The Fear of the Lord – Intro

Why a study on the Fear of the Lord?  I’ve long felt a need in my own heart and mind to truly understand it.  Proverbs says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of both knowledge and wisdom.  I desire to grow in both knowledge and wisdom; and since the Bible says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning – well, that’s a very good place to start.  I’m sure we all know people who have a lot of knowledge but do not have the fear of the Lord.  We probably also know people – though fewer in number – who have at least a measure of wisdom yet do not fear the Lord.  So what exactly is it?  How does it work?  And what are its benefits?

To answer these questions I have embarked on a personal study of each verse in the Bible that contains the fear of the Lord.  From those verses I want to glean what God means when the phrase “the fear of the Lord” is used and what He has to say about it.  As I read these verses within their context and meditate on what each one tells me about the fear of the Lord, praying for God to teach me and guide my thoughts, I’m asking questions of the text and trying to put myself into the story, for these are real people with real experiences and real struggles, real fears, real failures, and real successes.

I want to know, not just for the sake of knowing, but know so that my whole way of thinking, being, and doing is changed by it:  Knowledge that is transformative and liberating and deeply, everlastingly true.  I have a hunch that this is what the fear of the Lord is intended to be and do within us.  So I am writing on the edge of what I myself am learning, hoping, praying that others can be pulled along with me in the journey of discovery.

Thoughts on Grief, 1

“The presence of that absence is everywhere.”
Edna St. Vincent Millay

My eyes read that quote, stopped, and instantly filled with tears. How truly, how perfectly that describes the experience of grief. I looked up from the grief book a new friend had sent me, letting my eyes travel around the room – and saw the presence of that absence everywhere: the new couch set he had bought for us (how he’d wanted to get us something new, something we all would like; how happy he’d been to surprise us with it); the chair he always sat in, now empty (and it almost seems it should remain forever empty, set apart just for him); the brown and navy flannel lap robe made especially for him by old friends from Texas; the family picture with him in the middle; the glider rocker and footstool he’d bought for me when baby #7, our last, was born; the fireplace fan he bought to help keep me and the girls warmer in the winter (he certainly didn’t need it, with a disease that kept his body temp always overheated); the firebox he made especially for me with a special compartment for cardboard and paper starters, and even a wooden ring to hold a lighter; and on and on it goes.

But as I reminisced my way around the room, I realized it wasn’t just this most recent death whose absence was present. There was the small carved table a family friend from India had given to my mother, which I had asked for after she died; the magazine holder/lamp table we inherited when an older friend died; and the ubiquitous belongings of our oldest son, another presence whose absence is everywhere: the afghan adorning our couch, made for him by the older woman he helped care for; the artic fox draping the piano top, given to him for “mother” by a dear friend in Iraq; the tea set he brought home for me from there; the quilt loving made for us after he died to commemorate his work and the fruit we believed in faith was still to come; the watercolor of an open pomegranate, painted by a friend in Tennessee, depicting the same. And on and on it goes.

This is the essence of grief: a presence whose absence is everywhere. Loss silently cries out from every space, every object. Memories wordlessly speak everywhere, all the time. This is not only the pain of grief, it is also the beauty and comfort of grief. Would we want it any other way? Blessed emptiness that reminds of the fullness of presence; cherished tangibles that hold the echo of the intangible.

The Fear of the Lord — Study 23

Deuteronomy 13:4

You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.

Read the context:  Deuteronomy 12:1-13:18

These are strong context verses. God is quite serious about this. There are some very clear, polarized contrasts. What is the primary positive command in these 2 chapters, and what is the primary negative or counter command? (12:1-4, 28-32, 13:18) Leviticus 18:1-5 states this contrast of commands very succinctly. In Leviticus 18:2, 4, and 5, what is the foundational reason given for why these should be obeyed? And what is the promise given in verse 5? This reveals God’s heart toward us: He wants us to LIVE! We see a similar theme in the context verses. What is God’s desire for us in 12:25 and 28? This is the kind of God we serve: He wants us to live and for life to go well for us.

The context verses explain what God means by life going well for us, and they help us to see the heart of God toward us. The words used show us the kind of life He wants to give us. Notice these words in 12:7-12: rejoice, blessed, rest, safety, rejoice. Don’t our hearts long for those very things? Those words so fully describe the kind of life we all truly desire.

To have that kind of life and to remain in it is going to take diligent effort, constant vigilance, keen discernment, and total reliance on the grace of God. Sigh. Our souls shy away from such mental and spiritual strain. We are a sluggish, lazy lot. We want a life of ease, sloth, and self-reliance. It’s interesting, isn’t it, that joy and blessing, rest and safety are not synonymous with ease or lack of effort; these benefits come through the journey, the hard work of the Christian life. God is calling us to a life that is bracingly vigorous, mentally challenging, fully engaged. We are called to remain focused on God and moving toward Him in holiness. The title of a book by Eugene Peterson states this well: “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.” Underline these repeated words in chapter 12: be careful and take heed.

When the people entered the Promised Land, what was to be their first priority according to 12:2-4? Write out the specific instructions given in verses 2 & 3. From these we see that it was to be complete and thorough: utterly.

In 12:30 there are 2 things they were warned about: “Take heed to yourselves that . . .” Write out the 2 things. We are so easily drawn into false philosophies and the worship of other gods; God knows our propensities to deception (ensnared) and curiosity (inquire). He also knows the subtle and insidious nature of false religions, which demand more and more in our vain attempts to find peace and happiness and to get our own needs met. According to 12:31, how demanding were the false gods of the land? How does God view the allowable practices of false religions according to this same verse?

False religions are not based on the God of mercy and love, relationship and wholesome living; but on self-efficacy, attempts to measure up and gain approval on our own merit, gods that allow us the “freedom” and even encourage us to give full vent to our lusts (self-actualization; self-affirmation; independence; “have it your way”; if it feels good, do it; you’re #1; look out for yourself: self…self…self). As Christians we have freedom – freedom from self, but never freedom to violate God’s laws or even to take them lightly. We are freed FROM sin not FOR it. This is the essence of the Gospel: dependence upon and application of God’s grace given to us through Christ in order to live as He wants us to. False religions lead down the path to death as we see in 12:31, while obedience to God leads to the kind of Life described in 12:7-12. This is echoed in Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:13-14 and John 10:7-10. In Matthew 7:13-14, what are the only 2 choices in life and where does each one lead? According to John 10:10, what do false religions (“the thief”) do to us and what does Jesus want to do for us?

In Deuteronomy 12:32 we are given another warning that reveals another of our propensities. Write the 2 things we are not to do. We are warned more than once in God’s Word not to do this: read Deuteronomy 4:2, Proverbs 30:6, and Revelation 22:18-19. These are subtleties of the enemy of our souls, little additions that become pharisaical burdens taking us far afield from the heart of God or minor compromises that lead to the casting off of all restraint. Let us be careful to obey ALL He has commanded, not more, not less. How is this same warning stated in Joshua 1:7?

Deuteronomy 13 gives strong, specific instructions for dealing with one of their own people who might try to lead them into the worship of other gods or encourage them to follow or try out the practices of other nations. According to 13:1-3, what kind of person are they being warned about? Oh, this is insidious, isn’t it? The enticement comes from someone who seems to have authority from God and even some supernatural proofs to back it up! What do we learn from this about supernatural experiences and signs? Remember how Pharaoh’s magicians duplicated some of the miraculous signs Moses gave to Pharaoh? See Exodus 7:11-12, 22; 8:7. It has always seemed comical to me and quite stupid that Pharaoh’s magicians would bring more of the plagues upon their own people just to prove that they were as capable as Moses. But, interestingly, they were not able to undo what God had done; only He could do that. Read Job 42:2, Isaiah 14:27 & 43:13. Write out what you learn about God from those verses.

We may think that we would not be taken in by that kind of falsehood, but look at II Thessalonians 2:9-10, Revelation 13:13-14 and 12:9, and the warnings of Jesus in Matthew 24:5, 11, and 24. The common word running through each of those verses is deceive. The very nature and meaning of deception is such that one doesn’t know when he/she is being deceived; it looks like the real deal. And because these deceptions are supernatural events or signs, things that couldn’t happen by normal, natural means, the deception is even stronger. Take some time right now to stop and pray for yourself and your loved ones that God would protect you from this kind of deception, that He would give your discernment and keep you alert spiritually. These are serious times we live in and many who claim the name of Christ are being led astray. Pray! Earnestly, continually.

What is the repeated verb in Deuteronomy 13:5, 6, & 13 that is used to describe what these false prophets/dreamers/performers of signs will try to do? Look up that word in a couple different dictionaries or on the computer. Write out the definitions you find. Using those definitions, write in your own words why the temptation to worship other gods would be so enticing. It is a warning to our own hearts, isn’t it? Enticement is tightly linked with desire; we all desire things that offer us some advantage or quick fix. Be on your guard.

Deuteronomy 13:8-9 succinctly reiterates (verses 3 & 5 have already stated the same) the specific actions that are to be taken toward someone who tries to entice us to disobey God and obey other false gods/ideologies. Write down the 6 commands given for how to deal with a person who is doing this. Pretty strong language. Jesus said something similar in Matthew 5:29-30; He knew the devastating effects of sin, not just for this life but also for eternity.

According to Deuteronomy 13:6, who all was to be included in this severe treatment? Again, we hear an echo of this in Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 10:34-38. How do these words in Matthew relate to Deuteronomy 13? Deuteronomy 13 helps us to understand Matthew 10, doesn’t it? We see from these verses how finely tuned our hearts are to be toward God. The fear of the Lord trumps every other relationship; it is the arrow that hits dead center of the bull’s eye of our hearts. This is serious business. Take some time to examine your heart before the Lord. Ask yourself the question Jesus asked Peter in John 21:15: Do you love Me more than these? Open your hand and offer each precious relationship to God.

Deuteronomy 13:11 tells why they were to act so decisively and conclusively. What were the reasons? There’s our key word: fear. Fear, the proper kind of fear, fearing the right things, keeps us from wickedness. As we continue to study the fear of the Lord, we will see this prevailing theme linking the fear of the Lord with obedience which protects us from evil by causing us to turn away from it.

In Deuteronomy 13:12-18, the people are instructed about how to deal with a whole city that has been led astray, away from the worship of God. What were they to do first (vs. 14)? They couldn’t go on hearsay or do something rash. There had to be “due process” and clear-headedness. But if after careful investigation the accusation was found to be true, then what were the 2 specific things they were to do? Verse 17 gives 2 reasons they were to do those 2 things. What are the 2 reasons? Notice that the second reason is a result of the first reason. What does God want to show toward us (also vs. 17)? Why can’t He just do that/be like that even when we are in sin or rebellion against Him? What would that encourage us to do?

Think about it in these 2 scenarios: 1) What if a judge with a tender heart let a thief or murderer go and acted like it didn’t matter because he just wanted to “love” the thief/murderer. What would happen to society? Is this justice? Is it even compassionate or merciful? What does it teach the criminal? Does it help him or hurt him? 2) What if a parent looks the other way, has pity on their child, or makes excuses for him when he does something he knows is wrong. What does that teach the child? Does this kind of “compassion” help the child or make him harder to get along with and make life more difficult for him? Are we teaching the child justice and the truth about the world and relationships? Is it really compassionate or merciful?

God knows that the worship of false gods, the following of false ideologies/philosophies will eventually destroy not only ourselves but also the entire culture and society. It is not merely individualistic or isolated; it is collectively deadly serious.

Why would God tell them to kill and burn everything? If they didn’t, what potential would those things have (see Deuteronomy 12:2-4)? We must be ruthless with the things in our lives that have the potential of leading us away from God, the only Source of truth, joy, freedom, reality.

Look at the words used to describe the people and things that turn us away from God: evil (13:5), wickedness (13:11), abomination (12:31 & 13:14), accursed (13:17). These are not trivial things to overlook or be passive about or toy with as if they are harmless. Take time right now to come honestly before the Lord, again with open hands, asking Him to show you if there is anything in your life or home that is leading you astray, keeping you from the pure worship of God – i.e. giving you a divided heart between God and the world, or putting false philosophies before you or your children. Then ask Him to give you the desire and courage to rid your life/home of those things.

Remember that the only reason God asks us to rid our lives of false things, of things that turn our hearts away from Him, is because He wants life to go well for us and He wants to bless us, to show mercy to us, and to have compassion on us. He cannot bless what He knows will destroy us; that would be partnering in our downfall and destruction. Oh, if we could only see sin the way He sees it! May God give us a healthy hatred for all that turns our hearts, even in the slightest, away from Him.

What is God’s purpose in allowing a false prophet to arise (13:3)? Whenever we are faced with any temptation, Satan, the enemy of our souls, has an agenda, and God, the Lover of our souls, has a purpose. Satan wants us to be led astray from wholehearted devotion to God; God wants to test the reality of our love for Him. Every temptation, every false philosophy, indeed, every choice and action tests who and what we love.

Our Fear of the Lord verse for this study clearly shows us how our love for God is expressed. Write out the 6 ways from Deuteronomy 13:4 that our love for God is demonstrated. Another prevailing theme: The fear of the Lord is always and necessarily intertwined with love for the Lord. Pray over these 6 things; pray that God would work them deeply into your life and into the lives of those you love.

Add to your fear of the Lord list what you have learned from this verse study.

The Fear of the Lord — Study 22

Deuteronomy 10:20

You shall fear the Lord your God; you shall serve Him, and to Him you shall hold fast, and take oaths in His name.

Read the context: Deuteronomy 10:14-11:32

The book of Deuteronomy is Moses’ last speech to the children of Israel before he dies. In this book we hear his heart. There is much repetition as he implores the people to remember and to obey. He longs for their blessing yet knows their propensities. Moses understands the correlation between obedience and blessing, disobedience and lack of blessing or cursing, being under God’s favor or His wrath. Moses also realizes the connection between the character of God and the works of God. God is not capricious in His actions; His actions are not disassociated from justice, mercy, and the rule of love.

These character qualities necessitate relationship or interplay with our actions and responses. How does one display justice except in the context of another person whose specific actions require a verdict? How does one show mercy without an object, a person who is undeserving? And there can be no love without an object upon which to convey that love. Therefore, our actions are inseparably linked with God’s character and His works. In this sense (and in many other ways as well) God is not distant but near to us, not ambivalent or disinterested but intimately involved and concerned. His character can never be seen as an entity in and of itself, distinct and utterly separate; His character, by the very nature of it, demands relationship. (This, of course, is one apologetic for the Trinitarian nature of God.)

There are 4 different categories to look at in the context verses:

  1. What kind of God we serve, Who He is
  2. What mighty works God has done
  3. What specific commands are given
  4. What promises God gave, both positive and negative

By exploring these 4 categories, we get a fuller picture of why we should fear the Lord and how we should fear the Lord. So let’s dig in and make a list for each category one by one.

In the first category, read verses 10:14-21 and list what is told to us about Who God is.

For the second category list the “great and awesome things” that God had done for them. There are 6 different examples of God’s mighty works given in 10:22-11:6.

Each of those 6 things has a longer, more complete story; they were whole life experiences that took place over real time in these people’s lives. We read just a short verse, but each of those verses would bring to mind for the people who lived it a whole ream of memories, which would include wondrous events, major life upheavals, flurries of activity, and powerful emotions running the full gamut of life’s experience from intense life-threatening fear to incredulous tambourine-dancing joy. For a more complete understanding of the great and awesome works of the Lord that each of those 6 examples contain, see the Extra Study at the end of this study.

Three times in these context verses Moses reminds the people that their own eyes have seen the mighty acts of God: in 10:21, 11:2, 11:7. Those to whom Moses is speaking are the children of the generation that died during the 40 years of wilderness wandering. They were young (under 20 – see Numbers 14:29-31) when they experienced all these things; that likely made the memories all the more impressionable, as we tend to remember most vividly the momentous events of our childhood; and it is those major life-changing events that shape who we are in such definitive ways.

These mighty acts of God, which they themselves experienced, were to have a deep and lasting effect on their understanding and knowledge of God, which, in turn, were to profoundly alter the way they lived. For the third category list the commands given in these context verses. Several of them will be redundant, but go ahead and write them as many times as they appear; the repetition will reveal some things about the fear of the Lord. In 11:19 we are even given some very practical ways to help us know how and when to fulfill that specific command. (For what it’s worth, I found 23 commands – some being repeats.)

Notice especially verse 10:20, our fear of the Lord verse for this study, and verses 11:13 and 11:22. The first “command” in those last two verses is an “if” clause. The commands that follow in those verses explain or define what it means to listen to, obey, and keep His commands. Notice the similarities with 11:1. Now compare those 3 verses in chapter 11 with the fear of the Lord verse in 10:20. One command in 11:13 is exactly the same as 10:20 and one in 11:22 is exactly the same as 10:20.

Which command in 11:13 & 22 would be comparable or corresponding to the command in 10:20 to fear the Lord? Hmmm. We’ve seen that before in previous fear of the Lord studies. Fear and love: Can one truly exist without the other? Are they synonyms? Or two sides of the same coin? Think about it, pray over it, and write down your thoughts. Share your thoughts here on this blog and discuss it with others.

Lastly, write down the promises given in this passage. Some of the promises are positive ones (the ones we like to claim!) and others are negative warnings, but just as surely promises (the ones we like to avoid or skip over). But let us remember the truth about God in 10:17 and 18: He shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. In other words, we can’t act contrary to His expressed will and ways and expect He will somehow look the other way, turn a blind eye, or be sweet talked out of punishment; He administers justice. If we really think about it, we wouldn’t want it any other way. Would you really want a god who is unjust? Or one who had favorites or could be bribed? No! Though it should strike a proper fear of the Lord in us, this attribute of God should also bring us great comfort. It means that God is the one Constant in our universe, the One with Whom, as James 1:17 says, there is no variation or shadow of turning (shifting shadows, one translation says).

Make 2 columns on your paper (or computer). Write “Positive Promises” over one column and “Negative Promises” over the other. Now list the promises. Granted, several of those promises and warnings are specific to the people of Israel and the physical land of promise, but still there are principles here we can learn from. In 11:14, 15, and 17 there are corollary promises or outcomes of the promise given. (Again, for what it’s worth, I came up with 15 promises.)

These promises reveal the truth of Galatians 6:7-8. Write out those 2 verses on a card. Tape them to your mirror and memorize them! But do more than that: meditate on them; for it is in meditation that the Truth of God makes its way from our head to our heart. Meditation causes the Word to soak in, to nourish our souls, take root and become a part of who we are, how we think, and how we act/respond. To use a digestive analogy, meditation takes the Word from the mouth and stomach to the cellular level, giving nutrients and energy to every part of us. Meditation enables us to think the very thoughts of God, which, in turn, causes us to walk in His ways (note Joshua 1:9 for the progression of meditation to obedience to blessing – another common theme we’ve seen in these Fear of the Lord studies).

One final thought to glean from these context verses: Moses (and God) knew the sinful leanings of the heart. These propensities were not just the problem of the people of Israel; they are our problem, too. List the common leanings of our hearts: 1 in 10:16, 3 in 11:16, 2 in 11:28. Take some time to pray over these, asking God to reveal any ways that these things are true of you. My husband used to say, “The nature of deception (11:16) is that you don’t know when you are deceived!” So we need God to reveal our own hearts to us.

APPLICATION:

One of the ways we keep from being stiff-necked, deceived, turning aside, and following other gods – other priorities that take first place over God – is to remember the things OUR eyes have seen, the specific things God has done for us in our lifetime. It takes focused time and concentrated thought (i.e. diligent effort/hard work!) to remember these things. Life and trials have a way of pushing them out of our minds and making us forget; we get so caught up in the problems of the moment.

Set aside some time over the next few days to be quiet before the Lord; ask Him to bring to mind the wonders He has done for you, the answers to prayer, the ways He has shown you His tender and specific care. Write these things down and share them with your children. What great acts of the Lord which He has done have your eyes seen? (11:7) The memory of these will help to recalibrate your life, settle your soul in thankfulness, and return your heart to a proper fear of the Lord that delights in walking in His ways.

Add to your fear of the Lord list what you have learned from this verse study.

Extra Study:

Each one of those 6 examples of God’s great and awesome works could be a whole study, or even set of studies, in and of themselves. For those who want to go deeper and spend more time, I’ll list here the references for each of the 6 back stories. As you read through the actual story line, write down the “great and awesome things” God did during each of the 6 things or time periods (for that is what each of the 6 really is: a specific period of time during which God did some very amazing things) listed in Deuteronomy 10:22-11:6. Most of the following references are whole chapters.

  1. 10:22: Genesis chapters 37, 39-50 & Exodus chapters 1-3: List the ways God took them from 70 persons to an innumerable multitude.
  2. 11:2: Exodus chapters 32-34, Leviticus chapter 10, Numbers chapters 11, 12, 14; 15:32-36; chapter 20; 21:1-9; chapters 22-25: List the chastenings of the Lord.
  3. 11:3: Exodus chapters 4-12: List the signs and acts of God, His judgments against Egypt.
  4. 11:4: Exodus 13:17-14:31: List all the things God did to the army of Egypt.
  5. 11:5: Exodus 15:22-27, chapters 16-17, 19-20; Numbers 9:15-23, 11:16-30, chapter 13, 21:1-3 & 21:10-35, 31:1-11; Deuteronomy 1:31-33, 8:2-4, 29:5-8: List what God did for the Israelites in the wilderness.
  6. 11:6: Numbers chapters 16-17: List what God did to Dathan and Abiram.

Truly after studying those stories we can say, “AMAZING!” “GREAT!” “AWESOME!” even “FEARFUL!” And many other adjectives come to mind.

 

Fear of the Lord – Day 21

Deuteronomy 10:12-13 And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you today for your good?

Read the context:  Deuteronomy 10:1-13

I would like to suggest a spiritual metaphor from this context passage.

First, in verse 1 God initiated and called Moses to come up to meet Him on the mountain. Look up the following verses to find the spiritual parallel:  John 15:16, Ephesians 1:3-6, II Corinthians 4:6, Mark 3:13.  In each of these verses, who has initiated the relationship between God and us?  Take some time to reflect on this.  How do you perceive your relationship with God – you reaching up to Him or Him reaching down to you?  I think our default mode is to believe that we have reached up to God and in some measure have had to get His attention.  But the truth is that the initiation has all been from His side; He has reached down to us and called us to come to Himself.  Pause and reorient your thinking; praise Him for His love and calling and work in your life.

Second, God told Moses to hew out 2 tablets of stone and bring them with him.  What does God say our hearts are like in Ezekiel 36:26 and Ezekiel 11:19?

Third, what does God invite Moses to do?  Read the following verses to see the parallel for ourselves:  Matthew 11:28, John 6:37, Isaiah 55:1, Revelation 22:17, John 7:37.  This is God’s invitation to us:  “Come.”  Come to Me: up on the mountain, away from the clamor of daily life, to be alone with God.

Fourth, what was the purpose?  What was God going to do?  Read Jeremiah 31:33 and Hebrews 10:16-17 to see the parallel.  Of Jesus it is written:  Psalm 40:8.  Several times over in the Gospel of John Jesus says that He only said and did those things that He heard from the Father, that He never did anything of His own initiative but only what the Father told Him.  God’s Law, God’s will was within His heart, and He exemplified how we are to live by the Spirit.  Moses was to bring up the stone tablets and God Himself was going to write upon them His Law.  Even so, I must take time to meet with God alone and bring my stony heart to Him that He might write on it His Law.

Look also at Romans 8:3-4.  According to verse 4, what will be fulfilled in us when we walk according to the Spirit?  Read on in Romans 8 to verse 7.  What can the carnal mind not be subject to?  So then, what can a person walking/living in their own flesh not do according to verse 8?  But that is not who we are (vs. 9).  We live by the Spirit and He teaches us to be subject to the Law of God in order that we might please God.  He writes His Law on our hearts.  This is God’s New Covenant promise.

In the process of God writing His Law on our hearts, what happens to our hearts according to Ezekiel 11:19 and Ezekiel 36:26?  What does God also promise in these 2 verses to put within us?  What does this cause or enable us to do?  See also Romans 2:28-29 and II Corinthians 3:2-3; what do these verses tell us about our hearts?  It is God’s Spirit within us that writes God’s Law on our hearts, but now it is no longer a stony heart but a heart of flesh, one that is soft, malleable, able to feel and respond out of compassion.  It is a heart that lives and beats in sync with the heart of God, desiring to do His will, His Law.

Fifth, Moses was instructed to make an ark and to put the stone tablets with the Law written on it in the ark, an ark made of wood.  Read Exodus 25:10-22.  In our metaphor I would suggest that the ark is a picture of us and of our relationship with God.  We are only wood, yet we have been overlaid with gold: human frailty, with no real value in and of ourselves, yet God has clothed us with the very righteousness of Christ (Isaiah 61:10, II Corinthians 5:21), and made us partakers of His divine nature (II Peter 1:4).  II Corinthians 4:7 uses a similar metaphor saying that we are but jars of clay holding the great treasure of Christ.

What else was put in the ark besides the tablets of the Law?  See Exodus 16:33-34, Numbers 17:10 (see the context:  Numbers 17:1-10), Hebrews 9:4.  In the ark of who we are, God is placing 3 things:  His Law within our hearts through the indwelling Holy Spirit; the Lordship of Christ, our great High Priest, who continually pleads His blood before the Father as our atoning, substitutionary sacrifice (Hebrews 7:24-26) and who saves us from sin as we follow Him in obedience (Romans 10:9-10); and trust in His provision for all our daily needs, both physical and spiritual (Matthew 6:25-34, Philippians 4:19).

Take a few minutes to pray for God to place these three things in your life, that they would become the center and the reality of your relationship with Him.  Ask Him to make your heart soft and to write His Law upon it; ask Him to cause the Lordship of Jesus to blossom in your life and to bear fruit; tell Him your needs and trust Him for His provision.  Thank Him for the gifts of Christ’s righteousness which clothes you, Christ’s Spirit who works within you, Christ’s atoning blood and intercession that frees you from the guilt of sin and clears your record forever, Christ’s provision for every need.

Over the ark was placed the “mercy seat,” the lid of solid gold with the 2 angels bending over it with wondering eyes (Exodus 25:17-22).  It was on that mercy seat that the High Priest brought the blood of atonement each year for the continued covering of the people’s sins (Leviticus 16:14-16).  In the same way our relationship with God is sealed and covered by the mercy of God displayed by the blood of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:11-12, 23-26).  This is the Gospel!  (Ephesians 1:7-10 & 2:4-10)  And Peter tells us that even angels desire to look into this amazing salvation (I Peter 1:10-12).

According to Deuteronomy 10:5, what did Moses do after God had written the Law on the tablets?  And that is what we must do.  We first go “up on the mountain” to meet alone with God, to let Him write His Law on our hearts; then we go “down the mountain,” and through the leading of the Spirit and the Lordship of Christ, we work that Law into who we are, into the nitty-gritty of every day life and everyday relationships.

Then what does God tell Moses to do in Deuteronomy 10:11?  Now we are ready to possess the Promised Land with the Law within our hearts:  this is the Kingdom of God within you, letting His Kingdom ways be lived out in your life so that His Kingdom comes to earth, His will is done on earth in the same way as it is in heaven.  Little by little we begin to possess the Kingdom, taking ground the enemy has held in our lives and claiming it for Christ.

And now, what does the Lord require of you?  List the 5 things from Deuteronomy 10:12-13.  Look at just the 5 infinitives:
#1:  to ____________
#2:  to ____________
#3:  to ____________
#4:  to ____________
#5:  to ____________ or to obey
Fear, walk, love, serve, obey.  This is what God desires and requires of us.

I don’t believe the order of these 5 requirements in our relationship with God is haphazard or insignificant.  A holy, humble reverence for God must come first:  an acknowledgement of our poverty and sinfulness before Him, of His greatness and purity and perfection, of the fearfulness of disobedience and His just right to punish that disobedience.  From that fear comes a carefulness in the way we conduct our lives and a desire to study and understand what His ways are.  As we conform our lives and our patterns of conduct to His ways, we begin to see the wisdom and the greatness of His love for us in the commands He has given us.  Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15) and “If you keep My commandments you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (John 15:10)  Walking in His ways not only proves our love for Him, but it also produces love for Him in our hearts and keeps us within the protective covering of His love.  Out of that love springs service, a deep desire to serve and please the One who loves us so well.  This, in turn, leads to a life of obedience that issues from the heart – no longer merely outward conformity because we know it’s the right thing to do, but an inner transformation of desire and will.

As you conclude today’s study, pray over these 5 requirements.  Write them on a card and post them on your bathroom mirror or above your kitchen sink, some place where you will see them often, can keep them before you, and can pray through them continually.  These things are a work of God’s Spirit within us – not self-effort, but dependent prayer.

Add to your fear of the Lord list what you have learned from this verse study.

The Fear of the Lord – Day 20

Deuteronomy 8:6
Therefore you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him.

Read the context:  8:1-20

Looking back at Deuteronomy 6:10-11, what was the land like that God was taking them into?  What is God emphasizing and reminding them about repeatedly in those 2 verses (“which you . . .”)?  According to the last clause of verse 11, what will be their situation in life after they are settled in the land?

Read Deuteronomy 8:7-9.  What will the land be like that God is taking them into?  In a word:  ABUNDANCE!

Look at Deuteronomy 8:11-17.  Like Deuteronomy 6:12, this passage gives us another strong warning:  Beware!!  List the things in 8:10, 12-13 that they will experience in the land God is bringing them into, the clauses that begin with “when…

What is the word for all of that?  They will be very ________________!

But that is not how they always were.  Where had they come from?  (Deut. 6:12 & 8:14)  And what had they experienced since then, before entering this land of abundance?  (Deut. 8:2-5, 15-16)  In Deuteronomy 8:2 & 16 God repeats the 2 purposes He had for leading them into the wilderness and causing them to go through the trials they experienced.  What were those 2 purposes?

It is humbling to be hungry and not able to provide for yourself.  It is humbling to be so utterly and daily dependent.  It was a test.  What was God testing according to Deut. 8:2?  Would they obey?  What had they promised with their words several times over in Exodus 19:8 and Exodus 24:3, 7?  But was it really in their hearts?  It always comes down to this, doesn’t it?  God goes for the heart.  That’s where it counts.

What does Proverbs 4:23 say about the heart?  What does Jesus say about the heart in Mark 7:21-23? The heart is the well-spring of all we think, say, and do.  The heart is the seat of our affections and desires.  Whatever is in the heart, that is what we will do.

What did God want the people to realize according to Deuteronomy 8:3?  There’s a spiritual dimension to our lives that cannot be filled or satisfied with physical prosperity!  And even our physical prosperity comes from the gracious hand of God.

According to Deut. 8:14, what was the heart danger lurking in all the prosperity they would enjoy?

And what 2 things would that cause them to do (Deut. 8:14 and 17)?  It’s interesting that both verses again use the word heart:  “when you heart is lifted up;” “you will say in your heart.”  Out of the heart the mouth speaks what we really think.  And we expose ourselves.

But what did they need to remember? (Deut. 8:18)  Look back at the verbs in Deuteronomy 6:10-11:  “the Lord your God ____________ you into the land of which He ____________ to your fathers… to _____________ you…which you did _________ build,…you did _______ fill, …you did _______ dig, you did ________ plant…”  God gave them all their prosperity.  God gives us power to get wealth.  Any prosperity we enjoy comes from the hand of God; our ability to work comes from the hand of God, our health, our strength:  the power to make money.  Oh, may we never forget that!

Read Ezekiel 16:49.  What were the sins of Israel and Judah according to that verse?  In a future day God foresaw that their prosperity would lead to pride and forgetfulness, forgetfulness of God and where that prosperity came from.  It also leads to idleness and self-indulgence.  A further grievous step downward in this sin cycle is that with all their prosperity they would not help the poor.  (As we’ve seen from earlier fear of the Lord studies, caring for the poor is tightly linked with the fear of the Lord; this is close to God’s heart.)

Hosea 13:6 expresses this same idea:  Deuteronomy sounds the warning; Hosea decries the reality that had come to pass.

Cotton Mather, an influential New England Puritan minister wrote:  “Religion hath brought forth prosperity, and the daughter destroyed the mother. There is a danger, lest the enchantments of this world make us forget our errand into the wilderness.”  Don’t forget that this world is our wilderness; it is not our home, nor the Promised Land.

According to the last part of Deuteronomy 8:16, what was God’s end desire or goal for the humbling and testing in the wilderness?  This is always His aim:  to do us good.  Reread Deuteronomy 8:5.  It is parental love that chastens, humbles, tests us – to see what is in our hearts.  God knows what is there; it is we ourselves who don’t realize what is really in our hearts, so He helps us to see it.  It reveals our need for a Savior who alone can transform the heart.

Finally, read Proverbs 30:7-9.  Can you pray these 2 prayers along with Agur (Prov. 30:1)?

Lord, remove the falsehood, the hypocrisy in my heart that might say I will fully obey You, when really I want to run after the things of this world; that says I honor You, when really I’m proud of all my accomplishments.  Remove from me the lie of pride.  Give me daily contentment with what You have given.  Never give me too much prosperity; let me never forget You or deny You, or think that the strength to achieve and to gain has come from myself.  Nor let me sink so low into hardship that I break Your commandments to fulfill my needs.  Lord, by the power of the cross and the resurrection and the Holy Spirit within me, keep me from forgetting You; keep me in the fear of the Lord; keep me remembering that all I’ve accomplished and all I have, You have performed in and for me (Isa. 26:12).

Spend a few minutes praying these things for your loved ones and friends.

How does the fear of the Lord keep us from pride?  How does it shield us from forgetting and help us to remember?  Walking in the fear of the Lord is very purposeful, isn’t it?  It is intended to keep us reflective.  And in that reflection we must continually take ourselves back to who we were without Christ, before He reached down to save us and deliver us from sin.  We need to reflect on the times of chastening He has taken us through and remember the lessons learned.  We must also continually lift up our heart in thanksgiving for the things we’ve been enabled to accomplish and the things we’ve been enabled to acquire.  Spend some time in reflection and humble thanksgiving.

Add to your fear of the Lord list what you have learned from this verse study.

The Fear of the Lord – Day 19

Deuteronomy 6:24
And the Lord commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is this day.

Read the context:  Deuteronomy 6:20-25

In the context paragraph, the verse for today is something we are to pass on to others, to tell someone else.  Whom are we to tell?  What is the setting or situation in which we are to tell this (vs. 20)?  Why would a child ask this?

Children have natural curiosity and they are keener observers than we think they are.  As we have seen from previous verses, and particularly from Deuteronomy 6:13, the Israelites were to be different from the peoples around them.  They had a distinctly different God, only one God instead of many gods, and a distinctly different code of ethics.  This made them look, act, be different.

Read Leviticus 18:2-5.  What two people groups did God warn them not to be like (verse 3)?  Why?  What are the repeated words in verses 2, 4, and 5?  That was why!  They had a different God and He was Lord; they “marched to a different drum.”

Notice in Leviticus 18:3, 4 that these are things we are to walk in; they are the daily course of our lives.  We are not to walk/live like the world, like the people who do not know God nor honor Him as the Lord of their lives.  How are we to walk/live according to Leviticus 18:4-5?  Notice the repetition of the word My.  We must be different because we have a different Master.  We will be different if we take the Lordship of God over our lives seriously.  We must learn His statutes, His judgments, His ways; and we must live them so that our children will ask, “Why are we different?  What has God commanded you and why?”

Read also II Corinthians 6:11-7:1.  Write out the commands in verse 17.  According to verse 16 why are we told to come out and to be separate?  This is quite a mind-blowing statement!  The physical dwelling place of God has changed:  First it was the moveable tabernacle in the wilderness, a beautiful structure overlaid with gold and hung with ornate tapestries of blue, scarlet, purple, white, and gold threads woven into  heavenly scenes depicting angelic beings; then it became the fixed stone Temple that Solomon built, also overlaid inside with gold, a lavish monument to the Glory of God; when that Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians, other Temples followed, rebuilt by the people in Haggai’s day and again in Herod’s day; when Christ came, He made the stunning statement that He Himself was the Temple, though at the time the people didn’t understand what He meant (John 2:19, 21); and now Paul is saying that we are the Temple.

The dwelling place of God is no longer outside of ourselves, somewhere we have to go, a place we visit.  We, our physical bodies, are the Temple; the dwelling place of God is within us.  Stop and reflect on that for a few minutes.  Breathe deeply of this truth; mentally look within.  Where did Jesus say the Kingdom of God was in Luke 17:21?  This is, I believe, what Jesus meant when He talked with Nicodemus in John 3:3-8.  What does He liken it to in John 3:3 and 8?

II Corinthians 7:1 says, “Therefore, having these promises…”  List the promises spoken of in II Corinthians 6:16-18.  If you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord and by faith laid hold of the New Covenant promises of God though Christ, then God Himself dwells within you; you have been born from above, by the Spirit; you are a child of God (John 1:12-13) and He is your Father.  To write or say that God dwells inside of me sounds outrageous, pretentious, even crazy – like something out of the New Age movement or a sci-fi novel.  But this is the essence of the Gospel!  It is what Christ came to accomplish.

In Deuteronomy 6:21 what is the first thing that they were to tell their children?   This is what we also were before Christ.  Look up the following verses and write down the contrasts of what we once were and what we are now in Christ:  Romans 6:17-22, I Corinthians 6:9-11, and Ephesians 5:8.

And just as God “showed signs and wonders before our eyes, great and severe, against Egypt,” so He displayed the greatness of His power to us against the powers of sin, evil, and darkness that held us fast:  Colossians 2:13-15.

What did God do for them (Deut. 6:21-23)?  Notice in verse 23 that God “brought them out” that He might “bring them in.”  This is exactly what He has done for us as well.   Note what God has brought us out of and what He has brought us into according to Colossians 1:13 and I Peter 2:9-10.

Having delivered them from slavery and brought them into the Promised Land, God gave them a new lifestyle, commands they were to carefully observe, and He instructed them to fear the Lord their God.  We, too, are to have a different lifestyle, a different focus, a new love.  According to II Corinthians 7:1, what are we to cleanse ourselves from?  And what are we to replace it with?  Paul finishes the verse with “in the fear of the Lord.”  Interesting, isn’t it?  From Old Testament to New Testament it is the same:  obedience, holiness, walking in a new, godly lifestyle flows out of the fear of the Lord.

In I John 2:15-17 what are we not to love and what are we to love?  What does the world consist of (vs. 16)?  And where is that headed (vs. 17)?  How does loving the Father affect our actions (vs 17)?  Where does that lead?  Notice from verse 15 that the 2 loves are mutually exclusive:  remember that God is a jealous God (Deut. 6:15).  Jesus Himself said you will either hate the one and love the other or be devoted to the one and despise the other (Matthew 6:24).

What 3 reasons are given in Deuteronomy 6:24-25 that explain why God has commanded us to observe His statutes and to fear Him?  The purpose behind the fear of God is always for our good, always in our best interest, never to harm us or destroy us.  Look again at Romans 6:21-23.  The end of slavery to sin is ___________, but the end of obedience to God or righteousness is _____________ ________.

Deuteronomy 6:25 says that God’s law brings righteousness to those who obey it.  But Romans, and the experience of our own lives, teaches us that we have failed so miserably at obedience to God’s law that no one is righteous (Rom. 3:9-20).  However, to those of us who place our faith in the full obedience of Christ, His righteousness is imputed to us (Rom. 3:21-26, 4:5-6); the righteousness of Christ is a grace gift from God to all who believe in Jesus Christ (Rom. 4:23-25, 5:15-21).  Through Christ we have received something better than Adam and Eve had before the Fall, the 1st sin.  Justification is more than “just as if I’d never sinned;” it is also “just as if I’d fulfilled the whole law of God.”  For this is exactly what Christ has done for us. Christ takes us beyond innocence and clothes us in the perfect righteousness of God!

Oh, may our hearts bow before Him in awe, wonder, and gratitude.  May we walk in the fear of the Lord, and the wonder of His Presence with us, cleansing ourselves from any taint of the world, and living for Him with a whole heart.  Spend some time in worship, thanksgiving, confession, and earnest supplication for a life that is truly and fully different.

If there are new things you have learned about the fear of the Lord from this lesson, add those things to your list.

The Fear of the Lord – Day 18

Deuteronomy 6:13
You shall fear the Lord your God and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name.

Read the context:  Deuteronomy 6:10-19

In verse 10, when it tells us that God promised the land to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, what does it say God did; or, to put it another way, how did He make that promise?  He ______________.

Read Hebrews 6:13-20.  According to verse 13, what did God do when He made the promise to Abraham?  Whom did He swear by?  Why?  (still in vs. 13)

Why do men swear by something? (vs. 16)  And whom or what do they swear by? (same vs.)

Why did God confirm His promise to Abraham with an oath? (2 reasons:  one in vs. 17 & one in vs. 18)

What are the “two immutable things” talked about in vs. 18?

What does the hope we have, based on the 2 immutable things, act as? (vs. 19)

How we need that!  Through all the storms of life that test our faith and buffet us with temptations of doubt and fear, we have an anchor for our souls that is wrapped around the 2 immovable rocks of God’s promise and God’s oath.  What 2 things do we learn about God from Hebrews 6:13 & 18?

God promised He would give them the land and He confirmed it with an oath, an oath that was based on His own character and power and greatness.  There never was nor is nor ever will be anyone greater or more powerful.  He swore by Himself and that settled it.  It was a done deal.  End of discussion.  Period.  He cannot lie nor can anyone thwart Him.

We’ll look more closely at other aspects of verses 10-12 when we study a fear of the Lord verse in Deuteronomy 8.  For this study we’ll focus on verses 13-19.

In the verse for today, Deuteronomy 6:13, what are the 3 commands?  It seems to me that the last 2 commands are subordinate to the first one.  In other words, we serve Him because we fear Him.  Hebrews 12:28 seems to bear this out.  According to that verse, how are we to serve God?  How does the fear of the Lord shape our service?  Why would it make our service more acceptable to God?

And we take oaths in His Name because we fear Him.  We believe in His power and greatness and we know we can swear by no one greater.

What does Jesus say about the swearing of oaths in Matthew 5:33-37, particularly verse 34?  List the 4 things the people would swear by.  Why does Jesus say not to swear by any of these things?  What were they to do instead? (verse 37)  Where does Jesus say this need to add strength to your words comes from?  James 5:12 reiterates these words of Jesus.  What does James say we should not swear by?  What reason does James give for his warning?

Yet Deuteronomy 6:13 instructs us to take our oaths in His Name.  Read also Matthew 23:16-22.  What were the people of Jesus’ day swearing by according to these verses?  Were the people obeying Deuteronomy 6:13?  What had they made more significant than God?  And what were they failing to understand according to Matthew 23:17, 19-22?

They tried to add confirmative weight to their promises by swearing on all kinds of things that they valued, but which in reality were of lesser value.  They were not walking in the fear of the Lord but in the awe of created things and things of their own doing.  They valued their gifts that they brought to offer on the altar, but not the altar that set the gift apart as a sacrifice to cleanse their sins; they valued the gold, but not the temple where God dwelt among His people; they were enamored with the stars and the vastness of the heavens, but not with the One who is seated above and beyond the stars and who created them all with a simple, offhanded word (“And He made the stars also!”).  This was a veneer of spirituality over the rotten wood of hypocrisy.

The command in Deuteronomy 6:13 to take oaths in His Name is quite different.  There is a contrast here in verses 13-15.  What were they warned not to go after in Deuteronomy 6:14?  God knew it would be a temptation because it was going to be all around them.  Rather they were to fear the Lord, serve Him, and take their oaths in His Name.  They were to obey and keep their commitments because they feared the Lord.  The fear of the Lord was to change them and make them a different people from the people around them who served other gods.

If the people turned to go after other gods, what would this cause? (vs. 15)  This is what we must fear.  God is not just a God of love, but He is also a God of wrath.  If you don’t like that idea or think that He was only that in the Old Testament but has changed and is no longer that way in the New Testament, do a concordance or google word search on the wrath/anger of God.  Jesus displayed the wrath of God when He overturned the tables and made a whip to drive out the animals in the temple.  The wrath of God was poured out upon Jesus on the cross for your sin and mine.  And there are many warnings about the fire of hell, especially from Jesus, in the New Testament.

What would the anger of God cause?  This is why God urges the people (and us) so strongly and so repeatedly to fear Him, to love Him, to serve Him only.  He longs for our safety and well-being; He desires to protect us.  Leaving total allegiance to the one true God and thinking we can break His laws without any negative consequences will lead to our destruction.  That is just the Truth about the universe; that is reality.

What do we learn about God in verse 15?  Why is He this way?  Why or under what circumstances is jealousy aroused in a person?  See Proverbs 6:34 and II Corinthians 11:2.  Jealousy is the response of an exclusive love relationship.  God wants us for His own in an exclusive love relationship.  Anything less will destroy us.

What are the people commanded not to do in verse 16?  Read the story in Exodus 17:1-7.  In what manner did the people ask for water in verse 2?  What did they accuse Moses and God of in verse 3?  What does Moses tell God the people were about to do?  What question did they ask in verse 7?  You can almost hear the tone of challenge and disdainful doubt in their question.  They were not bringing their need before God, trusting Him to supply.  Rather, they were doubting His goodness and His kind intention.  They were demanding and tempting Him to anger.  Massah means tempted.  Oh, if we would only believe God’s kind intention toward us!

What are the 2 exhortations or commands given in Deuteronomy 6:17-18?  What are the 2 purposes given in verse 18 for those commands?  And what does God promise to do in verse 19?  Metaphorically, in the spiritual realm of our hearts, this is also what God wants to do for us.  This is His kind intention toward us, His purpose behind every command.

Let us return one final time to Deuteronomy 6:13:  Fear, serve, take oaths.  Read Genesis 17:1.  What does God tell Abraham to do?  This, I think, is the essence of the fear of the Lord:  Walk before Me – and be blameless.  This is why Jesus could say not to take oaths at all.  Just live before God, in the continual awareness that you are in His Presence, in complete honesty and integrity:  be blameless in word and deed.  Live in the fear of the Lord.

Take some time in prayer, asking God to help you review the words of your mouth.  Have you said you’d do something and not followed through?  Is your word reliable because you walk in the fear of the Lord?  Matthew 12:36-37 does not mention the fear of the Lord, but it certainly contains the fear of the Lord.  Pray over these verses.

Are you serving Him only?  Or are you distracted by the things of the world?  Pray Psalm 86:11-13.

 

Add to your fear of the Lord list what you have learned from this verse study.

 

The Fear of the Lord – Day 17

Deuteronomy 6:1-2
Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the Lord your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess, that you may fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged.

Read the context:  Deuteronomy 6:1-9

Notice in these 2 verses that the word commandment or a synonym or pronoun referring to the commandments is mentioned six times.  Underline those 6 words.  Two verbs are used to show what God wants them to do with the commandments.  What are they?  1)  that you may _____________ them; 2) to __________ all His statutes and His commandments.

Why did God want the people of Israel to fear Him?

For whom was this instruction given?  God is not just thinking about individuals, but of families and generations.  These truths were to be passed down perpetually.

But what is to be passed down?  It is not just a list of “truths” or facts, but obedience that was to be modeled and passed on.  They were not just commands to be memorized or known, but observed and kept.  God’s truth is never reduced to (may I be so bold as to say?) doctrinal stances.  Rather, God’s truth is inseparably linked with living – how we live out the day-to-day-ness of our lives.  Truth is not flat; for truth to be true it must be dimensional – that is, it must be lived, embedded in the warp and woof of the fabric of moment-by-moment actual living.  Remember that Jesus said, “I am the Truth.”  That is, Truth is a Person, and a Life lived in accordance with God’s ways and commands.  We see and understand Truth when we look at Christ and His perfect obedience to the Father.

There is a time dimension to this fear-leading-to-obedience injunction.  What is the time factor given in these 2 verses?  To ask it another way, for how long did God want the people to keep His commands?  This is not a general time frame, but a specific one.  It doesn’t say, “all your life,” but rather “all the days of your life.”  We can only live this day.  One day at a time, stoke the fire of the fear of the Lord in your heart and renew your allegiance to obey God and His commands.

What is the heart of God behind why He’s asking us to do this?  What does He desire for us (the promise at the end of the verse)?  Amazing, isn’t it?  This is not for His sake, but for ours.  Yet somehow we get to thinking or feeling that the fear of the Lord and obedience to His commands are burdensome or something He is requiring of us for His sake, because He’s The Sovereign – almost as if God has an ego problem.  This is so far from the truth that you can smell the stench from the Pit emanating off it:  a Lie from the father of lies.

Imagine telling a child not to touch the hot stove, or not to run into the street.  And if after repeated warnings, he or she continued to try to run into the street or touch the stove because he didn’t trust your word that it would harm him or because he simply wanted to prove his will was stronger than your will, you would use stronger methods to deter him from this harmful action, like a spanking.  It is this fear of a spanking that would then turn his will to obedience and protect him from harm until he came to understand for himself and believe in his own heart that it would indeed harm him.  Would you be telling him not to do these things and spanking him if he disobeyed just because you wanted to be The Boss?  It’s obvious that is ridiculous.  It is because you love him.  The commands we give our children and the discipline we administer to help them to obey should always be with a heart for their well-being.  (I realize that spanking has fallen very far out of cultural acceptance – I see that on fb!  Perhaps that is because parental discipline apart from parental fear of the Lord is administered in angry, wrong ways that is motivated out of an “I am The Boss” mentality.  That kind of discipline IS wrong!  However, God’s Word is clear:  love and discipline go together; we discipline because we love and we know where the consequences will take them.)  So it is with God.

His heart for our best interest is reiterated in verse 3.  Why does He want us to “be careful to observe” His commands?

Verse 4 could be translated in this way:  Hear, O Israel:  The Lord our God, the Lord is first!”  In other words, it could be a strong declaration of the 1st of the 10 commandments.  Write out the 1st commandment.  First place.  Top priority.  No other gods.  I believe it is also a declaration of His essential nature, of Trinity in Unity.  Perhaps God meant it to be ambiguous; for both are true:  He is One and He is First.

Verses 5-9 give us several more exhortations to strengthen our commitment to God’s commands.  List them.

The command in verse 5 seems to be overarching.  Jesus said it is the first and greatest commandment.  When love is in place, obedience is not burdensome but a joy.  Notice the all’s in vs. 5.  This is not a half-hearted, partial commitment God is asking for.  As we’ve seen in other verses and in the parenting example above, fear of the Lord and love for the Lord are not antithetical; they are necessarily and inextricably linked.

In vs. 6, where does God want these commands to be?  Not just our minds, but our hearts.  When something is in our hearts, we desire it, we will go to great lengths to do it.

And in vs. 7, how are we to teach our children these commands of God?  Again, it’s not haphazard or half-hearted.  It’s purposeful, continuous, and top priority.

But God is quite serious about this!  We could almost paraphrase these verses (especially vss. 8-9) by saying, “Do whatever it takes to keep these commands always in front of you!”  Yes, put Scripture around your house: hang it on your walls, tape it to your mirror (or like one of my daughters does, write verses with a white board marker on one corner of your bathroom mirror), put memory verse cards in your kitchen window, or (as one of my daughters-in-law did for me) get an empty picture frame and set it on your kitchen counter and write memory verses with a white board marker on the glass.

This is high-level, all-out intensity all the time!  Who is equal to these whole-hearted, all-of-life-encompassing injunctions?  First of all, remember that it’s one day at a time, “all the days of your life.”  And then pray.  None of us is equal to this.  Only the work of God and the power of His Spirit within us can do this.

Spend some time praying for this kind of daily, even moment-by-moment fear of the Lord that leads to trusting obedience that, in turn, cultivates a deep love for God, His care, and the protective wise commands He has given.  Ask God to show you some specific ways you can put God’s Word before you, before your children, and before your grandchildren – we’re not of the hook when our children are grown and flown.  The commands are for us, our children, and our grandchildren.  Besides, if these things are in our hearts, we won’t want to be “off the hook.”

Add to your fear of the Lord list what you have learned from this verse study.

The Fear of the Lord – Day 16

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!

Read the context:  Deuteronomy 5:1-33

What made the people afraid according to Deuteronomy 5:5?  How many times is this mentioned in verses 22-26?  How did they describe it in verse 25?  In that same verse, what do they say they’re afraid will happen to them?  But what do they say in verses 24 and 26 actually happened to them?  “We have seen this day that God speaks with man; yet he ____________________.” (vs. 24)

“Who is there of all flesh who has heard the voice of the living God speaking from the midst of the fire, as we have, and _______________?” (vs. 26)  Yet, they are afraid if it continues they will _______.

What did their fear cause them to tell Moses? (vs. 27)  Their fear led them to distance themselves from God.

What did they promise they would do at the end of verse 27?  But can we distance ourselves from God and maintain the fear of the Lord?  And if we don’t maintain the fear of the Lord, will we continue in obedience or drift from it?  What was the experience of the Israelites?

What is God’s response to this in verse 28?  What does He mean?  What are they right about?

Consider Nebuchadnezzar’s response to the 3, no, 4 men in the fiery furnace in Daniel 3:25-29.  In verse 25 where does Nebuchadnezzar acknowledge they are walking?  “In ________________________________.”  And what does he say next that is so astonishing to him?  “And they are __________________________.”  No one had ever seen a Living God!   And certainly not a God who Himself could walk in the midst of fire but also enable His people to walk unharmed in the midst of fire.  This is fearsome.  This is our God.

Hebrews 12:28-29 says:  “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.  For our God is a consuming fire.”  That will be a verse study for another day a long way down the road, but it is relevant to our verse for today.  We must realize, as the people of Israel did, that the God we serve is a consuming fire and this is fearful.  Greatly fearful.  Yet God asks us to walk with Him, to come up on the mountain in the midst of the fire and cloud.  If we draw near to Him, we will not be burned.

In our verse for today, what is the longing of God’s heart for us?  Where does this need to lodge?  Not simply in our minds, but in our hearts; there’s a vast difference.  What will this lead to in our actions?  And what is the promise from God, the outcome?  Fear…obedience…blessing.  A winsome combination.

I wrote a monologue about the 3 men in the fiery furnace in which the punch line is “Embrace the Fire.”  It only burns away our bondages.  Can you hear the heart of God in our verse for today pleading with you to do the same?  He doesn’t mean to harm you; only to free you.  Draw near in holy, reverential fear.  And keep on drawing near, no matter how hot it may get.  Our God is awesome – in the highest and loftiest and most fearful sense of that word; He is a consuming fire.

Spend some time in prayer.  Ask God to give you the courage to draw near.  And the desire.  On an ongoing basis.  Ask Him to put the fear of God in your heart and in the hearts of your loved ones.  Take time in His Presence to feel the fire.  Worship.

Add to your fear of the Lord list what you have learned from this verse study.

For additional encouragement to meet God on the mountain, watch this youtube sermon by Francis Chan given to a conference of pastors:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXPKK9QNpJA

The Fear of the Lord – Day 15

Deuteronomy 4:9, 10
Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life.  And teach them to your children and your grandchildren, especially concerning the day you stood before the Lord your God in Horeb, when the Lord said to me, “Gather the people to Me, and I will let them hear My words, that they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children.”

Read the context:  Deuteronomy 4:1-40

Deuteronomy is Moses’ last speech to the people of Israel before he dies.  He is recounting their history from the time they left Egypt and reminding them of the wonders God has done for them.  For their own blessing and ongoing benefit, he is also urging them and pleading with them to be faithful to God.  What event is Moses reminding them of in this chapter?  (Read Exodus 19:1-20:21)

In this chapter, Deuteronomy 4, Moses tells the people several truths about God’s nature and character.  What do you learn about God in the following verses:  Deut. 4:6?  Deut. 4:7?  Deut. 4:12, 15, 16?  Deut. 4:24?  Deut. 4:25?  Deut. 4:28 (by contrast)?  Deut. 4:29?  Deut. 4:31?  Deut. 4:32?  Deut. 4:34?  Deut. 4:35?  Deut. 4:37?  Deut. 4:39?   Beside each characteristic, write whether it would cause you to fear or to want to draw near to God.  What is the primary characteristic of God that would cause you to fear?  When does God express this attribute?  Or, to put it another way, what specific action on our part is this characteristic directed toward or against (Deut. 4:15-23)?

Go back and look at Exodus 20:20 – the final statement from Moses in that Mt. Horeb scene.  What was the purpose of the fear of the Lord according to that verse?  Interesting, isn’t it, that here in Deuteronomy 4 the fear-of-the-Lord attribute is directed against the breaking of the 1st 2 commandments.  The fear of the Lord is purposely intended to protect our hearts from sin.  And when the 1st 2 commands are disregarded, the door is open for the breaking of all the others.

In the verses for today, what are the 2 commands at the beginning of verse 9 and who are they directed to?  I’m reminded of the instructions given on an airplane before take-off:  Put the oxygen mask on yourself before attempting to help others.  Solomon reminds us of this same thing in Proverbs 4:23.  In that verse, what does he tell us to do and why?  God is calling us, warning us, to give diligent attention to the state of our own heart and lives.  First things first.

In Deut. 4:9 there are 2 warnings, 2 things that are prone to happen within us if we don’t watch over our hearts with all diligence.  What are those 2 warnings (they begin with “lest…”)?

Eyes…heart…memory.  We see or experience the wonders and care of God, and we believe Him with our hearts; but then life goes on and we forget, and faith starts to wane.  Read Psalm 78:5-8, 10-11, 40-42 and Psalm 106:12-15, 21.  What is the common thread in each of those passages?

What is always the result of forgetting or not remembering?

So Moses urges them not to forget.  For if we forget the things God has done for us, they will depart from our hearts and disobedience or sin is not far behind.  This is why Jesus told us to remember Him through communion:  As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, do this in remembrance of Me.  We must regularly take time to remember the wonders God has done for us.  This is not for God’s benefit but for ours!  It is stabilizing and acts as reinforcement to our hearts, anchoring them to the truth.

According to verse 10, why did God present Himself the way He did that day on Mt. Horeb back in Exodus 19?  That they may learn to _____________.  For how long?  It was to make that deep of an impression.  It was to be utterly and completely life altering.

What command is given at the end of Deut. 4:9 and at the end of verse 10?

Have you taken time to recount to your children (and grandchildren) the attributes of God, the wonders God has done for you, all that has been provided for you through Christ Jesus, the warnings He has given you, the ways He has kept you?  Take time to think through these things, write them down, pray for and plan opportunities to tell your children.  Be specific.

Add to your fear of the Lord list anything you learned from these verses.

Pray for God to keep you in the fear of the Lord all the days of your life.  Pray for God to plant the fear of the Lord in your children’s hearts and to keep it fanned into flame all the days of their lives.  For our God is a consuming fire.  May their hearts be ablaze for Him.