Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Psalm 130 Grace Inspires Fear for God

KEY TEXT: Psalms 130:1-4 Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.

KEY THOT: There are two misunderstanding about God among NT believers. First, His attitude towards His people in the OT (Israel) is somehow different from His attitude towards His people in the NT (Church), because Christ has come. So, He is severe in his attitude towards Israel but kind in his attitude towards the Church. Second, that Israel needs to fear God because God in the OT was so severe but the Church needs not fear God because the NT God is so kind and gracious. In fact, we are told that "perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4:18). This is theologically unsound because in today's psalm, we read the Lord in the OT was a God of mercy and forgiveness; in other words, a gracious God. Nevertheless, the psalmist concludes that "with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared" (v.4). So the fear of God is not incompatible with the forgiveness of God.

One of the reason we see such disregard for God's word and rampant sins in the Church is that we no longer talk about the fear of God. We think that grace and fear is incompatible, as though God has undergone a conversion from the OT to the NT. But yet, the Scripture tells us that the Lord is eternal and does not change: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever!" (Hebrews 13:8). And Christ was with Israel as He is with us today: "all (Israel in the wilderness) ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ" (1 Corinthians 10:3-4). So there is no difference--Christ was with Israel as much as Christ is with the Church. The real difference is not that God has changed, but the way He guides us has changed--from the Law of Moses (external law of letters) to the Law of Christ (internal law of the Spirit). But God has not changed--He is as much to be loved as He is to be feared.

We need the fear of God in our hearts so that we may not sin against God and that we may walk in holiness: "Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God" (2 Corinthians 7:1-2). The fear of God is like the fear of fire. Fire is good--it gives us heat, light and life. But we should fear the fire and not fool around with it as it can consume us if we go too near it.

So grace does not mean the end of the fear of God, only the beginning of wisdom: "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Proverbs 9:10).

Father, help us fear You that we may understand grace and be wise. Amen.

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