It is the first day of school and most of the students are already in the classroom.
The teacher is beginning to interact with the students, trying to get names and a sense of who each person in the class is.
Another student walks into the room and addresses the teacher, “hey teach, give me five, nice hair, but you need to lose about 30 pounds.”
What would you think?
No matter whom we approach we need to approach them appropriately.
What is the appropriate approach to a teacher, to a friend, to a police officer, to God? God has different names and each one invites us to approach God in a different way.
Sovereign Lord invites us to approach Him with awe.
Father invites us to approach Him recognizing His care.
Holy One invites us to approach Him with reverence.
Friend invites us to approach Him with familiarity.
One of the phrases used often in the Bible which speaks about how we come into God’s presence is the phrase “fear the Lord.”
It is an important phrase in Scripture used in 69 different verses.
Proverbs 1:7 indicates its importance when it tells us that fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.
But do we really understand what it means?
Do we approach God in this way?
The command to fear the Lord is a key concept in Psalm 34:8-22 and this morning I would like to read this Psalm and think about what it means so that we can approach God in the right way.
I. Fear The Lord! vs. 9
!! A. Commanded To Fear
In verse 9 we are commanded to fear the Lord.
It is God’s people who are addressed and the implication is that it is those who belong to God, who know God who are positioned to obey this command, but not only positioned to obey, but also expected to obey it.
This is something that we must do, but I wonder how many of us ever think about it.
We think about receiving God’s forgiveness, we think about all the good things we want God to do for us, we look for God’s comfort and guidance, but do we ever think, “I really need to fear the Lord?”
To begin to understand what it means to fear the Lord, I would like to introduce some perspectives which will help us to actually do it.
We will be disposed to fear the Lord if we have the following perspectives about God.
We will fear the Lord if we believe that He exists.
There have been rumors of mountain lions along the Rosenort River Trail.
I do not believe that there are any and so I don’t even think about them when I go hiking or biking.
In a similar way if someone does not believe that God exists they will not fear Him or relate to Him in any way.
Hebrews 11:6 says, "…anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."
We will be disposed to fear the Lord if we understand that He is above all.
The kind of relationship implied in fearing the Lord requires more than just understanding that He exists.
I believe that clowns exist but a clown is a joke.
God, on the other hand is above all things and that requires a very different response.
Isaiah 8:13 says, "The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread,"
We will be disposed to fear the Lord if we understand that He has power to judge all creation.
Psalm 96:10 says, "Say among the nations, ‘The Lord reigns.’
The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity."
Someday every person on earth will need to stand before God.
We will be disposed to fear the Lord if we recognize that He is holy.
He is set apart from all creation in purity and perfection.
Revelation 15:4 reminds us, "Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name?
For you alone are holy.”
If we see God as buddy, only forgiving, not eternal and not holy then we will relate to Him as we do to any other human being, but if we know God in the ways I have just described, then we will be well positioned to fear Him.
!! B. Learning to Fear
A friend of mine had a sail board.
I haven’t seen them around lately, but they used to be quite popular.
It was basically a surfboard with a sail.
One day we were at the lake and he gave me an opportunity to try it out.
I had seen people skimming over the water on them enjoying the power of the wind and the joy of riding the waves and I was very interested in trying.
Well I tried for at least an hour and at the end of that hour I had sailed a few feet, spent most of my time in the water and was exhausted.
Remember the uncertainty attached to learning to ride a bicycle, bake bread, drive or any new activity?
In a similar way, fearing the Lord is not an activity which comes naturally to us.
In learning anything new we feel awkward, uncomfortable and very unskilled.
Many things in life need to be learned and the fear of the Lord is one of them.
In verse 11, the Psalmist says, “Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.”
He addresses children.
I am quite sure that he is not only speaking of young children, although I think it would be a good idea to be more deliberate and conscious about teaching children the fear of the Lord.
Yet, I am also sure that he intends everyone.
All of us need to learn the fear of the Lord and it is something that we can learn.
Proverbs 2:3-5 has a similar invitation and contains a promise when it says, “and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.”
!! C. Motivated To Fear
How will we learn?
When I was in high school, I was more interested in having fun and girls than I was in studying.
Consequently I did not apply myself very diligently to Chemistry and English and my marks showed it.
When I was in seminary, my motivation changed.
I was studying something that interested me and that I hoped would lead to a career.
I was much more motivated to learn because I saw the benefit to myself.
Although all of the things I have said about who God is should motivate us to fear Him.
Although in the end of life we will have to face God with our lives and answer for every decision we have made.
It seems that these ultimate concerns don’t often motivate us to the kind of living that would be described as fearing the Lord.
It is interesting that the Psalmist says in verse 11, “I will teach you the fear of the Lord” and then in verse 12 asks a question that seems to have nothing to do with fearing the Lord.
Yet I think that it does.
I think it introduces a motive for fearing the Lord that will be one that we respond to.
The Psalmist makes a statement that could almost be a question.
“Who loves life?” “Who would like to see many good days?”
The answer is easy, “Who doesn’t?”
This introduces a wonderful concept.
It tells us that the fear of the Lord is not a distasteful thing that we have to do because it will be good for us in the end.
To live in the fear of the Lord will accomplish a goal desired by all of us.
Who is there who loves life?
We always admire people who enjoy life.
We enjoy life and the more we enjoy it the happier we are.
Who wouldn’t like to see, not just many days, but many good days?
I doubt if there is a person here who would not answer that this is the desire of their heart.
Do you love life?
Do you desire many good days?
The answer is yes, of course.
The implication is that if that is your desire, the way to fulfill that desire is to live in the fear of the Lord.
It is the person who fears the Lord who will have a good life and who will see many good days.
Now if that is the case, do you not want to fear the Lord?
It makes fear of the Lord a powerful desire with a powerful motivation.
It makes fear of the Lord the most important striving of our life.
Now we are all asking, “Yes!
That is what I want.
How do I do it?”
The Way to Fear the Lord vs. 11-14
Based on the foundation of the character of God, which we have looked at earlier, there are two things which describe the way to fear the Lord.