Softened Through the Fear of the Lord
We all recognize “the look.” Whether from parents, schoolteachers, police officers, or someone else in authority, there was a look they could give that stopped you dead in your tracks. It was a look that let you know you were about to cross a line and the consequences would not be good. Their eye contact held a look of warning, of protection, and depending on what you were doing, a look of discipline.
I will never forget as children when my brother and I rigged the small part of a walkway to collapse when stepped on it, thinking it was a funny prank. Yet, there was nothing funny about the phone call my mom received from our friend’s mother. Her son had been injured when he stepped through, walking exactly where we had tricked him into stepping. The feeling of dread, knowing that we were in trouble and would have to face the music, was immense. The look in her eyes and sound in her voice had me praying that the rapture would happen any moment!
If you are a parent or hold a position of authority, you understand the effects of giving someone that same look. It is not something you try to do, it is instinctual. The goal is that they will stop whatever it is they are doing before having to experience negative consequences. If they have already done it, your look lets them know their action will not be tolerated. You are not acting from a place of animosity; rather, you are taking this step for their own good.
In the same way, there is “a look” from our heavenly Father that we catch with the eyes of our heart. This look causes instant conviction, immediate knowledge that we have missed or are about to miss the mark. In those moments, it is up to us to humble ourselves so our heart can remain soft. Or, we can continue with our current behavior and experience the consequences He is trying to prevent. He loves us enough to leave the choice up to us.
As the wisest man who ever lived (next to Jesus), Solomon reveals to his son the source of his wisdom:
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7 NIV)
To fear the Lord means to hold Him in a place of healthy reverence and respect. This is not a tormenting fear that leads to panic; rather, we see the perfect example in the life of Jesus. His desire was to please the Father in all things, out of respect for His great name. He was not willing to do anything that He did not first see His Father doing. (John 5:19) May the same thing be said of our lives: that our respect for Him is what motivates us to please Him with every thought and decision we face.
Prayer For Today: Father, we worship and lift You up. You alone are holy, thank You for dressing us in the robe of Your righteousness. We ask You to root us deeper in the fear and reverence of Your great name. May our hearts be further tenderized to recognize every look you are giving, both of approval and of conviction. In Jesus name we pray, amen.
Nehemiah 8:8-10 8They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read. 9Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is sacred to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. 10Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
Once the people dealt with the sin in their lives, they asked Ezra to read from the Book of the Law. When he opened the book they all stood. Ezra began by praising God. All the people lifted their hands and joined in agreement that God was great, and then they bowed and worshipped. You’ll find this natural order of things throughout Scripture. We come into His presence with thanksgiving and praise. Then we are drawn to worship in adoration, because we are undeserving of all His goodness.
Then Ezra began to read as the Levites spread throughout the congregation to help explain the words that were read. Ezra may have been reading in Hebrew as the Levites translated into Aramaic. Conviction of sin settled on the crowd as the Word was read, and they wept. The Word exposed the sin in their hearts and actions, and they were repentant of their past response to all of God’s goodness in their lives.
They could see how gracious it was of God to allow the nation to be restored. But this was a time to rejoice. The walls were completed. The city was safe, and God had shown that His gracious hand was upon them. They had already dealt with sin in their midst. They had made restitution for their sins. Now it was time to celebrate. They were tired from a long stretch of hard labor. The Levites told them not to wallow in the past and the sins that they had already repented of. Now it was time to celebrate the goodness of God! When God really deals with us, and we come clean about our real condition, deal with the places we are not right with Him, then we need to move from grief to joy. The joy of the Lord is our strength to live in new life. Forgetting what is behind, we press forward in joy for all that God has done and is doing. Rejoice in His forgiveness. To wallow in past sins makes you ineffective in your new life. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. Rejoice in the Lord always!
Consider: If in any area of your life that you are not right with God, repent, make the necessary changes, and then move from sorrow to joy because you are now right with God. The world needs to see the joy and peace that we have when we understand that we are right with God.
Trouble Teaches – Streams in the Desert – September 7
- 20227 Sep
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1).
The question often comes, “Why didn’t He help me sooner?” It is not His order. He must first adjust you to the trouble and cause you to learn your lesson from it. His promise is, “I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him.” He must be with you in the trouble first all day and all night. Then He will take you out of it. This will not come till you have stopped being restless and fretful about it and become calm and quiet. Then He will say, “It is enough.”
God uses trouble to teach His children precious lessons. They are intended to educate us. When their good work is done, a glorious recompense will come to us through them. There is a sweet joy and a real value in them. He does not regard them as difficulties but as opportunities.
Not always OUT of our troublous times,
And the struggles fierce and grim,
But IN–deeper IN–to our one sure rest,
The place of our peace, in Him.
–Annie Johnson Flint
We once heard a simple old colored man say something that we have never forgotten: “When God tests you, it is a good time for you to test Him by putting His promises to the proof, and claiming from Him just as much as your trials have rendered necessary.”
There are two ways of getting out of a trial. One is to simply try to get rid of the trial, and be thankful when it is over. The other is to recognize the trial as a challenge from God to claim a larger blessing than we have ever had, and to hail it with delight as an opportunity of obtaining a larger measure of Divine grace. Thus even the adversary becomes an auxiliary, and the things that seem to be against us turn out to be for the furtherance of our way. Surely, this is to be more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
–A. B. Simpson
The Impact of Knowing God
An intimate relationship with God transforms every area of life.
Are you seeking to know and understand the Lord? Even though He’s beyond human comprehension in many ways, God has revealed much of Himself in His Word. And as we search for Him in Scripture, we’ll grow in our understanding of His nature. But this isn’t merely an academic pursuit. Knowing God practically impacts every area of life.
For one thing, knowledge of God influences our prayers. Instead of asking for whatever we want, we’ll seek to ask according to His will (1 John 5:14-15). And we won’t limit our requests in size or scope because we’ll realize that nothing is impossible with God.
The way we view the Lord also affects how we think, behave, and relate to other people. Knowing Him intimately transforms our natural tendency toward doubt and sin. Then we desire to walk obediently before Him, with a pure heart. Instead of loving the world, we seek to please Him by loving His people unselfishly and resisting sinful lusts.
Paul thought knowing the Lord was so important that he made it the primary pursuit of his life (Philippians 3:8-10). Could that be said of you? Self-reformation soon fails, but knowledge of God renews you from the inside out.
Bible in One Year: Ezekiel 34-36