feast: The Fear of God (Part 4)
Conclusion of Series
John W. Ritenbaugh
Given 12-Oct-98; Sermon #FT98-14; 68 minutes
We must be careful lest we be deceived into thinking that justice delayed while continuing in a sin means acceptance of that sin by God. Justice delayed does not equate to justice denied. We will absolutely reap what we sow. We desperately need to guard against naiveté, immaturity, ignorance, carelessness, and negligence in handling God's word. Spiritually, fear is the first line of defense, keeping us from profaning God's name, tarnishing the image of the Lord, and defending us from pain and/or death. If we hold something precious, we will guard and protect it with our life. Unlike the perverted concept of grace taught by many Protestant denominations, real grace promotes the right kind of fear and respect for God,serving as the essence and power behind an obedient life. The fear of God (following the principle of reciprocity) is the key to God's blessings.
Blasé attitude toward sin Blood of Christ Covenant by sacrifice Edge to fear of God Edge in relationship Execution of Ananias and Sapphira Execution of Nadab and Abihu Fear of God God's jewels Government Growing in fear and respect for parent Honor Keeping commandments Kingdom of priests In-homers Outfox God Peace of mind Perverted grace Precious Preciousness of spouse Reciprocity Snuggly fluff ball Spirit of grace
The previous sermon in this series carried one of the dramatic and violent judgments of God right into the beginning of the New Testament church. It was the execution of Ananias and Sapphira. Their deaths were chillingly similar to that of Nadab and Abihu. They were, of course, under the Old Covenant. But it tends to indicate that there was One who executed both judgments according to similar standards.
We also saw that there was a merciful reason why He is not judging all in exactly the same vein.
Now judgment, undoubtedly, depends upon a number of factors, but the degree and proximity of exposure to the glory of God plays a major role. Remember how patient God was during the days of Eli, and his sons, Hophni and Phinehas?
I Samuel 3:1 Now the boy Samuel ministered to the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no widespread revelation.
In addition to that, it says that, "Eli's eyes were dim," and I think that there are two meanings one can get from this. One was that his eyes literally were dim, so that he was virtually blind, and two, that he was losing his spiritual perception, and he really could not give his sons the kind of guidance that they needed. And so God waited patiently before He carried out the execution of those two men.
But there is a principle that arises from situations such as these, and Jesus said, "To whom much is given, much is also required." Those who were given a great deal, and then really fouled things up very close to the revelation of God's glory, like Ananias and Sapphira, or like Nadab and Abihu, were executed quite speedily, because they were exposed to a great manifestation of God's glory. For Nadab and Abihu it was after God filled the Tabernacle with His presence. For Ananias and Sapphira it was after the manifestations of Pentecost when God filled His spiritual temple with His Holy Spirit, and took up residence in His people.
We also see that principle back in the book of Ecclesiastes:
Ecclesiastes 8:10-12 Then I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of holiness, and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done. This also is vanity. Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. Though a sinner does evil a hundred times, and his days are prolonged, yet surely I know that it will be well with those who fear God, who fear before Him.
I will read those verses to you from the New Living Testament, a paraphrase of them, where Solomon wrote this quite simply. It is easy to understand:
Ecclesiastes 8:10-12 (New Living Testament) I have seen the wicked buried with honor. How strange that they were the very ones who frequented the temple, and are praised in the very city where they committed their crimes. When a crime is not punished, people feel that it is safe to do wrong. But, even though a person sins a hundred times, and lives a long time, I know that those who fear God will be better off.
Because God is not judging as visibly and dramatically as with them, we must be careful lest we be deceived into thinking that justice delayed while continuing in a sin means acceptance of that sin by God. We must always remember that justice delayed is not justice denied.
And so we see another clearly stated principle in Galatians:
Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that will he also reap.
They are principles that are clearly understood by all of us, but yet it is so easy for human nature to fall into a pattern of living and thinking that He has accepted regardless of what He is doing.
It is interesting that this word that is translated "mocked" more closely is synonymous with the English words outwitted, or outfoxed. "Do not be deceived. God cannot be outwitted (or, outfoxed)!"
Now I am not concerned about you trying to outwit God, or outfox Him. I do not think that you have that intent in your lives at all. But, I want us to pick up the principle, because I am concerned about naïveté. I am concerned about us being immature, ignorant, careless, and negligent in the handling of God's Word, lest we could bring ourselves into judgment if we carelessly or negligently feel that we are somehow accepted because God has not come down on us with a ton of bricks.
What Paul is saying here is that the wages of sin is still death. God is still judging. He is being a great deal more patient with us, and tirelessly working with us to bring us into conformity with Himself so that there can be peace—so that there can be union between us.
Early in Friday's sermon, we turned to Proverbs 8:
Proverbs 8:13 The fear of the Lord is to hate evil. . .
I want you to turn to Proverbs 3 and verse 7. I am going to show you a couple of other verses that reinforce that by basically showing the same principle. This is an oft-repeated principle in the bible.
Proverbs 3:7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and depart from evil.
Proverbs 16:6 In mercy and truth atonement is provided for iniquity; and by the fear of the Lord one departs from evil.
Now we saw that the fear of God is given there in Proverbs 8:13 as a simply stated principle, in much the same way as love and sin are simply stated in either I John 3:4, or I John 5:3. But even as love and sin are somewhat more complex than I John states, so also is the fear of God. There is something in the fear of God that carries through every expression of it. The best form that I can think of, is that the fear of God always carries with it, what I call, an "edge." There is an "edge" to it, so that we do not quite feel comfortable.
These simple statements are only stating what ultimately occurs because one loves, sins, or fears God. Either one keeps the commandments, breaks the commandments, or departs from evil. But in actual, real-live, day-to-day operations, we find that primarily because of human nature, love, sin, and hating evil—even defining evil—becomes filled with thousands of nuances.
For example: President Clinton asking the question, "What do you mean by 'alone?'" Or, "Let's define 'is.' What do you mean 'is'?"
That is the way the mind works in order to get rid of the edge and to feel comfortable with itself by defining it in a way that gives them a measure of feeling that they are doing right while they are doing wrong.
Now the whole world is like this. But our particular concern is with Israel and, of course, the church of God.
The message I was going to give on the first night was going to hop, skip, and jump through Isaiah 1 through 3 very quickly. Now I want you to turn to Isaiah 2.
(Have you noticed how many references to the book of Isaiah have been made in this Feast? I do not know what this means, but there has been a lot of references to the book of Isaiah.)
I just want to pick something up because this chapter is certainly noted for what God says He is going to do as a result of Israel's sins.
Isaiah 2:17 The loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low; the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.
This is referring to the Day of the Lord, and after the Day of the Lord.
Isaiah 2:18 But the idols He shall utterly abolish.
Why do we have this perception of God before our conversion? It is because God is taught by the precepts of men! But "who is like God? To whom will you compare Me?" God says. We have to learn the fear of God. And that really does not begin until He reveals Himself to us. Then we can begin to understand His mind and His will in a way that we never could before. And all the idols are going to be smashed out of our lives, slowly but surely—one at a time, or whole bunches of them—these idols that get in the way of the right perception of God. That is what He is talking about here— destroying man's idols, which might be cities, technology, or even man himself.
Isaiah 2:19-20 They shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, from the terror of the Lord and the glory of His majesty, when He arises to shake the earth mightily. In that day a man shall cast away his idols of silver and and his idols of gold which they made, each for himself to worship. . .
Notice how specific this is: "each for himself." Each idol that we have created through the precepts of men is going to have to go before we have a true concept of God and the fear of God will really be right and harmonious with what He wants.
Isaiah 2:20-21 . . . each for himself to worship, to the moles and bats, to go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the crags of the rugged rocks, from the terror of the Lord and the glory of His majesty, when He arises to shake the earth mightily.
He wants Himself to be feared, and Him only. And He is going to get that fear by whatever means necessary. If He has to scare us until our hair turns white, and we are quivering on the ground, He will do it! When I say "we," I mean, "you and me," His children.
Now He does not want to take us in that direction, but He has the means to bring us to that place. He is only illustrating here that this is what He is going to do to the world to get the world to fear Him. And all of us fear pain! And we will cower before it! And God will have our attention! It is coming. First the tribulation, and then He is going to rise and shake mightily the earth.
Look at Isaiah the 59th chapter. Some of the same principle is shown, but this one is especially interesting because it is something that is directed primarily at the leadership of Israel. Perhaps it is most specifically directed at those governmental organizations right at the very top—the instrumentality of the spread of "justice" in the United States—the court system.
Isaiah 59:4 No one calls for justice, nor does any plead for truth. They trust in empty words and speak lies; they conceive evil. . .
Think of our present president. For at least seven months he has been conceiving mischief through a veil of lies so that he would not have to openly admit before the public that he was lying before us.
Isaiah 59:4-5 . . . and bring forth iniquity. They hatch vipers' eggs. . .
That is a poisonous viper. This thing is going to sting him yet, even though, I will tell you that personally I feel that he is going to survive this. But, God is not done judging yet. And I believe that this man is in the office to carry out some of God's will, and he is very capably destroying maybe the last vestige of people's trust in government.
Isaiah 59:5 They hatch vipers' eggs and weave the spider's web. . .
You know what happens to the bug that goes into the web. He gets all wrapped up and entangled, and he cannot get away, and then he is dispatched by the spider.
Isaiah 59:5-8 He who eats of their eggs dies, and from that which is crushed a viper. breaks out. Their webs will not become garments, nor will they cover themselves with their works; their works are works of iniquity, and the act of violence is in their hands. Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths. The way of peace they have not known, and there is no justice in their ways; they have made themselves crooked paths; whoever takes that way shall not know peace.
Isaiah 59:16-19 He saw that there was no man [There was no leadership that could be relied upon.], and [He] wondered that there was no intercessor. Therefore His own arm [God's arm] brought salvation for Him, and His own righteousness, it sustained Him. For He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head. He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak. According to their deeds, accordingly He will repay [Reciprocity at work!], fury to His adversaries, recompense to His enemies; the coastlands He will fully repay. So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west, and His glory from the rising of the sun; when the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.
The implication is very strong that God is going to deal with these people because they do not fear Him. And they are going to come to fear Him. If they feared Him they would not be dealing with God in this way.
Now what we are dealing with in regard to the fear of the Lord spans all the way from sheer terror to a deep, abiding, and respectful reverence. The process or the movement from one to the other is similar to the attitude that a fifteen-year-old has toward his parents. He thinks they are the dumbest things. They are old-fashioned. They do not know which end is up. There surely cannot be any wisdom. They are not with it at all. They do not know what is going on. They are not modern! They are not up to date. They wear old-fashioned clothing. Their eyes are dim. They are kind of frail in everything they try to do. Above all, their thinking is out of step with the times.
But by the time they get to the age of 25 or so, how smart their parents have become! How intelligent and wise too. The parents have not changed much. The child has grown in his fear of his parents—his respect for them. You see, now experience has caught up with him and he begins to realize that the advice and counsel—the wisdom—that they gave when he was fifteen was really very sound-minded, and should have really been followed. That is the way we are dealing with God.
And so this fear is not always going to be in the same mode, but it is always going to have an "edge" to it.
So, whether it is terror or a deep abiding reverence—whatever the interpretation in whichever circumstance—it is the first line of defense. It keeps us from profaning God's name, tarnishing the image of the church, and it defends us from pain and/or death. It is what makes it possible for faith, hope, and love to come to full flower.
And there is a simple reason why. It is evil that separates us from God. And as we just saw, the fear of the Lord is to depart from evil. When we depart from evil, God sees that He is being respected, and He draws close to us. Reciprocity at work.
Isaiah 66:2 "But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word."
Let me show you yet another practical way that fear produces good fruit. There are a number of words that are related to each other either as to meaning or usage. They may not mean exactly the same, but they are close enough that we may switch them back and forth depending on the circumstance. We call them synonyms.
"Concern," "fear," "respect," and "reverence" are quite close to one another. "Awe" is fairly close, especially to "reverence," but it is not as close as "fear," and "respect" are. "Honor" and "glorify" are still a bit further out, but are also still related because the desire to honor and glorify are linked directly with fearing God. This is because that is what we desired to produce through the fear of God.
Now turn with me to I Peter 3 and verse 7. Here we find this in a section on marriage:
I Peter 3:7 Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
We read the word "honor." Do you know what this word means in the Greek? It is quite similar to the English meaning, but it means literally "to place a value upon." Honor means to place a value upon.
I Peter 1:19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.
Did you see the word "honor" in there? Well, yes you did! Which word do you think was translated into a word that is synonymous with "honor" in the Greek? It is the word "precious." Same word! The only difference is the context, so a different English synonym was used to interpret the Greek word.
Now "precious" clearly shows estimation of value, does it not? More clearly than the word "honor" does. Before we go any further, let us look at a bit of instruction here: If you really fear God, husbands, is your wife precious to you? If your wife is precious to you, you will honor her because you have placed upon her very great value, perhaps humanly, the thing of greatest value to you in all the world.
Let me ask you another question: What do you do—what is your attitude—toward those things that you hold to be precious because you have placed a value upon it? I do not care what somebody else has valued something, what is your estimation of what you consider to be valuable?
Now this is a foundational plank, husbands, for having a good marriage. Why? Because that which you value—that which you hold precious—you are going to take care of. You are going to be concerned that no damage comes to it. You do not want to lose whatever it is you hold to be precious. If you have a diamond, a ruby, a pearl, an emerald, or whatever—whether of sentimental value or real monetary value because it cost you a great deal of money—you will make sure that it is handled with care. You will make sure it is in the safest place you know of because you do not want to lose it. Why do you not want to lose it? Because you fear losing it!
Concern...care...fear...precious...honor...glorify...they are all related. And as God is showing here through I Peter, it is one of the major keys to a happy and successful marriage for a husband to honor his wife because he has placed such a high value upon her. He will do everything within his power to make her comfortable. He will dress and clothe her rightly, to make sure that she is clean, that she has plenty to eat, that she has assistance to help her around the house—whatever it takes, he will lay down his life for that woman which he holds precious, because he fears her. I do not mean her strength, but he has such respect for her, that he will eventually, and ultimately lay down his life for her as Jesus Christ did.
It is an easy jump from marriage to a relationship with God. What kind of value do you place on your relationship with God? What kind of value do you place on having the privilege to come through Jesus Christ into His very throne room and address Him as your Father? What kind of a price would you pay? How precious is it to have your sins forgiven? How precious to have the Holy Spirit? To know what the true gospel is? How precious to be able to turn your life into that direction? How precious is it to be able to look forward in great hope? To being in a body that never gets sick, that is always full of energy? And with a mind that can think like lightning? And knows answers! And is able to absorb information and knowledge at the speed of light. How valuable are those things to you?
What we place great value upon, we fear losing. And because we fear losing it—because there might always be a little "edge" there in the relationship—we do everything we can to make sure that relationship stays wonderful, warm, good, growing, and responsive.
Now there is another side of this. When there is a positive, there is always a negative too. And so we find in Hebrews the 10th chapter and beginning in verse 19, we read:
Hebrews 10:19-21 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter into the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He has consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, . . .
Maybe we ought to say, "Selah." Think about this! God not only wants us in His presence, He asks us to come into His presence boldly, but always to remember that the gift that enables us to get there is the blood—the flesh—of Jesus Christ!
Hebrews 10:22-23 . . . let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.
If we value this relationship we are going to do what Paul says to do here. We are going to hold fast. We will not allow ourselves to deviate from what we clearly understand is His will. Keep His commandments. Talk to Him. Pray to Him. Cry to Him. Read His Word. Study His Word. Tear it apart. Come to understand it.
Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works [Now begins the warning!], not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more, as you see the Day approaching.
Is He talking about the Sabbath here? Is He talking about the holy days? Is He talking about the family getting together? Provoking one another to love and good works? Encouraging, exhorting, mildly—gently—admonishing one another? Doing everything we possibly can to keep the relationship with God alive because we value it so highly? And that we reflect this in our desire to love and serve our brethren? We are talking about the fear of God because that is what the fear of God does to a person! It draws us together. It does not drive us apart. Because we respect God we do everything in our power to promote the relationship with Him, and to promote the relationship with each other.
How many people, brethren, now consider themselves to be "in-homers?" They are violating this command! I do not know what the reason is, but maybe they feel burned, maybe they do not trust anybody any longer. But, there comes a time when they have to get off of that, and get themselves back, and make that sacrifice. If they fear God, they will do it. Not all ministers are knuckleheads!
Darryl wrote an article, "I Love Government!" John Ritenbaugh loves government. I do not like to wield it, but without government there is no proper management of things. There has to be government for the church to do its work. And these people are using things of this nature as an excuse. But right down at the bottom line is their lack of fear of God. Let us carry this on.
Hebrews 10:26-29 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins [Why?], but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two [That is chilling! Mercy is gone when a person reaches this point where they no longer care!] or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, . . .
God says, "Where's My respect?" God has every right to ask! God says, "Where's the respect for what My Son did through the power of My Spirit?" We are talking here about blasphemy of the Holy Spirit—the work that was done by God by means of His Spirit through Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 10:29 . . . of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?
When God sees that we value His Son—or forgiveness, or the privilege of access to Him, or the gift of His Holy Spirit, or being in union with Jesus Christ in His church, or knowing about His Sabbath—so lightly, is it any wonder that He reciprocates and withdraws? He does not go where He is not wanted!
Now there is a good side as well. God holds out a wonderful possibility to those who fear Him:
Malachi 3:16 Then those who feared the Lord spoke often one to another. . .
I wonder what they talked about. I think the inference is pretty clear. They talked about what they held precious. That is what comes out of our heart.
Malachi 3:16-17 And the Lord listened and heard them; and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who meditate upon His name. "They shall be Mine," says the Lord of hosts, "on the day when I make them My jewels. [This is what He holds of high value—that which is precious to Him.] And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him."
For those who fear God because they have placed such a high value on the relationship—all the wonderful things He has done for us, and will do for us—God reciprocates.
And there is an endless stream of spiritual blessings. Do you know what it is? It is the spirit of grace.
Because of having grown up in Protestant dominated cultures, we are swimming in a concept of perverted grace. This has been caused by an overemphasis of the goodness of God and neglecting the fear of God. When the doctrine of the love of God is not balanced with an understanding of the fear of God, the result is misunderstanding. And the chances for error increase dramatically. We can easily become unbalanced if God somehow becomes a snugly fluff-ball that we sidle up to for comfort.
But in Romans 11 Paul writes:
Romans 11:20 Because of unbelief they were broken off [Israel—broken off the tree or vine], and you [those of us in the church whether we are Israelite or Gentile] stand by faith [And so a warning!]. Do not be haughty, but fear.
God is not a snugly fluff-ball! Who is like Him? God says, "To whom will you compare Me?" We are learning what He is like. We do not know fully yet. We have a long way to go.
Romans 11:21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.
Ooooooooh! We are speaking here of One with perfect discernment! And He is omniscient—He knows what is going on. We cannot outfox Him. He knows!
Romans 11:22 Therefore the goodness and severity of God: On those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.
It takes balance. It takes both of them. It takes the fear of God, as well as the love of God to have a balanced understanding and approach to God, and to life also.
Now an unbalanced approach occurred during the life of the first century church. Do you remember Paul writing here in Romans 6?
Romans 6:1-2 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin so that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?
These people were abusing the grace of God. They had a perverted concept about it and somehow or another came up with the idea that God was more glorified the more they sinned! And that it would be better if He had a better, bigger, more frequent opportunity to forgive! It does not make sense, but that was what they were thinking. It seems to me that some of our brethren/former church associates are headed in the same direction. They may not say it that way, but that is what it amounts to.
Romans 6:14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under the law but under grace.
Yes, brethren, there is always an "edge" to the fear of God that is mixed together with faith and hope in God, and love for God. But the fear is always there to keep that "edge," to keep us from growing familiar with Him, and taking Him, and His way, and His power for granted. And it always has to be there to keep a harness on the other aspects so that they do not become perverted.
In Hebrews the 12th chapter and in verses 28 and 29 we read:
Hebrews 12:28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken [look at what He says], let us have grace. . .
Now it's the next phrase that I find so interesting!
Hebrews 12:28 . . . by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.
We have to have grace to have fear—the right fear. This is easily understood, but before we get away from the thought, Paul's concluding thought is right here—the reason we have to have grace so that we can serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:
Hebrews 12:29 For our God is a consuming fire.
The "edge" is always there!
In its simplest form grace is favor. Added to it is usually the thought of unearned, undeserved favor. Now favor implies blessings—gifts. This is why I said, "a steady stream of gifts that come from the Father." A more general term for those gifts is grace. The gifts are not specified by the word grace. But the word grace means blessings—favor that is imparted to us.
The Bible uses it in that sense of gifts. All of us have received gifts of God's Spirit to perform our function in the church. To overcome is one of those functions. To edify, to build, or to strengthen the church are also functions.
If grace is used as a cover-up, God will consider that as despising His Son's sacrifice, and those people will go into the Lake of Fire. Grace, indeed, does cover our sins, but it is not a cover-up of what we are. God expects us to change—to overcome—and that is why He gives grace.
Hebrews 12:28 let us have grace, by which [by means of grace] we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.
Grace is what empowers us to do that! Grace is the essence of the power behind an obedient life. It is by grace that the gifts that enable us to live a godly life are given. And that obedience—that conformity to Him—is the very validation that we have received grace, and that we have salvation. It was an act of grace—it was a gift—when God called us. It was a gift when He led us to repentance. It was grace when He gave us His Spirit. It was grace when He revealed the gospel to us so that we could see the hope that we should have. It is grace when He imparted His love to us so that we could go out and give it to others. That is why salvation is by grace! The whole thing is an operation of God.
Think about this! Mothers: Does the baby in the womb create itself? It is brought to life—conception and growth within the womb—because of what God did, and continues to do! He created, and He sustains the whole universe by the word of His power. Our spiritual regeneration, growth, and resurrection into the Kingdom is almost entirely an operation of God. When I say, "almost entirely" all we have to do is yield! Because the whole process is grace. He gives us the faith by revealing Himself to us. He gives us the gospel by which faith is a fruit. It never ends.
"Let us have grace" so that we can fear God.
We would never fear God unless He revealed Himself. We would know some things about Him, but probably most of what we would know would be lies—misconceptions.
Brethren, all these things work together to conform us to Him, thus building the relationship.
Now let me come at you from another angle so that we understand another facet.
Do you remember Isaiah saying in the 40th chapter and verse 18?
Isaiah 40:18 To whom when will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare to Him?
We are like God as to form and shape, but we are not like Him in our thinking, attitudes, or conduct. But, we are being created into His image in these areas. And so we have a process that is in progress. We are being converted.
Unfortunately, sometimes our attitudes toward sin are blasé. Our understanding regarding the long-ranging pain and habit it creates is quite limited. Anybody who consistently sins, or is extremely negligent or unconverted, will continue to sin, unless the fear of God is somehow given a transfusion.
There are some chilling verses back in the book of Psalms. I want to read Psalm 50 to you. I want to read it to you because it is specifically addressed to the saints—to those who have made the covenant with God. It is given as a strong admonition to think about our relationship with Him. And so He says:
Psalm 50:1-2 The mighty One, God the Lord, has spoken, and called the earth from the rising of the sun to the going down. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God will shine forth.
Psalm 50:5 "Gather My saints together to Me [In case we do not get it, He modifies it to say:], those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice."
That is you and me. We sacrifice our life to God. This is what I do when I counsel people for baptism so that they fully understand that God expects our life in return for the forgiveness of sin—our life as it is lived—becoming living sacrifices. So we have made a covenant with Him by sacrifice.
Psalm 50:7 "Hear, O My people, and I will speak, O Israel, and I will testify against you; I am God, your God!"
This is sort of like asking us, "Where is My respect from My people?" Let us drop down to verse 16:
Psalm 50:16 But to the wicked God says. . .
I believe these are the wicked within—fellowshipping and associating within the church. Maybe these are saints who have turned their back on God. I do not know exactly who the wicked are, but since it is addressed to the church, my strongest assumption is that it includes those who have made the covenant with God—within the body—but are turning away.
Psalm 50:16 But to the wicked God says, "What right have you to declare My statutes, or take My covenant in your mouth?"
That makes it pretty clear who He is talking about. They are people still in the church.
Psalm 50:17 "Seeing you hate instruction and cast My words behind you."
These people are not trembling at the Word of God.
Psalm 50:18-20 "When you saw a thief, you consented with him, and have been a partaker with adulterers. You give your mouth to evil, and your tongue frames deceit. You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother's son."
You need to think about these things. Are we guilty of any of these things, personally? Gossip? Bearing tales, or whatever?
Psalm 50:21 "These things you have done, and I kept silent."
Judgment delayed does not mean judgment denied. Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily. . .
Psalm 50:21 "You thought that I was altogether like you. . ."
To whom will you liken God? These people had made an idol out of themselves. They had made an idol out of their conception of God, rather than being receptive to the fact that God was not quite what they had conceived Him to be.
Psalm 50:22 "Now consider this, you who forget God, lest I tear you in pieces and there be none to deliver."
Does the fear of God have an "edge" with it? Oh yes it does!
You can write this down in your notes: Malachi 1:6 and going all the way through to Malachi 2:10. Now remember when we read this, the book of Malachi gives every appearance of being written to the end-time church, and it is written most specifically to the priests, and we, brethren, are a kingdom of priests! God is concerned, there, about the quality of our sacrifices we make toward Him. By that, He means, the way that we are living our lives. The sacrifice of our life is as a living sacrifice day by day.
So we have a powerful indictment against those who, above all, should know better and do better. We do not want to allow ourselves to neglect God in carrying out our responsibilities in our daily life.
Deuteronomy 5:29 Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!
Fear and commandment keeping, and fear and departing form evil are inextricably linked in God's Word. It is the first line of defense, or offense because it precipitates the reaction. If we respect God, it gives us a very good chance of doing the right thing.
Now remember that scripture that said that the fear of the Lord is the key that unlocks the treasures of God? I am going to give you a series of scriptures that show this conclusively. Anyone could do this with a concordance. It will directly link the fear of the Lord with all the many, many blessings that you want.
Proverbs 14:27 says the secret of the Lord—the secret of His covenant—is with those that fear Him. Insight and understanding of what He is doing, of what His agreement with us is—of what His relationship with us is what goes to those who fear Him.
Proverbs 25:14 says in other words, that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.
Psalm 34:7 says the angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him. How many of you want this: His protection, and security?
Psalm 34:9 says that those who fear God will not lack. It does not mean we will have everything we want. But He promises to supply the needs for those who fear Him.
Psalm 33:19 says that if we fear Him, we will have His continual attention.
Psalm 103:11 says that those who fear Him receive mercy.
Psalm 111:5 says that He gives food to those who fear Him.
Psalm 115:11 says that He is the help and shield to those who fear Him.
Psalm 145:19 says that He fulfills the desires, and delivers from harm those who fear Him.
Oh, here is a good one:
Proverbs 15:16 says that He gives peace of mind to those who fear Him.
Proverbs 19:23 says that He provides satisfaction and contentment to those who fear Him.
Proverbs 22:4 says that by humility and the fear of the Lord comes riches and honor.
Psalm 128:1 Blessed is every one that fears the Lord, who walks in His ways.
Notice the comparison: Fearing God is walking in His ways. If you are walking in His ways, you are departing from evil.
Psalm 128:2 When you eat the labor of your hands, you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you. Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house, your children like olive plants all around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord. The Lord shall bless you out of Zion, and may you shall see the good of Jerusalem all the days of your life. Yes, you may see your children's children. Peace be upon Israel!
Let me give you some concluding thoughts.
#1: The fear of God is in no way immature. Some falsely teach that the fear of God is replaced by the love of God. No, no, no! We need all of them.
#2: It must be present and operational even as love, hope, and faith. They all work together.
#3: The fear of the Lord spans from sheer terror to a deep abiding awe-full reverence.
#4: The principle of reciprocity is at work within it.
#5: We do not have this fear by nature. It must be learned! Learning about God is a lifelong process. And the fear grows right with it.
The fear of the Lord equates with submission to Him. It equates with departing from evil. It equates with honoring Him. It is something that we must seek.
We will finish in Proverbs 2:
Proverbs 2:1-5 My son, if you receive my words, and treasure my command within you, so that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.
Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.
Ecclesiastes 12:13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep His commandments, for this is man's all.