The LORD favors those who fear Him, Those who wait for His lovingkindness.” Psalm 147:11 (NASB)
Can you believe that you are one of God’s favorites? It’s true if you by faith have believed in Jesus and received His gift of salvation. For all who have, it is our purpose to please God and to praise him. We can do this by how we live. Our God has done so much for us that our supreme desire should be to please Him. We find in our verse today a wonderful promise from God and a means to please Him. We’ve mentioned that when the Bible speaks of fearing God it means showing Him the awe and respect which He deserves. This is what God expects of us and when we do show Him respect and reverence He is pleased with us. He wants us to know and expect Him to act in love toward us. Even when things do not seem to be going our way, He loves us and we have reason to anticipate Him to demonstrate His love. If we do that, He will be pleased and delighted as our verse says. This is one way we can know to please our promise giving God today.
“O our God, will You not judge them? For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You.” – 2 Chronicles 20:12 (NASB)
It shouldn’t be surprising to realize that as faith believing Christians we face resistance from those who do not believe in God. As we live according to the precepts and commandments God has given to us and if the teachings of Jesus are how purpose to walk on life’s journey, our enemy Satan will throw hard times in our path. It doesn’t take much for us to see our inadequacies—especially in living for and serving God. When life’s circumstances press in on us, we become aware of the challenges set before us and can quickly sense ourselves recoiling from it. There was this time when King Jehoshaphat of Judah faced the descendants of Lot, (i.e. Moab and Ammon), and the offspring of Esau, (i.e. Edomites), were intent on sacking Jerusalem and Judah’s forces. Jehoshaphat knew his weakness and was afraid. He was aware of their power and of the inadequacy of his own people. He also knew that the proper response to his weakness was full dependence upon God (2 Chronicles 20:3). As he confronted this reality, he kept his gaze firmly fixed above, praying, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
“My son, fear the Lord and the king; Do not associate with those who are given to change, for their calamity will rise suddenly, And who knows the ruin that comes from both of them?” – Proverbs 24:21-22 (NASB)
What are we to do when we find in Scripture directions and instructions that seem unreasonable? Are we to think that “surely it doesn’t really mean that” and go on creating an adapted meaning that fits our reason? No. Today’s passage instructs us to fear the LORD (No problem with that is there?) and the king! This is identifying our responsibility to whoever, by any title, is our head of state. Our independence naturally kicks against submission. We hear the cry for the sovereignty of the people. As the picture of those manipulators has been drawn to life nearly two thousand years ago—“walking after the flesh—despising government—presumptuous, self-willed—not afraid to speak evil of dignities.” Such men love change for the sake of change. The leaders of the parties disturb the public peace, by promising changes, however without any assurance of fulfillment.* Loyalty to the king is proper because he is the agent of the Lord’s wisdom—believe it or not; (Deuteronomy 17:14–20; Romans 13:1–7). That loyalty includes having no part with rebels who seek to subvert or overthrow the king (“change”). Peter draws on this verse in his call to good citizenship in 1 Peter 1:17; 2:17.
* Charles Bridges, An Exposition of the Book of Proverbs, (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1865), 387.
“By lovingkindness and truth iniquity is atoned for, And by the fear of the LORD one keeps away from evil.” – Proverbs 16:6 (NASB)
Words used in other versions for ‘lovingkindness’ in this proverb are: ‘steadfast love,’ and ‘mercy.’ We receive what we do not deserve and we don’t receive what we do deserve. This is the mercy given to us by God Himself to those who believe in Him and in His promise of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus. It was the work of Jesus who willingly went to the cross to dies as a sinless man that provided all who believe the atonement they need. By God’s “lovingkindness and truth,” He affects the atonement or covering of sin, which for the believing sinner inclines him to keep away from evil. And “the fear of the Lord” is reverential awe and admiring, submissive fear which is the foundation for all spiritual knowledge and wisdom. The unbeliever may make statements about life and truth yet they don’t have true or ultimate knowledge until they are, by the Holy Spirit brought into a redemptive relationship of reverential awe with God. The fear of the Lord is a state of mind in which one’s own attitudes, will, feelings, deeds, and goals are exchanged for God’s.
“Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body And refreshment to your bones.” – Proverbs 3:7-8 (NASB)
What are our thoughts abought those who seem overly confident in their own knowledge or wisdom? “Just another ‘know-it-all’ might be a fitting description? Perhaps they have placed a bit too much importance and confidence in their alleged expertise? Certainly we need some measure of confidence that we are capable of doing what we are called to do. Be we are never called to do it on our own resources, with our own understanding. Today we have “Another warning against self-confidence! and who needs it not? So natural is it to idolize our own devices! Yet self-wisdom is self-delusion. True wisdom is its opposite—the fear of God and the fear of sin1” God calls us in today’s verse to Fear Him. The phrase ‘fear of the Lord’ occurs 11 times in Proverbs and ‘fear the Lord’ occurs 4 times. In Psalm 19:9 we learn that “the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;” God is promising physical well-being for those who live wisely according to His will2 Humility and lowliness, abhorred by the world is blessed by our dependence on God. (Romans 12:16)
1 Charles Bridges, An Exposition of the Book of Proverbs, (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1865), 23.
2 John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible., (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), Proverbs 3:8.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction” – Proverbs 1:7 (ESV)
Proverbs are short, pithy sayings expressing timeless truth and wisdom. They arrest our thoughts, causing us to reflect on how we might apply divine principles to life situations. Proverbs contains insights both in poetry and prose; yet, at the same time, it includes commands to be obeyed and promises. Today our promise is that having a proper fear of the Lord Almighty will bring (teach) us knowledge. We find the same instruction in Job 28:28. People who are unbelievers make statements about life and truth all the while thinking that is makes sense to them therefore is must be right and good. However, they do not have true or ultimate knowledge until they are in a redemptive relationship and possess reverent awe with God. Note the progressive steps here: 1) fearing God; 2) receptive to teaching about God; 2) learning about God; 4) knowing God; and 5) imitating God’s wisdom. The fear of the Lord is a state of mind in which our own attitudes, will, feelings, deeds, and goals are exchanged for God’s. The essence of true knowledge is fearing God. Without awesome respect of Him a person is ignorant of spiritual things.
“Only fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you.” 1 Samuel 12:24 (ESV)
When the prophet Samuel was leading the people of Israel, he had reason, on several occasions to encourage them to stay true to God. Today, we find in our verse a wonderful motivation for serving the Lord God faithfully. Saul had just been made King of Israel. It was so easy for them to forget God’s blessings. It was true, they sometimes forgot how good God had been to them and they would go their own way. In much the same way we who profess to follow Jesus will forget what He has done for us and are influenced by the world to forsake the path God has made for us. We need to take time each day to remember and think about of what great things God has done for us. Let’s not think that we’ve done everything for ourselves. We know that God has been good to us to make us a part of His family. And in so many different ways, He has demonstrated His goodness in taking care of us. Remembering such things and keeping them in the top of our minds will help us to serve God faithfully and with all our heart.
“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10 (NASB)
Our promise today is one that can make us glad in heart. Fear is too commonly what we choose when we face turmoil from the world. Critics and hateful words from skeptics should not weaken our stand or our grip on God’s truth. God says, “Do Not Fear.” Why? How? By trusting that God’s promise is true – He is with us. When we are fearful, we get anxious and that means worry. Worry keeps us from seeing, understanding, and remembering God. So, don’t look around for help from any other source but God. He promises us strength. He promises us help. He promises to hold us up with His righteous right hand. That is like his hand is under us so that we will not fall and if we stumble, He catches us. God knows very well that we are weak and unable to stand on our own. When we try on our own we’re sure to topple over. But with the strength and help of His right hand, we are kept secure. We need not be afraid of frightful things. We do not need to worry because God’s promises are sure and true.
“But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”” – Mathew 14:27 (NASB)
A very young boy arrived at his new home deep in an African jungle. He was asked what he was afraid of. “I’m not afraid of nothin’!” That first night, in the darkness, in his bed, under a mosquito net, the unfamiliar jungle sounds frightened him so he could not sleep.” Fear comes on us from what we don’t understand. Jesus using a few loaves of bread and pieces of smoked fish, created enough food to satisfy far more* than 5,000 people. Each disciple ended up with their own small basket of left-overs. Jesus sends them across the Sea of Galilee in their boat and He remained on shore. In the middle of the lake, a sudden storm blows in and threatens to upset their boat. The disciples, see Jesus approaching their boat walking on the surface of the lake. This wasn’t familiar and they cry out in fear, “It’s a ghost!” Jesus calls out to them, “Take courage, It is I; don’t be afraid.” Jesus says the same to us when we’re overcome with fear. Take courage, Jesus is with us. He’s promised to always be with us in all circumstances.
* The number of men was 5,000, not including women and children, who probably brought the total up to 20,000.
John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible., (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), Jn 6:10.
“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” – 2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV)
We’re thinking of the campfire or a wood fire burning in a fireplace. These fires provide heat and perhaps light but wood fires dwindle to coals as the wood is burned into ashes. To keep it going we add new wood and then we blow or fan the burning embers into a flame. Paul instruction to Timothy is to do the same to his spiritual gift. It’s God who gives us spiritual gifts to serve Him and others in His name and for His sake. Persecution was increasing in the first century when Paul wrote his last letter to Timothy, shortly before his execution by Nero. There was much then and much today that might cause us to react with a cowardly fear, that springs from timidity. The Spirit of God and the spiritual gifts He has promised and given to us are powerful and can overcome such fears. Exercising our faith through obedience using these gifts result in love and discipline. Self-control is essential and God promises to supply it to all who by faith believe. This is why we need to stoke our God given gifts and keep them alive and burning bright.