FEAR THE LORD?

In my High School Bible class we recently concluded our survey of the five poetry and wisdom books in the Old Testament. Both Proverbs and Ecclesiastes give a foundational principle that can be confusing and has troubled some believers. Proverbs 1:7 declares “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.” And Ecclesiastes 12:13 wraps up the book with “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments.”

Are we really supposed to fear God? That all depends on our relationship with him and our understanding of the challenge. What does it mean to fear the LORD?

I don’t think it means we should run from, avoid, or shrink away from him like we would a dangerous animal or situation. After all, he is our Creator and Heavenly Father and he loves us. He also is our friend, but he is not our pal or good buddy.

In my teaching the past few years I’ve been thinking and talking about the fear of the LORD quite a bit in trying to understand what it means and challenge my students. A couple of weeks ago I realized my proposals suggest an acrostic: ARWOL.

Fear of the LORD begins with an acknowledgement of his existence. You no doubt believe God is, but not everyone does. To fear the LORD we must acknowledge the LORD. But it is more than that.

To fear the LORD is also to respect him. By their words and actions, a lot of people who acknowledge God certainly don’t seem to respect him. To fear the LORD we must respect the LORD. But it is more than that.

To fear the LORD is to worship him. And by that I don’t mean simply going to church. Of course I think it means we go to church, but worship involves much more than just going to church. It goes beyond acknowledging and respecting him to honoring him for who he is. To fear LORD we must worship the LORD. But it is more than that.

To fear the LORD is to obey him. That’s part of what Ecclesiastes 12:13 is saying goes with fearing God. But it is not to intimate that if we fear the LORD we will perfectly obey him. We know that is not the case. We might say we try to obey him or we intend to obey him or our resolve is to obey him even though we are not always successful. But because we fear him it is our intention and goal to obey him. But it is more than just obey him.

Finally in my acrostic, to fear the LORD is to love him. You remember I’m sure Jesus’ answer to the question asked of him in Matthew 22:36 and 37 about the greatest commandment. He replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” My paraphrase: love God completely. To fear the LORD we must love the LORD. And to love the LORD is to acknowledge, respect, worship, and obey him.

I’m interested in what you think. Please feel free to leave a comment below (or email me at bobmmink@gmail.com) and/or share this post on Facebook or other social media.

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REMEMBER THE ROLLING STONES?

“Older” readers no doubt remember the Rolling Stones and most “younger” readers probably have heard their best known song I Can’t Get No Satisfaction (1965). I’ve been reading the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes and could not help but think of the their first number one hit in the US and what is considered by many the greatest song they ever recorded. The writer of Ecclesiastes relates how he did not find satisfaction in work, pleasure, wealth, wisdom, or power.

Ecclesiastes comes right after the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament and both are in the category of wisdom literature. When I read the book of Proverbs I am challenged and encouraged, but when I read the book of Ecclesiastes, if I am not careful, I am confused and almost depressed. Parts of it seem to contradict not only the book of Proverbs, but a lot of the rest of the Bible as well.

The second verse of chapter one declares, “Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless!” The Teacher not only can’t get any satisfaction, he thinks everything is futile and pointless. Most of us have felt the same at times in our lives. But this is the Bible; you can see why I am confused and almost depressed! In their book How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth authors Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart affirm “There is good reason for the reader to be puzzled, because Ecclesiastes is a very difficult book to read.”

Even with the unsettling parts, there are numerous notes of wisdom throughout the book. We just have to read it carefully and with discernment. For example, 3:1 tells us “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” There follows a list of 14 pairs of opposites beginning with “a time to be born and a time to die” and ending with “a time for war and time for peace.”

I appreciate the insight of 4:9 that “two are better than one” and the examples of why that is true that follow: “they have a good return for their labor,” “if either of them falls down, one can help the other up,” “if two lie down together, they will keep warm,” and “two can defend themselves.”

The Teacher’s observation on money and wealth in 5:10 gets my attention: “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.” The wisdom of 7:5 gives us something to consider: “It is better to heed the rebuke of a wise person than to listen to the song of fools.”

In reading the Teacher’s honest assessment of things it’s helpful to keep in mind he is talking about life “under the sun.” Chuck Swindoll notes that life “under the sun” is life without the Lord. The writer of Ecclesiastes doesn’t use the phrase, but Swindoll suggests that to find happiness and meaning in life “we must get above the sun”—by including God and faith in our lives.

Philip Yancey sums up the book, “Ecclesiastes endures as a work of great literature and a book of great truth because it presents both sides of life on this planet: the promise of pleasures so alluring that we may devote our lives to their pursuit, and then the haunting realization that these pleasures ultimately do not satisfy.”

The conclusion of the book provides perspective, a warning, and a challenge: “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil” (12:13 and 14).

It all reminds me of a question Jesus asked, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mark 8:36). We might ask ourselves where we are looking for satisfaction and where we can find it.

I invite and welcome your comments below. Also share this post on social media if you think others would appreciate it.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/24400573@N03/14254608206″>The Rolling Stones – Telenor Arena 2014</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;