My guess is that you’re scratching your head a bit right now and wondering how I get THREE elements from a verse that clearly only has TWO parts. Well, let’s dive right in and explore today’s verse.
FEAR GOD AND OBEY HIS COMMANDS
We can begin by unpacking that word “FEAR” a little bit, because it is one of those words that is defined by context. I’ll use another well-known word to explain – LOVE.
We all understand that the word “love” has a very broad number of meanings. We determine the meaning from the context. If I say to my wife, “I love that dress you’re wearing” I am telling her that I believe she looks quite good in it. No one thinks that I’ve formed an emotional attachment with her dress. If I say that I “love” pizza I am expressing my enjoyment of that food. When we start applying the word “love” to people, it becomes even more important to understand context properly. When I say I love my wife, love my neighbor and love my bishop I’m clearly speaking of three very different types of love.
Saying I love my neighbor means we have a great relationship. We enjoy spending time together, doing things for one another that are helpful and fun. If I introduce the biblical understanding of “loving my neighbor” that could change the meaning dramatically; even though I used EXACTLY the same phrase, the context has changed. In that context I’m speaking about a personal commitment to demonstrate characteristics that show off the love of Christ.
Context is critical. That’s why the current catchphrase insisting that “ALL LOVE IS LOVE” is so insidious; because, while I can agree that all love is love, that does not equate to agreeing that all loves are equal or that all loves should be expressed in the same way. There are many different types of love. Some only appreciative, some relational; one of them is sexual, another sacrificial. Miss (or deliberately obscure) the context and you end up violating the very meaning of the term.
FEAR is also a word defined by its context. It can mean to be afraid of something, of course. Perhaps that is the most obvious and common meaning. Everyone feels fear, and sometimes it is the most appropriate response.
I remember an incident when I was in an open jeep out in the bush of an African nation. We were driving along, enjoying the scenery and even seeing some wild animals on the plains. Suddenly our driver stopped the jeep and put his finger to his lips, telling us to be silent. As I looked at the road ahead I could see a large pride of lions walking across the roadway. We sat silently as they passed, and then disappeared into the brush.
After some time had passed our driver told us that it was never wise to disturb lions; always give them plenty of space and don’t attract their attention. If we had driven our jeep into the midst of them as they were crossing the road, we’d have been seen as a threat; and making lions feel threatened is one sure way of meeting Jesus. 🙂
The FEAR I felt when I saw the lions was not your average, ordinary “afraid” type of fear. It was a feeling of AWE that came upon me. There was an internal recognition of the power and strength the large, male lion possessed. Actually, “standing in awe” is another meaning of the word FEAR, and it often also carries with it an internal warning to stay back.
For example, This is the way the bible uses it when it talks about the people’s reaction to how Moses looked when he came down from the presence of God with the tablets of the law. The very skin of Moses’ face was actually glowing from being in God’s presence. The people of Israel were in awe, and afraid to come near him. I felt much the same while watching the lions cross the road. Fascinated and wanting to be up close, but knowing within myself that I had to stay back. Context determine meaning.
Another meaning of the word FEAR is to give honor and reverence. When the bible says that children should reverence their parents, the word is FEAR. Here the context indicates a special sort of respect and deference. It is a recognition, not just of position, but also of commitment and sacrifice.
But then there is ONE SPECIAL MEANING of the word “FEAR” that is used only in relationship to God. It combines some other elements of the word – awe, honor, respect and and reverence. But THIS type of fear – the FEAR OF THE LORD – also includes a recognition of the sacred holiness of God. It is the astonishment of awe inspired in our hearts when God draws near.
This “FEAR” tells us how holy and awesome God is, and that we are nothing in comparison. A true and good FEAR OF THE LORD is what caused the Israelites not to even bring his name to their lips, and only refer to him by HIs title or a deferential attribute. It is like a child who addresses parents by their title – “Mom” or “Dad” (or the cultural equivalent). You’d cringe inside if your five year old walked up to you and said, “Hey Dave, grab a glass of milk for me.”
It is a holy and awesome recognition of who God is that is the goal of the verse FEAR GOD AND OBEY HIS COMMANDS.
We recognize God’s awesome majesty, His absolute holiness, His power and authority – and we are awe-struck.
We view His majesty and recognize our insignificance.
We view His holiness and are confronted by the filthiness of our sin.
We view His power and authority and perceive our own weakness.
The fear of the Lord drives out everything else. Oswald Chambers once said, “The remarkable thing about God is that when you fear God, you fear nothing else; whereas if you do not fear God, you fear everything else.”
As we behold Him, the FEAR OF THE LORD comes upon us, and we fall to our knees in reverence and submission. The fear of the Lord causes us to love Him with all of our heart, all of our soul, all of our mins and all of our strength. As we kneel before His Majesty the King, we come to recognize that as He loves us, calls us, equips us and empowers us – there is NOTHING we can’t do. All things are possible with God – even HIM using us!
FEAR GOD AND OBEY HIS COMMANDS
Obey – Of course I’ll obey !!!! When the fear of the Lord is within me and the fear of everything and anything else has been driven away – HOW COULD I NOT OBEY !!! My love for Him compels me. There is nothing my Lord could not equip me to do, so there is NOTHING to fear.
The apostle Peter understood this full well. He saw Jesus walking on the water. When Jesus called him out of the boat Peter knew that contained within the command itself was the fulfillment. Everything Peter needed to be able to walk on water was contained in Jesus’ one word order to “Come.” Everything Lazarus needed to rise from the dead and walk out of the grave was was contained in Jesus’ command “Lazarus, come out.”
FEAR GOD AND OBEY HIS COMMANDS
So how do I get THREE elements from a verse that clearly only has TWO parts? Because of the natural chain that leads from part one to part two — and then to you.
Part 1 – Fear God
Part 2 – Obey His commands
YOU – BE the one who does it !!!!
1 – Let the fear of the Lord reveal His awesomeness.
2 – Let His power and holiness enable your obedience.
3 – Be the person GOD ALMIGHTY created you to be.
So perhaps it is not 1 – 2 – 3 — It is actually 1 – 2 – BE !