What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
Clearly, there is great similarity between Psalm 19 and Psalm 119, but there is also dissimilarity. The similarity, of course, is that the law of God is the focus for extolling all of the Word of God. The dissimilarity is that Psalm 19 is both more concise (after all, Psalm 119 is 176 verses) and more specific or more to the point. The author of this psalm is David. He uses law, statutes, precepts, commandments, fear, and ordinances as part of the means by which he intends to teach us something vital.
One might wonder why fear is included. It is because fear represents the specific attitude required to make the best use of God's law. Solomon writes in Proverbs 9:10, "The fear [a deep and abiding respect tinged with terror] of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom." In addition, remember that wisdom is right application of knowledge and understanding. If fear is not present, we will not even start to build towards faith, hope, and love. Godly fear gets us jump-started, gets us going to do what is right.
Psalm 19 is divided into three sections: The first section—beginning with "The heavens declare the glory of God" and concluding in verse 6—concerns the revelation of the Creator God in His creation. The second part, beginning with verse 7 and extending through verse 11, is the revelation of the Covenant God in His Word, most specifically in His law. The third part comprises the last few verses, and it contains the response of the man of faith to the first two sections.
In "the heavens declare the glory of God," the word "God" is not Elohim but the singular El. In verse 7, LORD is Yahweh. Thus, the same Being is identified as El and Yahweh. Through this psalm, David is saying that, though the creationreveals the majesty and the power—the implication of the name "El"—of the One who created, the law of God reveals in a much clearer, more comprehensive way the specifics of the nature, character, and purpose of that Being—as suggested by the name "Yahweh." God's law is, therefore, of far more practical help to the created, us.
Thus, he makes a comparison. He says, "Here is the creation. It is great and good. However, it does not even begin to teach you as the law of God does." The specifics that we need about how to live are in the law of God. Both are needed, but the revelation of the law takes one far beyond the nature of the creation.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Fourteen)
What does "the fear of the LORD" entail? Another proverb, Proverbs 9:10, helps us to understand: "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." While Proverbs 8:13 defines what the fear of the Lord is, Proverbs 9:10 shows what it produces. Understanding the effect of the fear of the Lord will help us to understand the cause.
This verse uses a Hebraism in which the two clauses are written in parallel. The "fear of the LORD" in the first clause is linked to "knowledge of the Holy One" in the second, while the "beginning of wisdom" corresponds to "understanding." Most translations hide the fact that the Hebrew word rendered as "Holy One" is actually plural. It refers to both holy, divine Beings—the Father and the Son. We can more fully grasp this in conjunction with John 17:3, where Jesus says that knowing the Father and the Son—having personal, intimate knowledge of the Holy Ones—is eternal life.
In tying these things together, we see that the wisdom and understanding in Proverbs 9:10 are not abstract concepts but are related to eternal life. They are foundational to being able to live eternally. The reverential awe and respect—fear—of God are what produces wisdom in making sound choices, in having good judgment, in understanding cause and effect. The fear of God makes for a good life—not just for the self, but also for everyone for all time.
James describes such "wisdom from above" as "first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy" (James 3:17). These elements produce a good life, a life of spiritual wisdom. All of them are opposites of evil, of causing harm. Godly fear causes a man to evaluate properly and to arrive at the correct conclusion about what he should or should not do. Ultimately, the fear of the Lord teaches us to live eternally—to live with the skill that the Father and the Son have in living.
Returning to Proverbs 8:13, we can see how hating evil fits into this. When we are vehemently opposed to all that does harm to life and liveliness, and our lives reflect this, we are beginning to live as God does. However, we have to put wisdom in the context of eternity. What may seem "harmless" in the short term may bear evil fruit in the long term. Unless we are able—and willing—to look as far forward as possible to see the outcome, we may not be able to see the harm.
Because of man's fickle and shortsighted nature, God has explicitly defined what is good and evil in His law, and the evil He defines is sin. It may not be immediately obvious to humanity that burning incense to the Queen of Heaven causes harm because people are shortsighted enough not to realize that they are paying homage to a worthless substitute of the true Creator, the One who gives life. Thus, God spells out that we can have no other gods (Exodus 20:3).
People may not see the harm in a "little white lie" (Exodus 20:16), but the One "who inhabits eternity" knows that truth and life are inextricably linked. When falsehood enters, so do defilement and ultimately death.
Humanity may not be aware of the harm caused by coveting (Exodus 20:17), but the One "who knows the end from the beginning" and who created the human intellect and human heart, knows that sin begins in the heart. The best way to stop sin at its source is to help people to guard their hearts before any sin can be produced.
David C. Grabbe
Hating Evil, Fearing God
A Christian is a person upon whom God has shown mercy, and here Luke also identifies Christians as those who fear God. In Luke 18:2, 4, Jesus reveals in a parable that it is the unconverted who do not fear God. His followers fear God.
Elsewhere, the Bible identifies Christians as those who fear God. Notice Acts 9:31: "Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied." Later, Luke writes: "And they said, 'Cornelius the centurion, a just man, one who fears God and has a good reputation among all the nation of the Jews, was divinely instructed by a holy angel to summon you to his house, and to hear words from you" (Acts 10:22). Cornelius, a Gentile prepared for baptism, is called "one who fears God."
Hebrews 5:7 describes Jesus' fear of God: ". . . who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear." Even Jesus, who knew God better than anyone who had ever walked the face of the earth, feared God. Note the special attention paid to the fact that God answered His prayers because He did.
God is holy. He is different to a level so far above mankind that those who truly know Him do not lose that apprehension and awe that comes from the privilege of being in the presence of sheer, powerfully pure holiness. Fear plays a large part in a good relationship with God.
Genesis 3:10 is the first time a form of fear appears in Scripture, and interestingly, it is in the context of sin. Adam responds to God, "I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself." Elsewhere, the English word "fear" and its cognates appear in many contexts and forms: "feared," "fearful," "fearfully," "fearfulness," "fearing," and "afraid." These terms appear over 720 times in Scripture.
We tend to be uncertain about fearing God because we think of fear as a negative characteristic. We feel that we should love Him rather than fear Him. However, as we study God's Word and experience life with Him, we come to understand that, at the foundation of loving God, godly fear modifies our highly variable faith in God and love for God in significant ways.
All of those forms of "fear" express a wide range of emotions. Feelings such as dread, distress, dismay, trouble, terror, horror, alarm, awe, respect, reverence, and admiration may all appear as "fear" in Scripture. The fear that God desires in us is a good, positive, motivating quality.
This fear is one that we do not naturally possess. Recall Psalm 34:11: "Come you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD." How do we learn the fear of God? Psalm 33:8-9 gives insight: "Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast." Godly fear is one of a deep and abiding respect that grows as we learn—from within a continuing, intimate relationship—of His character, His purpose, and His powers. The unconverted do not have this relationship as a sustaining presence.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Sin, Christians, and the Fear of God
The fear needed is not a servile, cringing, and enslaving terror, but a mixture of love, admiration, and respect for what He is. He is a Father who pities His children; a Ruler who looks on the one who is poor and of a contrite heart; a Physician who heals the body, cleanses the spirit, mercifully forgives, and gives sound counsel so that His children can work out their salvation with fear and trembling.
When the fear of God enters a man's evil heart, godly knowledge, understanding, and wisdom can begin to grow. Why? Because in making better choices, the person begins to break his enslavement to his own evil heart, from which comes all the defiling corruption that leads to death, as Jesus shows in Matthew 15:18-20:
But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.
By nature, man is focused on his sense of self-importance, so pride dominates his attitudes and therefore his choices. The corrective is something that will humble, and it begins with him being able to compare himself appropriately with the greatness of God. Man will live either to serve himself or to seek to serve and please God. It will be one or the other because no man can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24).
When Moses goes before Pharaoh in Exodus 5:2, he says, "Let my people go." What is Pharaoh's defiant response? "Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, nor will I let Israel go." That was his problem, and it remains a major hurdle for us too. We must come to know the Lord. From this, a simple truth arises: Not knowing God promotes irreverence of God, as Pharaoh clearly shows. Thus, not knowing God promotes disobedience. Knowing God, on the other hand, promotes the fear of God and humility before Him and thus obedience.
Knowing God in His sovereignty works to remove every ground for man to rely on himself and boast. Salvation is of the Lord; it is by His grace through faith. Man wants to think that he is contributing greatly to his redemption and salvation, but John tells us we are born, not of the will of the flesh, but of God (John 1:13). If we understand God's sovereignty, it leads us to praise Him for the glory of what He is: He is our salvation! In addition, we desire salvation for the very purpose of humbling ourselves before Him that we might glorify Him. This means that we can wisely turn only one way: We must choose to submit to His will.
The exercise, the actual use, of humility in daily life is a choice. Each time we submit to God's instruction, we are humbling ourselves before Him. Once we know what God's will is, we must still deal with choosing to use humility by submitting to it. Is that not what God says in Deuteronomy 30:19, that we must choose life rather than death? "I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live." Fully accepting God's sovereignty provides us the proper comparisons so that we can wisely make right choices.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Fully Accepting God's Sovereignty, Part Three: The Fruits
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