26 November 2007

"Blessed Be"--he who fears the LORD (part 1)

What do you fear?

When I was a kid, I grew up in the age of cheesy monster movies. You know, the ones with the guys in the foam rubber suits, and the stiff arms. We had a field out in back of our house, with a woods behind it. And I always had this dream that some big, huge monster was going to come up from behind those woods. When you're a kid, you're afraid of those kinds of things. The boogeyman, the monsters under your bed. Then when get older, those fears kinda drift away because you figure out that there is no such thing as a 50-ft. monster.

Some people have other fears. They're afraid of heights, or water or bees. My dad was deathly allergic to bees—he had to carry around the little kit with the syringe. And if he even heard a buzzing sound, he was ready. The things we fear can range from the rational to the you gotta be kidding me, right? Snakes and spiders—I can understand that. But there are people who seem to have a dread fear of their food touching each other. They can't have their peas touch their mashed potatoes. Oooh!! And listen to some of these fears—or “phobias”—that have actual names.
Geliophobia-Fear of laughter.
Koniophobia-Fear of dust.
Triskaidekaphobia-fear of the number 13.
There are countless others. There is even a condition called Phobophobia—fear of phobias! Some people are afraid of being afraid!

But with all these things people fear, there is one fear that is becoming less and less evident among people. And it is the one fear that every single person should have--even if we fear nothing else. That is a fear of the LORD. ‘Cause let’s face it. Things like spiders and snakes—yeah, they can be scary, they can hurt you, they can kill your body. But, if you remember that old song “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” Think about it--with a snap of His fingers, we’d be gone. And over the last I don’t know how many years, we have really watered down what it means to “fear the LORD.”

If you ask most people—even those who know Him—“What does it mean to ‘Fear the LORD’?” You’ll get any number of responses. Some people will say, “Well, it means to have a healthy respect for God.” Another person might say, “Well, it doesn’t really mean that we have to be afraid of Him. It just means to have a loving reverence for Him.” Or you get may get the correct answer. You might have someone say, “Well, it means that a person has such a clear understanding of the holiness, and justice of God that it makes that person shake in his shoes when he considers what God, in His righteous wrath, is capable of doing.” But many of us don’t want to talk like that. We want to think of God as some kindly old uncle that sends us $50 in our birthday card. He gives us piggy-back rides, and he can lift 100 lbs. And we’re so impressed by that and isn't that nice! Even in the church, there is a watered-down idea of just what it means to “fear the LORD.”

What may very well be the most famous sermon ever preached on American soil was delivered on July 8, 1741. The great Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards referred to those who did not know or fear God—he called them, in the title of his sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Not a happy God. Not a highly regarded God. Not a God we should have a healthy respect for. No. “Sinners in the Hands of an ANGRY God.” We don’t like to think about an ANGRY God. To be quite honest, I don’t want to think about an angry God. I mentioned last time that many preachers don’t like to talk about Hell. They don’t want to make their people feel bad. But enough about Joel Osteen. When Jonathan Edwards finished delivering this sermon about an angry God, the whole congregation was silent—except for those who were crying out to God for mercy. Listen to how Edwards started this sermon—

Men's hands cannot be strong when God rises up. The strongest have no power to resist him, nor can any deliver out of his hands.-He is not only able to cast wicked men into hell, but he can most easily do it. Sometimes an earthly prince meets with a great deal of difficulty to subdue a rebel, who has found means to fortify himself, and has made himself strong by the numbers of his followers. But it is not so with God. There is no fortress that is any defence from the power of God. Though hand join in hand, and vast multitudes of God's enemies combine and associate themselves, they are easily broken in pieces. They are as great heaps of light chaff before the whirlwind; or large quantities of dry stubble before devouring flames. We find it easy to tread on and crush a worm that we see crawling on the earth…[so it is easy] for God, when he pleases, to cast his enemies down to hell. What are we, that we should think to stand before him, [the earth trembles at His rebuke], and before [Him] the rocks are thrown down

Any of those fears I mentioned earlier—spiders and snakes and bees—they're nothing. When we consider what an ANGRY God is capable of—when we read in His Word what He has done when He has been provoked to anger, and what will happen to the enemies of Christ when He returns—it should make us fall on our face before Him. God has destroyed cities with fire, He covered the whole Earth in a flood, He has caused vast armies to destroy themselves—and He has defeated death on the cross! And listen to what will happen to those who will dare to come against His Christ. Revelation 19:19-21And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet …These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with sulfur. And the rest were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse… Some people have this idea in their head that Jesus was just some kind of laid-back, hippie-type slacker dude. Not hardly. And when He returns, He ain't coming back to make nice. When He returns, He’s coming to destroy.

Last time, we looked at how blessed we are when we trust in the LORD. As I was preparing that message, I noticed a pattern with the first 3 passages we read. There is one word that is common in all those passages that talk about trusting God. That word is “fear.”

And the text for today's message comes from Psalm 128:1-2--Blessed is every one who fears the LORD, who walks in His ways. When you eat the labor of your hands, you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.

Before I got saved and started reading and studying the Bible, I just always assumed it was written in English. “King James wrote it, didn’t he?” I actually had somebody tell me that once. I never knew that the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, and the New Testament in Greek. That’s why there are so many translations. And no, we’re not going there. Maybe some other time.

The Hebrew word translated as "blessed" in this passage means “happy.” You may be asking yourself, “How can you be happy if you're living in fear of something?” I’m glad you asked. You see, having fear of the LORD is a lot different than having a fear of something earthly. Because when we fear something earthly—snakes, or spiders, or bees—fear of these things tends to make us avoid them. But when we have a good, healthy fear of the LORD our God, it actually makes us draw nearer to Him.

Proverbs 9:10--The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. There’s a whole lot of worldly wisdom out there. There have been literally millions and millions of books written by very smart, very knowledgeable people. But these smart, knowledgeable people aren’t always wise when it comes to the things of the LORD. 1st Corinthians 1:27But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put the wise to shame, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put the mighty things to shame. If our attempts at gaining wisdom are founded on the things of earth—we’re going to be missing out on a whole lot! We’re going to have a very narrow view of things. We’re going to have a very limited wisdom. Because these minds that we have, as complex as they are--and scientists have found that the human mind is vastly more complex than any supercomputer. But they're still…eh. Even the greatest minds that have unlocked the secrets of the atom, and have unwound the insides of our DNA—they're nothing compared to the one who fears God, and who seeks His wisdom. James 1:5--If any man lacks wisdom, let him ask of the LORD who giveth abundantly and upbraideth not, and it shall be given to him.

When we look to other people for wisdom, we’re not always gonna get the right answer. We might get an answer we want to hear, but it’s not always the one we need to hear. Many times in the Old Testament, false prophets would tell the king what he wanted to hear, and the prophet of God would tell him the truth. And when the king refused to hear the man of God, and went against the wisdom of God, and instead listened to the one speaking smooth words—great was their fall. Because when we fear the LORD, and we consider the consequences of our actions in light of the possibility of His wrath coming down upon us—we make better decisions.

Think about us and our earthly parents. If they tell us not to do something, and we consider the consequences of going against them—if we use that fear as our guide, we will heed their warnings. But if we say, “Yeah, I know what they said but I’m going to do what I want to do.” There’s a possibility that they will find out. And if we get away with it, and they don’t find out about it until way down the road—they’ll probably let it slide. But when we rebel against God, it’s not just a possibility that He’ll find out. Hebrews 4:13And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. But if we have a fear of the LORD, and we use that fear to guide us, we’re going to make some wise decisions.

Besides, God has a pretty good memory. And the only way He’ll forget about all the times we have rebelled against Him is if we accept the forgiveness He offers us through Christ Jesus our Lord (Ephesians 1:7). Romans 8:13 says we are to put to death the deeds of the body. Romans 6:4 tells us to walk in newness of life. That’s what King Solomon is saying when he says that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.

We also have a warning from Christ Himself in Matthew 10:28--“And do not fear those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in Hell.” The word “fear” in this verse. The Greek word is phobeo. Guess what term we have in English that comes from phobeo? What is a “phobia”? God loves us, He truly does. But that does not mean that we shouldn’t fear Him. And when I say fear, I mean fear. He didn’t do a lot of sugar-coating when He spoke. “…fear Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in Hell.”

Think about what happens to a doctor who messes up in the operating room. One of my teachers at Pellissippi was in a car crash a few years ago. The doctor who operated cut one of the nerves to her vocal chords, paralyzing them on one side. So now, she has to almost shout for anybody in class to hear her.

Think about the doctor who makes a wrong diagnosis. He reads a chart wrong, and prescribes the wrong medicine. He gets sued; he loses his license to practice. In some cases, he can be prosecuted. For mistakes that lead to physical impairments, or death.

Then consider how careful we should be when we handle the word of God. Because if we misuse this, and we tell someone something that isn't true, and we convince someone that a lie is the truth, and the truth is a lie—we won’t be standing before the medical board. If we lead someone down a path that leads to eternal punishment—we will have to answer to God. Some people think you have to be very self-confident, very self-assured to preach. But folks, it is one of the scariest things you can ever do. Listen to 2nd Timothy 2:15--Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. In Isaiah 66:2, the prophet records these words of our LORD—But on this one I will look: On him who has a contrite heart, and who trembles at My word.


Part 2 tomorrow.

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