Rev. Peter J. Haugen
St. Paul Evangelical
“Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the Fear of the LORD” (Psalm 34:11). The Fear of the Lord is an Awesome thing. When we fear the Lord, His Love is enkindled within us as we are drawn to love those around us, whether they agree with us or not, whether they are easy to be around or not, whether they persecute us or not. The Fear of the Lord leads us to desire what our God Himself desires. The Fear of the Lord leads us to seek being shaped by the Word and the Will of God.
All other fear is idolatrous. All other fear establishes as most important in our life something other than our Lord God. This is so whether that fear be of disease or Death, of financial ruin or societal collapse, of the hatred of our children or of our family. “The Fear of the LORD is the Beginning of Wisdom” (Psalm 111:10), but all other fear works within us the foolishness of unbelief.
Even more, where the Fear of the Lord causes us to love our neighbour even as God Himself loves our neighbour, idolatrous fear causes us to view as our enemy and so to hate any person who does not fear the same things in the same way as we do. Our neighbour becomes Other to us, becomes part of the faceless “Them” behind all evil, becomes an example of what is wrong with life or society. And in our fearful hatred, we are divided from our Lord God. And we are divided from one another. And we fail. And we fall.
Finally, though, we have no need to fear anything other than our Lord God Himself. He “is near to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). Note that the brokenhearted are still brokenhearted, are still crushed in spirit. But they are not alone. The Lord Himself is near to them. This necessarily reshapes their current suffering. “Many are the afflictions of the Righteous” (Psalm 34:19), yes — and often more than of the unrighteous. The Righteous are afflicted by the Devil, by the world, by their own sinful nature… and by their conscience that is burdened with guilt and so recognizes the Justice of their affliction.
But the Righteous are not alone in their affliction. Their Lord is near to them, and this precisely so that He might deliver them out of all their afflictions. Their afflictions themselves become a part of the Gracious Working of God in their life. “We [Christians] are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). Why? Because our Lord is near to us, for we are “always carrying about in the body the Dying of Jesus, that the Life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:10).
May God grant us the Wisdom to fear the Lord. Amen.