that we fail to feel the weight of the law. We are so hardened in our sin and so accustomed to our corruption that we give our attention not to the law of God but to the social customs of our culture, and we measure ourselves in conformity to those customs rather than against the standard of God’s perfect righteousness. (R.C. Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary – Romans, 68)

 

This principle is worth pondering whenever there is news of drought or some other natural disaster.  Are hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and droughts a sign of God’s judgment against idolatry?  Perhaps they are.  If so, God would be perfectly within his rights, because we live in a nation that worships many false gods.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 101)

 

Surely one of the reasons in these day for low moral standards is the lack of awareness of the majesty and holiness of God and of our accountability toward him.   To a certain degree the same deficiencies can be seen among professing Christians.  One of the marks of spiritual decline is that “there is no fear of God before his eyes” (Ps 36:1).  Instead we fill ourselves with confidence in our own sufficiency.  This is the complete antithesis of holiness.  (Kenneth Prior; The Way of Holiness, 21)

 

The idea of man’s self-sufficiency, man’s exaggerated consciousness of himself, was based upon a generalization; from the fact that technology could solve some problems it was deduced that technology could solve all problems.  This proved to be a fallacy.  Social reforms, it was thought, would cure all ills and eliminate all evils from our world.  Yet we have finally discovered what prophets and saints have always known: bread and power alone will not save humanity.  There is a passion and drive for cruel deeds which only the awe and fear of God can soothe; there is a suffocating selfishness in man which only holiness can ventilate.  (Abraham Joshua Heschel, God in Search of Man, 169)

 

The sense of the ineffable is a sense for transcendence, a sense for the allusiveness of reality to a super-rational meaning.  The ineffable, then, is a synonym for hidden meaning rather than for absence of meaning.  It stands for a dimension which in the Bible is called glory, a dimension so real and sublime that it stuns our ability to adore it, and fills us with awe rather than curiosity.

The universe with its millions upon millions of bodies, the farthest of which is an incomprehensible distance away from the globe, is without any reference to the needs of life as we comprehend it.  From the point of view of man, the universe seems to be without aim or purpose, and it would appear meaningless if man were the measure of meaning.  But here we are guilty of a contradiction.  How could man be a measure of meaning if ultimately there is no meaning?  Faced with the mind-surpassing grandeur of the universe, we cannot but admit that there is meaning which is greater than man.  There seem to be two courses of human thinking: one begins with man and his needs and ends in assuming that the universe is a meaningless display or a waste of energy; the other begins in amazement, in awe and humility and ends in the assumption that the universe is full of a glory that surpasses man and his mind, but is of eternal meaning to Him who made being possible.  (Abraham Joshua Heschel, God in Search of Man, 105)

 

The people, forgetful that God maintains His rights (Ex 20:5), had stressed the privileges of covenant membership at the expense of its responsibilities, thinking that punishment was incompatible with the nature of a loving God.  Consequently they had scoffed at predictions of calamity (cf. Zp 1:12), regarding the prophets as mere windbags whose word had no higher authority than their own, and adhering instead to the soothing utterances of false prognosticators.  (R.K. Harrison, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Jeremiah, 76-7)

 

The lesson taught here is that spiritual values can never be compromised with impunity.  The Christian is warned constantly to avoid every appearance of evil (cf. Rom 12:2; 13:14; 1 Cor 5:11, etc.).  (R.K. Harrison, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Jeremiah, 77)

 

The infinite power of God arouses neither fear nor gratitude on the part of Israel, and the fact that His control of the seasons could affect their welfare materially seems of no consequence.  Indeed, His richest blessings have already been prevented from reaching the people because of national sin.  (R.K. Harrison, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Jeremiah, 78)

 

Like the OT, the NT mentions that people stand in dread of God’s actions toward them.  At times this dread is produced unintentionally by God (e.g., Mt 17:7; 28:10; Lk 5:10), though often He causes it intentionally as a sign of His judgment on sin (e.g., Lk 12:5; Acts 5:5, 11; 1 Tm 5:20).  Perhaps the most famous statement relating terror and God is Heb 10:31: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”  Here the context is clearly one of judgment 9cf. Vv. 27, 30).  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol 2, 292)

 

II-  God’s Otherness. (Jer 5:15, 19, 21, 22b; see also: 1 Kings 8:27; Job 11:7-9; 36:26; 37:5; Psa 77:19; 92:5; 139:6; 145:3; Prov 30:4; Isa 40:28; 55:8-9; Mt 19:17; Rom 11:33-34; 1 Cor 2:16; Eph 3:8)

 

Once again Jeremiah pointed to the true cause of the judgment about to overwhelm this foolish and senseless generation.  The sea does not pass over its appointed bounds, he observed, but God’s people do overpass in deeds of wickedness.  Just as God controls the sea and the seasons, so also he can bring judgment on his people for their treachery.  (Howard Tillman Kuist, Layman’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 34)

 

How mighty God must be to rule the sea!  He rules over the rolling waves, and the stormy seas obey him.  He has set the oceans in their places and bounded them with the dry land.  If God can rule over the chaos of the sea, he deserves our reverence and awe.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 100)

 

God is the self-existent One, Commander of all the armies of heaven and earth.  Here is expressed God’s power over all created intelligences in the universe, a reference to the armies of Israel (Ex 7:4), the heavenly hosts (Ps 103:21), and the stars (Isa 40:26).  God’s word is never to be trifled with.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 415)

 

One of the great mistakes we’ve made in modern Christianity is approaching God deductively as an object of knowledge instead of approaching Him inductively as the cause of wonder.  So apologists try to prove that God is factual.  And He is.  But facts don’t awe us.  In my humble opinion, it takes far more faith to believe in macroevolution by random chance than creation by intelligent design.  But it’s about more than just arguing the evidence.  God is more than factual.  He is wonderful.  The mind is educated with facts, but the soul is educated with beauty and mystery.  And the curriculum is creation.  (Mark Batterson, Primal, A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, 53)

 

The smallness of these two measures–the hollow and the breadth of the human hand–are intended to show us the immensity of God Himself, who can deal with the entire universe as we might deal with the most trivial objects. “And these are but the outer fringes of his works,” we read in Job 26:14 about God’s wonders in nature; “how faint the whisper we hear of him.” When we’ve surveyed to our utmost all of creation, we’ve seen only the outer fringes of what God has done, we’ve heard only a whisper. Even the greatest conceivable measurements in creation are but an imperfect picture of how great God is. Truly our God is awesome. He is very great. (Jerry Bridges, The Joy of Fearing God, 51-52)

 

Jeremiah denounces the people since they do not treat the Lord with the proper awe.  Jeremiah now invokes creation themes with the sand in order to make the dry land.  The sea represents the power of chaos, but God firmly pushes back chaos to allow the order of creation to exist.  Further, God is the provider of the life-giving rains (v. 24).  This reference is particularly germane, since the people of God are tempted to worship a god like Baal who is a storm deity.  Their sins have deprived them of good, like the crops.  (Tremper Longman III, Understanding the Bible: Jeremiah, Lamentations, 59)

 

III-  Our sinfulness and pride. (Jer 5:19, 22-23, 25; see also: Prov 16:5, 18-19; 18:12; 21:4; 26:12; 28:11; 29:23; 30:12-13; Isa 6:9-10; Jer 9:23-24; Ob 3-4; Mt 13:11-21; Jn 12:40; Acts 28:26; 1 Cor 3:18; 10:12; Gal 6:3; Jam 4:6; Rev 3:17-18)

 

Sin produces nothing good.  Only evil things come to those who defy God’s purpose for their lives.  God is not merely neutral.  He wants to bless, but to bless those who ignore him and rebel against his standards would cause him to act against his moral character.  God is holy, and this cannot change.  (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah, 63)

 

The man who does not fear God becomes so proud that he cannot detect his own sinfulness.  (Patrick Morley; The Man In The Mirror, 242)

 

The idolatrous heart assumes that God is other than He is—in itself a monstrous sin—and substitutes for the true God one made after its own likeness.  Always this God will conform to the image of the one who created it and will be base or pure, cruel or kind, according to the moral state of the mind from which it emerges. (A. W. Tozer; The Knowledge of the Holy, 3)

 

Jeremiah told them that they were foolish, senseless, blind, and deaf, and that they had no fear of God.  They were stubborn and rebellious, having turned away from serving the Lord.  The mighty seas obeyed God’s rule, but His own people rejected Him.  God sent the rains and gave the harvests, but His people refused to thank Him.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 43)

 

Their problem was not intellectual but spiritual.  Their eyes and ears and minds were shut to the Word of God.  They were in denial, denying that the living God had a claim upon their lives and would judge them for their sins.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 98)

 

In spite of the tremendous power whereby God did set bounds for the sea, and subdued chaos, this foolish and senseless people do not fear him.  (George Arthur Buttrick, Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 5, 852)

 

But we must go one step further to reach the final implication of Jeremiah’s comparison.  It is to be found in the fact that: though the waves toss, they cannot prevail, though they roar, they cannot pass over the perpetual barrier of sand wherewith God has bound the rebellious seas.  So also is Israel rebellious, and Judah, too, is beginning to toss.  But just as the ocean cannot prevail against his higher purposes.  They will soon begin to feel the restrictive power of God whose ordinances cannot be so easily overleaped.  (George Arthur Buttrick, Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 5, 852-3)

 

The demand for fear, love, and reverence towards the Lord, is no doubt very hard for the natural man to fulfill, and all the harder the deeper it goes into the heart; but after such manifestations of the love and grace of God, it only follows as a matter of course.  “Fear, love, and obedience would naturally have taken root of themselves within the heart, if man had not corrupted his own heart.”  (C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the OT Vol 1, 343)

 

This section may be further divided and may actually contain more than one oracle.  Verses 20-25 address the foolish and senseless people who do not fear the Lord in spite of his great power as manifested particularly at creation.  (Tremper Longman III, Understanding the Bible: Jeremiah, Lamentations, 59)

 

I can scarcely conceive a heart so callous that it feels no awe, or a human mind so dull and destitute of understanding, as fairly to view the tokens of God’s omnipotent power, and then turn aside without some sense of the fitness of obedience. [But, he continues,] Is it not, my brethren, a marvelous thing, that the whole earth is obedient to God, save man? . . . On earth man makes the base exception, he is continually revolting and rebelling against his Maker.  (C.H. Spurgeon, Sermons, Fifth Series, 180-83)  (George Arthur Buttrick, Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 5, 851)

 

Verse 22 closes with a metaphor, the sea.  Even this great body of water obeys the limits God has set for it.  But the people of Jeremiah’s day exalted themselves above any restrictions God had set for them.  What arrogance and folly!  (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah, 63)

 

Worship point: God is all powerful, all knowing, ever present, kind, gracious, merciful, patient, forgiving, just, holy, righteous, and loving.  Why do we find it so hard to worship?

 

How many visitors to our churches encounter the Risen Christ?  Let’s face it—maybe they don’t because we’ve lost our first love and our holy fear of God, Who promises to judge the living and the dead.  May the Lord Jesus give us a fresh, world-changing vision of Himself—and may He give us the grace to lead others to His throne. (Eric Metaxas; “Beware of Apatheism!: Time to Rekindle Our First Love”  Breakpoint commentary, September 6th, 2018)

 

If there is no wonder, no experience of mystery, our efforts to worship will be futile.  There will be no worship without the Spirit.

If God can be understood and comprehended by any of our human means, then I cannot worship Him.  One thing is sure.  I will never bend my knees and say “Holy, holy, holy” to that which I have been able to decipher and figure out in my own mind!  That which I can explain will never bring me to the place of awe.  It can never fill me with astonishment or wonder or admiration.  (A. W. Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship?, 85)

 

Reverence and love, then, are the attitudes God looks for; they best show themselves in service (ie worship) and obedience.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 72)

 

The oracle also anticipates the obvious question that will follow the judgment: Why has the LORD our God done all this to us?  After all, the people likely grew up learning of their special relationship with Yahweh and the judgment will throw that relationship into question.  The answer is clear and emphatic.  They suffer because they betrayed God by worshiping other gods.  They have broken the covenant.  Since they have worshiped foreign gods, they will now serve foreigners in a strange land.  (Tremper Longman III, Understanding the Bible: Jeremiah, Lamentations, 58)

 

God could hardly be any more fair!  The people of Jerusalem had worshiped foreign gods all along.  What could be more appropriate than sending them to a place where they could serve those gods to their hearts’ content?

Be careful what you desire: God might grant it!  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 92)

 

Yahweh is a consuming fire before whom mortals rightfully recoil.  Although the “Word becoming flesh” in Christ highlights God’s continued determination to communicate with human beings, he does so in ways that sacrifice nothing of his glory (Jn 1:14).  As he was before ancient Israel, so God remains before all who have been grafted in and made heirs of the promises.  He is a consuming fire, before whom acceptable service will always arise out of deep reverence and awe (Heb 12:28-29).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 178-9)

 

Gospel Application: Jesus is God become flesh.  He died the death we deserved to die and lived the life we were supposed to live to save us.  He set aside His Godhood and did this because He loves us.

 

We cannot preach Christ by faith unless we have a deep faith in Christ.  We cannot cultivate this faith apart from knowing God’s awesome holiness.  His hatred of sin, and the extent and severity of human sin, including our own.  Only as we are gripped by the greatness of our need before God can we understand faith in Christ and experience the spiritual power that faith gives to life.  We are not likely to get this kind of faith unless we slow down and take time to lay hold of the power of the Cross.    (Miller; Outgrowing the Ingrown Church, 126)

 

Knowing God without knowing our own wretchedness makes for pride.  Knowing our own wretchedness without knowing God makes for despair.  Knowing Jesus Christ strikes the balance because he shows us both God and our own wretchedness. — Blaise Pascal

 

These prophets learned that it is only by the grace of God that anyone ever understands the message of salvation.  The mind and heart of the natural man is closed to God’s Word until he is regenerated by the Holy Spirit.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 99)

 

Spiritual Challenge: Meditate on what it means to fear the Lord.   Consider as well why it is so hard to have a proper awe of God and tremble at His word. (Dt 31:12-13; Josh 4:24; 1 Sm 12:24; Ps 34:11; Prv 3:7; 8:13; Isa 66:1-2)

 

This is not intellectual atheism; it is something much more common both in ancient Israel and today, believing in theory that there is a God, but ushering him politely to the touchlines of the universe where he sits, no doubt interested in what is going on, but never doing anything.  (Robert Davidson, Daily Study Bible Series: Jeremiah, 58)

 

He who can no longer pause to wonder, is as good as dead.  —A. Einstein.

 

We cannot separate trust in God from fear of God.  We will trust Him only to the extent that we genuinely stand in awe of Him.  (Jerry Bridges, The Joy of Fearing God, 48)

 

As John Bunyan said, “It is not the knowledge of the will of God, but our sincere complying therewith, that proves we fear the Lord.” (Jerry Bridges, The Joy of Fearing God, 139)

 

People need to be fed the Word so they can learn how to obey it in the places where they live and work.  Three times in Deuteronomy there are instructions to gather and teach the people so they will fear God and obey his commandments (4:10; 6:1, 2; 31:12, 13).  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 251)

 

Calvin describes the fear of the Lord as “a bridle to restrain our wickedness.”  We must keep asking God to help us always keep his fear before our eyes.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 340)

 

The majesty and holiness of God cannot but incite fear in man.  “God is clothed with terrible majesty.  The Almighty–we cannot find him; he is great in power and justice, and abundant righteousness he will not violate.  Therefore men fear him” (Job 37:22-24).  Anything of magnitude that dwarfs man by contrast incites fear in him.  As man gazes into a deep canyon, or into limitless stellar space, or across a boundless ocean, he senses a feeling of awesome fear.  How much more is this effect in the presence of God who is vastly greater than all these.  (Merrill C. Tenney, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol. 2, 519)

 

Awe precedes faith; it is at the root of faith.  We must grow in awe in order to reach faith.  We must be guided by awe to be worthy of faith.  Awe rather than faith is the cardinal attitude of the religious Jew.  It is “the beginning and gateway of faith, the first precept of all, and upon it the whole world is established.”  In Judaism, yirat hashem, the awe of God, or yirat shamayim, the “awe of heaven,” is almost equivalent to the word “religion.”  In Biblical language the religious man is not called “believer,” as he is for example in Islam (mu’min), but yare hashem.  (Abraham Joshua Heschel, God in Search of Man, 77)

 

This is what God desires of us?  In His works and Word He has manifested Himself that we as His creatures might stand in awe, beholding the symmetry of His attributes, the harmony of His deeds, the glory of His goodness, the overwhelming and unfathomable grandeur of His greatness: in a word, His beauty.  So often we turn to God only when in need.  He is all too frequently for us no more than an instrument or tool subservient to our desires and put to use to achieve some selfish design.  Of course, God is our source, our salvation, our sustenance.  But He is first and fundamentally to be seen as altogether beautiful in Himself, worthy of all praise, glory, and honor were we never ourselves to profit from His goodness.  (C. Samuel Storms, The Grandeur of God, 150)

 

Spiritual Challenge Questions:

 

 

  1. What is there about the Fall that creates an obstacle to obtaining a proper “Fear of the Lord”?
  2. John Calvin, Phillip Johnson, and many others believe it is the lack of the “Fear of the Lord” that is the basis of our moral ills and lack of respect for nature, mankind and authority. Do you agree or disagree?  Why?
  3. What can we do to cultivate a proper “Fear of the Lord” in our lives?
  4. There were two quotes I ran across that (I think) are worthy of much contemplation. They are:  “Kill reverence, and you have killed the hero in a man” by Edward Rand & “Let parents bequeath to their children not riches, but the spirit of reverence.” by Plato.  Thoughts?!?

 

The fear of the Lord, which springs from the knowledge of one’s own unholiness in the presence of the holy God, ought to form the one leading emotion in the heart prompting to walk in all the ways of the Lord, and to maintain morality of conduct in its strictest form.  This fear, which first enables us to comprehend the mercy of God, awakens love, the fruit of which is manifested in serving God with all the heart and all the soul (see 6:5).  (C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the OT Vol 1, 344)

 

To fear the LORD your God is to have a basic respect and reverence for the covenant Lord that permeates all other attitudes (cf. 5:29; 6:13; 10:20).  To walk in all his ways, as the imitation of God, is perhaps the phrase in the Hebrew Bible that most nearly summarizes what we mean by “OT ethics” (cf. 5:33; 8:6; 11:22).  To love him is to have and express covenant loyalty and obedience flowing out of gratitude (cf. 6:5; 11:1, 13, 22).  To serve the LORD your God with all your heart and all your soul is virtually identical to “loving” God, but with the added metaphor of bonded service to the one who has bought and therefore owns the people (cf. 6:13; 10:20; 11:13).  To observe the LORD’s commands is to give careful, conscientious, and constant attention to the terms and stipulations of the covenant relationship (cf. 7:11; 11:1, 8, 13, 22).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 145)

 

The remarkable thing about fearing God is that when you fear God you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God you fear everything else.  —Oswald Chambers

 

So What?: We will never enjoy the abundant life of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control until we learn to have a proper fear of the Lord and tremble at His Word.  (Dt 6:24; Ps 34:9; 115:13; 128:1; Prv 10:27; 14:27; 19:23; 22:4)

 

Do with me whatever it shall please thee.  For it can not be anything but good, whatever thou shalt do with me.  If it be thy will I should be in darkness, be thou blessed; and if it be thy will I should be in light, be thou again blessed.  If thou grant me comfort, be thou blessed; and if thou will have me afflicted, be thou still equally blessed.  My son, such as this ought to be thy state, if thou desire to walk with Me.  Thou must be as ready to suffer as to rejoice.  Thou must cheerfully be as destitute and poor, as full and rich.  (Thomas A Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, III:17:1-2)

 

In the wisdom lit. it is stated:  “The fear of the LORD prolongs life” (Prv 10:27); “The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life” (14:27); “. . . leads to life” (22:4; cf. Ps 61:5; 119:37f.).  One of the most familiar Proverbs is “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Prv 9:10; Ps 111:10).  Similar ones are: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Prv 1:7), and “The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom” (15:33).  David summarized religious benefits in two statements:  “He fulfills the desire of all who fear him” (Ps 145:19), and “O how abundant is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for those who fear thee” (Ps 31:19; cf. 34:9).  (Merrill C. Tenney, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol. 2, 519)

 

That the fear of the Lord should be a key theme in the OT should not surprise us because the OT focused a lot on the majesty and holiness of God, and fear is the natural response to such.  However, the fear of the Lord in the Bible is liberating; it is not something that binds us with terror.  So the Bible describes it as “a fountain of life” (Prv 14:27).  Essentially this is because of who God is.  The fear of the Lord comes from knowing that God rewards those who obey him and punishes those who disobey him.  Far from binding us, it opens the door to true freedom.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 249)

 

Through obedience, Israel could enter into secure possession of the land, long life, enjoyment of all God’s gifts, etc. (cf. 5:29, 33; 6:24; 30:15-20).  It also condenses the important ethical point that the law itself was a gift of God’s grace for the benefit of human beings, not an imposition for arbitrary divine satisfaction.  As Moses has already pointed out (4:6-8), observing the law is wisdom–it not only pleases the giver of the law, but it benefits the keeper of the law.  “Obedience is good for you,” may not sparkle as an advertising slogan, but it captures the human perspective of OT ethics.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 145)

JESUS:

INCARNATE

EMMANUEL

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