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The Blessedness of the Fear of the Lord
“The fear of the Lord is a strong confidence; and His children shall have a place of refuge” (Proverbs 14:26).
Rev. W.C. Lamain (1904-1984)
The fear of the Lord is worked in the hearts of the elect by God, the Holy Spirit. As the result of our deep fall in Adam, we are filled with a slavish fear. This slavish fear also exists in the heart of the reprobate, yea, even in the most unrepentant Belshazzar. Also the devils are filled with slavish fear. “The devils,” writes James, “also believe and tremble.” This slavish fear works unrest and anxiety, but it never leads to God. Cain went out from before the presence of the Lord and built a city. Saul took refuge by the witch at Endor, but he did not fall down before God as a guilty one. Judas went to his own place, but he did not cry out to God or seek atonement in the blood of Christ.
The fear of the Lord, however, has a completely different character; it is the childlike fear whereby those who have found favor with God are ministered. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do His commandments: His praise endureth for ever” (Psalm 111:10). “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life ...” (Proverbs 14:27). The fear of the Lord is the most precious ornament which we can receive in our life. In Isaiah 33:6 it is called a treasure. It is a gift of God. In and of ourselves we have nothing more than misery. God adorns His people with this childlike fear out of free grace for Christ’s sake.
This fear alone keeps us from sin. David possessed the fear of the Lord, and Peter was not a stranger of it, but with all of their grace which they had received, at certain moments they missed the exercises in their lives of the fear of the Lord. Joseph also had grace, but the fear of the Lord lay in his heart, and he was spared from sin. When the fear of the Lord is in exercise, we have a hatred and aversion for all sin; we will avoid sin as the plague. We will hate what God hates, and we will love what God loves.
The fear of the Lord is suitable and enjoys His good pleasure. It consists herein: a child of God from a pure and sincere godly beginning of awe, respect, reverence, and love towards the Lord gives himself for His service with the greatest willingness and with the utmost carefulness endeavors not to displease the Lord.
Of course, it is God who has laid the foundation of that work which is glorified in the soul of His child. He was dead but has been made alive and has come into contact with a holy, just, and good-doing God. This revelation of God in Christ always brings with it love, respect, and humility. Where these matters are missed, we may place a question mark. David called out in Psalm 18:1, “I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength.”
When people speak of the work of God without warmth and without feeling, then love is lacking; it is nothing more than an assumption of the mind. Oh, how revolting it is when it is all so cold and hard. God is love, and in Christ, who satisfied the unimpeachable and perfect justice of God, He distributes that love in their lives from the moment that they may be partakers in this life as God’s children. They cannot always explain it themselves, but their heart burns with love and with the desire for God. Even if they must go lost forever and God would righteously cast them away from before His countenance, they would never ascribe any injustice to God or curse Him in perdition.
Where the fear of the Lord rules in the heart, it brings about a holy rest, a calmness of soul, and a strong confidence—a strong confidence against all external and internal enemies, against temptations and persecutions, against distress and death. There will be a resting upon the Lord, upon Christ, and upon His perfect mediatorial work, and if by grace, there may be such a strong trust, fear, doubt, and discouragement must depart.
Ask those who have been truly convinced by God’s Spirit, and a chord will be touched in their heart whereby they will say with Job, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” In Matthew 15, the Canaanitish woman was seemingly twice rejected and sent back, but did this woman go back? Oh, no! Even if Christ had sent her away a third time, she would have remained lying at His feet. Those people come to love God with all that in them is, because God first loved them.
When Christ, the Son of God’s love, is declared in their heart, it becomes, “Such love is like anointing oil that consecrates for holy toil” (Psalter 370:1). What holy awe and respect fills their heart over against that holy and precious Being. They come to the realization that that God is higher than all other gods. In their heart it is as with Abraham, ”I have taken upon me to speak to the Lord, which am but dust and ashes.”
Such people do not assume high places. Everything which is exalted among men is an abomination to the Lord. In Psalms 32 and 51, we read how low David bowed, and how precious was the condition of Peter’s soul when he left the hall of Caiaphas. They did not have much to say anymore. They lay broken and humbled before God. Oh, only a broken heart and a contrite spirit are a precious offering in God’s sight. When God becomes God in our heart, we fall down to earth. People can walk all over us, and we no longer have many demands. It becomes an eternal wonder that the Lord still thinks of us according to His sovereign grace, and we in communion with that Mediator of the covenant may sing with Him: “The suffering one He has not spurned, who unto Him for succor turned; from him He has not hid His face, but answered his request in grace.” Such a soul can never bow low enough before God. He would be content to continue lying there and, at that blessed place, to be saved as a sinner upon the grounds of Christ’s righteousness and holiness.
For such a soul who may learn, and who has learned, what sin is and what sin has cost Christ, it is not necessary to conduct a meeting to discuss what is sin and what is not sin. They seek atonement with God for all their unrighteousness and from the guilt of sin, but they also have a desire for the cleansing of the pollution of sin and a longing for complete deliverance from sin. Sin has become death for them, and for them the pleasures of the world no longer have any attraction. A pure desire has been worked in their heart by God’s Spirit to die to all that is in strife with God’s law and judgments. They no longer have their home here below, and the joy of their life is to contemplate the things which are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. Often they have to sigh, “How my soul cleaves to the dust,” but they also pray, “Make me alive according to Thy Word.”
Because of the fear of God, there is also a walking in the ways of the Lord with an inward joy and a cherishing of God as the highest Good. The more fear of the Lord we have in practice, the less evil we do, and the more distant we live from sin, the closer will be our association with God. Where the fear of the Lord rules in the heart, it brings about a holy rest, a calmness of soul, and a strong confidence—a strong confidence against all external and internal enemies, against temptations and persecutions, against distress and death. There will be a resting upon the Lord, upon Christ, and upon His perfect mediatorial work, and if, by grace, there may be such a strong trust, fear, doubt, and discouragement must depart.
We must not rest upon this fear, but through this childlike fear rest upon God—not upon faith but through faith upon Christ. Blessed are they who are not strangers of this fear of God but who also may be exercised in that faith. What confidence this fear will give us in God and before the world.
Then, at Thy sacred altar bending
My heart to God in prayer I’ll raise.
It will be a trust wherewith we shall not be ashamed. God is that Rock in whom we will never be ashamed, for His work is perfect. This fear also brings a blessing upon our descendants. Jehovah protects them and helps those who rely on Him, and He shall be a refuge for His children. The blessings of godliness are still experienced even to the thousandth generation (Psalter 425:5; see 444:7):
Jehovah’s truth will stand forever,
His covenant-bonds He will not sever;
The word of grace which He commands
To thousand generations stands...
Grace is not inherited, and it is not passed down from father to child. If that were true, then David would not have had an Absalom and Hezekiah would not have had a Manassah (although the Lord did look upon Manassah in mercy after the death of his father, ed.). Yet, we see that God sometimes works in the generations. On the other hand, God sometimes skips a generation. God alone is free in all that He does. He is the great Potter who makes the one vessel to honor and another to dishonor. What is written in the text is true: “He will be a refuge for His children”—a refuge for God’s Church in the widest sense of the word, a triune, covenant God.
But Christ, also, is a refuge for His people; in His blessed wounds, under His wings alone, can be found a hiding place and a covering. God will be a refuge for all those that fear Him, also for children who receive the same grace as their parents. We see that children whose parents have feared God are frequently blessed outwardly. It is, however, too short for eternity, for without regeneration no one shall see the kingdom of God.
It is a blessing to have lived under the admonishments, prayers, and tears of a father or mother who feared the Lord. Our responsibility will be so much greater in such a case. What will it be in eternity to have had parents who have shown us the right paths of the Lord but to never have walked in their footsteps ourselves? That each one who has a father or mother in heaven may take it to heart, also that they who may have this benefit presently may take it to heart. There are those who continue in sin in spite of all admonishments, who dishonor and anger God, but who also step on the heart of their parents. How deeply we have fallen in our countries, in the church, and in families, and how far is the fear of the Lord removed from us.
Atheism is coming to the foreground more and more in the world. There is no fear of God before their eyes. God is excluded from everything. There is no acknowledgement of the Lord by the leaders in the world or among the plain and simple ones upon the earth. Sin is freely and unashamedly spoken about. What are people asking for even in view of the threatening and gathering judgments, other than for food and pleasure? Feasting, shows, and exhibitions are the order of the day, and there is no desire other than to drown oneself in sin. Where will it all end? “Thy judgments, Lord, will be terrible!”
And in the church? Oh, that we would confess our guilt with weeping hearts and eyes. We may still have kept some form and religion, but a life of godliness is missed, in general. The world has come into the church, and every effort is made to grieve and to extinguish the Spirit. Where are the priests who are weeping between the porch and the altar, crying out, “Spare Thy people, spare Thy people”? Where is there heard a warning and correcting voice? The one must keep his mouth dosed for this reason, and the other does not dare to open his mouth for another reason. Do we realize how far we have fallen away from God? We try to hide and cover everything so as not to come by and under God. Brother rises up against brother, and there is no love.
God is removing His Spirit. Oh, let us not try to cover it over with all kinds of pious expressions. May God be pleased to make us guilty ones, and may the fear of the Lord be in exercise. Only the fear of the Lord is a barrier against sin. How different it would be also in our families. In general, there is no lamenting anymore, but where there still is lamenting what a blessing it would be if we would look to ourselves for the blame. There is so much hardening among our children; they long for the world and the idleness in this life. Yes, be honest; where do we find that true lamenting and concern for death and eternity, for guilt and sin, and to be restored in an atoned relationship with God?
May the God of all grace bless and hallow, by the blood of His dear Son, this short meditation to our heart. May He plant His fear where it is not yet found and spare it where it has been granted. Yea, may He adorn our heart and our life with it to the shaming of the enemy, to the death of sin, for the peace of our own heart, but above all to the praise and glory of the name of the Lord.
I say, though you cannot make the means of grace effectual, yet the Spirit of God can make the means you are capable of using effectual; and it is certain that your inability to do what is above your power in no way excuses you not to do what is in your power.
— John Flavel
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Bekijk de hele uitgave van maandag 1 september 2014
The Banner of Truth | 24 Pagina's
Bekijk de hele uitgave van maandag 1 september 2014
The Banner of Truth | 24 Pagina's