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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Trembling at the Word of God

This is a reflection on my Bible reading plan today. I write and send these reflections two or three times per week to those who have requested them. Send me an email here if you would like to receive them

I’ve read today’s and tomorrow’ reading this morning from 2 Samuel 5-6 and other passages. It’s always hard for me to read on Sunday, but I often have more time than normal on Saturday. A portion of today’s reading has me thinking about these verses.

Psalm 111:10 (ESV)
10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; 
all those who practice it have a good understanding. 
His praise endures forever!

Isaiah 66:2 (ESV)
2 All these things my hand has made, 
and so all these things came to be, 
declares the Lord. 
But this is the one to whom I will look: 
he who is humble and contrite in spirit 
and trembles at my word.

The fear of the Lord is the very beginning of wisdom. Apparently, we can’t even get started down the path of wisdom unless we are experiencing the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord is not a cringing fear like an abused dog that cringes when you reach out to pet it. Rather, the fear of the Lord is a love based reverence and respect that increasingly recognizes the full character of God. God is both the God of love and he is all powerful. He is both eternal and intimately present. He created all things and he owns all things and yet he so loved the world that he gave his one and only son so that whosever believes in him would not perish but would have eternal life. Knowing God in all his character leads to this love based reverence. But we can’t strip out the “fear” in the fear of the Lord. Because our God is a consuming fire says the writer of Hebrews. And then there is this text that brings a couple of these ideas together. Isa 66:2. All these things my hand has made. God is the creator of everything that exists. He is the only reason anything that exists. 

In last night’s Secret Church presentation which we simulcast at our facility and which was tremendous, David Platt said early in the meeting that the most offensive verse in the Bible is not one that has to do with a hot button social issue of the day. Rather, its Genesis 1:1. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” If that’s true, and it is, then everything belongs to God, including every person, and we will each give an account to him for our lives and we ignore him and his word at our peril. Isaiah 66:2 speaks of both the greatness of God through creation and the personal relating of God to fragile human beings when he says, “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” 

Bringing all these ideas together, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and God looks or God responds to those who possess humility, who are contrite in spirit and who tremble at my word. 

Perhaps we could say that all of these phrases are different ways of describing the same reality. But how do we get this character of spirit that loves and reverences God? The last phrase is a clue. Those who tremble at my word. But how do we learn to do that? 

All of this is an act of God’s grace to us; the ability to tremble at his word, to grow in humility and contriteness of spirit and the fear of the Lord, but I am confident of this. God works through his word and through his grace to create these characteristics in us when we read stories like is in today’s reading, the story of Uzzah. 

Uzzah died because as he was helping to transmit the ark from one place to another, at the instruction of King David, he reached out to touch it, because the oxen had stumbled and Uzzah was instantly struck dead. It’s only God’s patience and mercy toward me that I have not been struck dead by what seems like to me many more instances of a lack of reverence for God than Uzzah’s. That reality remind us of both God’s holiness and his grace. This of course, isn’t the only text we have to tell us about God. We have all of the N.T. and a full picture of the glory of the gospel. But the story of Uzzah is a part of that gospel. And it is a part of what God uses in us to generate the fear of the Lord. 

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