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Author:Rev. W.B. Slomp
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Congregation:Immanuel Canadian Reformed Church
 Edmonton, Alberta
 www.edmontonimmanuel.ca
 
Title:Blessed Is the Man Who Fears the Lord
Text:Psalms 112: 1a (View)
Occasion:New Work/School Season
Topic:Unclassified
 
Preached:2011-01-02
Added:2011-01-21
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Sing:  Psalm 27:  1, 2

Sing: Psalm 111: 1, 3, 5

Sing: Psalm 112: 1, 3

Sing: Psalm 27: 6

Sing:   Psalm 121: 1, 4

 

Read: Psalm 111 & 112

Text: Psalm 112: 1a

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. W.B. Slomp, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,
 
As we look ahead to this new year, there are many things that we are afraid of, aren't there? We are afraid that something might go wrong this year. We are afraid of losing our health, or our job, or our business. We are afraid of losing loved ones. We are afraid of death. There are many other fears that we have.
 
What do you think of that? Is it wrong to have those kinds of fears? Do you feel guilty for feeling that way? For the text says that the man is blessed who fears the Lord. That implies that he is not blessed if he fears other things.
 
Does that mean then that we should not fear anything else in this world besides God? Yet we do, don't we? So what does it mean to fear God alone? How do you do that? Do you do that by revering him and honouring him? Does it mean that we have to be afraid of him? Should we be afraid of God? Is that what it means?
 
This morning we will deal with fear and with the various kinds of fear that we have to deal with. We will put it all into the perspective of God's word. The theme for this morning's service is as follows:    
           
Blessed Is the Man Who Fears the Lord
            We will look at three things:
            1. Common fear
            2. Ungodly fear
            3. Godly fear.
 
Psalm 111:10 tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Who is wise? When we think about a wise person, we think about someone who has had a lot of life experience, and who knows how to handle life. He knows about the many twists and turns of daily life, and is able to navigate through it all and make some sense of it. A wise person knows how to handle all those twists and turns that life brings.
 
The dictionary defines a wise man as follows: “a man of unusual learning, judgment or insight.” That applies across the board, to believers and unbelievers alike. We all live in the same world. We have many fears in common. We all fear to be hurt, for example. That is why we have a healthy respect for fire. For we know that when our flesh is touched by the flame, that then pain will follow. If the burn is extensive enough, death may result.  
 
That is why also the Israelites, at the time when they stood at the base of the mountain, were afraid. For what did they see? They saw a great fire. As we know from Deut. 5:5, they did not dare go up the mountain because of the fire they saw. Mind you, God was in the midst of that fire. Nevertheless they were afraid, deathly afraid. Who would not be? 
 
What other things are we afraid of? We fear many things, especially as we grow old. The preacher describes that quite vividly in Ecclesiastes 12 where old age is described as the age where all kinds of dangers lurk, because one’s hearing has decreased, one’s eyesight has diminished, and one’s grinders, that is one’s teeth, are few. When you stumble along in such a way, there are, as it says in verse 5, many terrors in the way (New King James Version). Then the world becomes a fearful place.                 
 
The world is also a fearful place for other reasons. Sometimes we are afraid of people, of what they can do to us. That was the case, for example, with David. As we know from 1 Samuel 21: 12, when he came into the presence of Achish the king of Gath, David was so afraid that he would kill him that he pretended to be a madman. 
 
Isn't that also the way it is in our own lives? We fear those who have power over us: our boss, our teacher, our parents, our enemies who slander our name.  We fear physical things as well: darkness, hail, wild animals, heights, depths. These fears all men have in common.
 
Is it sinful to fear those kinds of things? Well, the Lord knows that we live in a broken world, in a world where we encounter many dangers. Therefore we need to have feelings of fear. It is good to be fearful of dangerous situations, and dangerous people and objects. Such feelings of fear are necessary for our survival. For fear warns us that there is danger ahead. It warns us to flee from a dangerous situation. 
 
That is also what David says in Psalm 55. He writes in the verses 4-8, “My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death assail me. Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me. I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest— I would flee far away and stay in the desert; I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm.” ” David wants to escape the terror which overwhelms him. He wants to take on the wings of a dove, and fly away. He wants to escape.
 
Who doesn’t when he is confronted by great danger? We want to avoid the danger at all costs. This is only natural. Fear protects us from harm. A child learns to fear fire once it has been burned by it. The fear of danger keeps all of us from harmful situations.  
 
It is this fear that all men have in common, believer and unbeliever alike. Such fears are not necessarily sinful. Even the Lord Jesus experienced the fears that are common to all men. That is clear from the time he was in the Garden of Gethsemane. He said to his disciples, in Matthew 26:38, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”  
 
The Lord Jesus was very much afraid at this point for he was confronted, not only by the prospect of his impending death, but also by the prospect of bearing the wrath of God against the sin of all mankind. 
 
Let us not forget: the Lord Jesus came to earth as a man, as a human being. O yes, he was also God. But he took on the weakness of human flesh. And thus he was tempted like all men. So in that respect he was not any different from any of us.
 
But, as God, he understood the horror which was about to be visited upon him. So he pleaded with the Father, that if possible, he take away the cup of wrath. Out of fear and trepidation, the Lord Jesus wanted to escape the cross. Yet at the same time he knew that was not possible. So he submitted himself to the Father’s will. Christ’s agony and fear was so great that he even sweat blood.
 
But in all this he did not sin. It was not an ungodly fear. Ungodly, sinful fear is something different. That is our second point.
 
2. Often our fears are exaggerated. Instead of helping us avoid harmful situations, fear can also cripple us. Think about the irrational fears we have. Some appear quite harmless. You have big men, for example, who are scared to death because of a little mouse. Others do not dare to fly by plane for fear of crashing. And again others have a fear of heights, and will avoid heights at all costs. 
 
But there are fears which are clearly quite harmful, and which make us compromise our principles and integrity. We may, for example, fear death in an obsessive way.
 
Think about Abraham. Even though the Lord promised to protect him, he feared the loss of his own life so much that on two separate occasions he placed his wife Sarah in adulterous or potentially adulterous situations. 
 
And it was fear that drove Ananias and Sapphira to do what they did. They wanted to serve the Lord, but at the same time were afraid to lose their financial security. So they lied. They lied to the Holy Spirit. And they lost their lives because of it. While pretending to fear the Lord, in reality they feared mammon. And you cannot serve both. It is either God or money. The one excludes the other.        
 
Think about the kinds of fears you have, brothers and sisters. Are your fears obsessive? Are they ungodly? To what extent do your fears compromise your Christian principles and integrity? Do you fear the loss of income? Do you fear it so much that you go against God’s laws in order to retain your security? 
 
What about the loss of your reputation? Do you fear the loss of it so much, that you pretend to be somebody you are not, to the extent that you have become a hypocrite? 
 
What about your fear of intimacy? Do you fear deep and committed relationships with your loved ones so much that you will consciously or unconsciously sabotage the relationship? Are you afraid to love others because you have been hurt in the past?
 
What about your fear of people in general? Is it so excessive that you do not dare to participate in church life, in the communion of saints? Do you fear it so much that after the worship service you hurry home?  You are afraid to talk to others?
 
These are all examples of ungodly fear. For what is the case? Ungodly fear drives us away from God. It also drives us away from loved ones. Ungodly fear gives us a distorted view of things.
 
It first of all gives a distorted picture of God. Our fears reduce God to impotency. Our fears tell us that we have to depend on our own strength in order to keep from harm. They tell us that God cannot help, or at least that he cannot or will not help in the way that we think is necessary. 
 
Obsessive fears ultimately display a lack of faith. You make God out to be small and powerless, and your enemies to be larger than life. The prophet Isaiah captured such ungodly fear when he wrote in chapter 30:17, “A thousand will flee at the threat of one; at the threat of five you will all flee away.” 
 
3. How then do you deal with fear? Well, the only way is to fear God alone. We come to the third point.
 
Our fears clarify to us what or whom we serve. And whom must we fear? God alone! What does that mean? Does that mean that we must be afraid of him? That we have to serve God only because we are terrified of him and what he can do to us? What does it mean to fear God? 
 
Brothers and sisters, boys and girls, it means in the first place to realize God’s power. The psalmist says in Psalm 111, “Great are the works of the LORD; they are pondered by all who delight in them (vs.2). He has shown his people the power of his works, giving them the lands of other nations (vs. 6).”
 
God is powerful. His power cannot be compared to anything in the world or in the whole universe. For he made it all. All he did was to speak, and out of nothing the whole universe was created. There is no power like his. God is not some impotent creature. He is not some human perception, who exists only in our minds. No, God truly exists and he makes his presence known in so many ways. He makes his presence known in nature. He especially makes it known in His Word. He exists for his people. He is the One who also upholds and governs his creation. And he maintains for himself a people to serve him. 
 
That is why he, in his power, rescued the Israelites from the land of Egypt. He sent the plagues upon the Egyptians and in the end he drowned the mighty Pharaoh in the Red Sea, and led his people on dry land. By his mighty hand he also protected them in the land of Canaan.
 
That is why, throughout the Scriptures, he is called by many other Names in order to indicate his great power. He is called the Mighty one, the rock, the king, and a fortress. He is very strong. He is omnipotent.
 
The wonderful thing is that his great power is also available to you and to me. But you must also want to be a recipient of that great power. That means that you must believe in him. And then as a believer you can do anything in the strength of the Lord.
 
Does that mean that disaster cannot strike us? No it does not. Our physical lives are threatened every day by the many hazards around us. But he promises that whatever comes our way, he will turn to our good. We do not have to fear the loss of life for we have eternal life with him. We have that now already. And nothing and nobody can take that away. 
 
Ultimately no one can ruin our reputation. For the only reputation that matters is the one that we have with the Lord our God. So we do not have to fear people. If it really matters to us what the Lord thinks of us, then everything else takes a backseat. Fearing the Lord our God puts all our other fears in proper perspective.
 
Think about that, brothers and sisters. A big fear makes all the other ones go away. If you truly fear the Lord, if he is the number one fear in your life, then all your other fears pale by comparison, including the fear of physical death.  You still fear it, but not in an obsessive way. For you know that God will take care of you even in death.
 
To fear the Lord means that you are fully aware that he alone is in control of all things. It means that you realize that you are dependent on him alone. Your life is in his hands, and in no one and nothing else. 
 
Blessed is the man who fears the Lord. There are those who say such fear does not really mean what we think it does. According to them, to fear God only means to revere, to respect, to hold him in awe. After all, they say, is God not our friend? Does he not invite us to come near to him, and to be held close by him? Does he not invite us into his presence? 
 
Yes, that’s true. But they forget one thing. They forget that he is also the almighty Judge. He judges all men. And he decides who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. Sentimental and sappy Christians do not want to deal with the fact that that same Jesus who invites the believer into his presence, also states in Luke 12:4-5, “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.
 
What then does it mean to fear God? The fear of the Lord includes this, namely that God has the power to cast you away from his presence. It means that you are terribly afraid that God will no longer regard you. For that is hell! 
 
What do you think the Lord Jesus feared the most as he sweat blood in the garden of Gethsemane? Was it the prospect that his flesh would be torn by the nails on the cross? Was it the pain and the humiliation? Was it the fear of physical death? No, brothers and sisters, what he feared most was to be abandoned by God. For that is true hell. That is true agony. There is no greater horror than that. 
 
That is also what it means for us to fear the Lord. It is the realization that God can cast us into outer darkness for eternity. It is the realization that without his favour there is only death, a most horrible and eternal death.
 
That is why in this church we also exercise church discipline. It is a radical remedy to remind the sinner of what will happen if he or she remains in his/her sin. It is to bring home to the sinner what it means to be   forsaken by God. We want to spare such a sinner from that horrible fate so church discipline is an act of love. 
 
Brothers and sisters, do you know what it means to fear the Lord? It means that you truly believe that God exists and that he is capable of doing what he has said in his Word. He has power over life and death. 
 
Did you know that one of God’s names is Fear? That is what he is called in Genesis 31:42. It says there, “If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed.” The NIV, as do other translations, capitalizes the word "Fear" in that verse. For it refers to God. God is the Fear of Isaac. God is our Fear. There is no other fear.
 
Does that mean then that we are to be afraid of him? The answer is yes and no. Let me explain. For let me also give you the Gospel about the Lord Jesus Christ. God abandoned him on the cross. And you know why, don't you? God did so, so that we would nevermore be forsaken by him. In other words, you do not have to experience hell. You do not have to experience the abandonment of God. Psalm 112:6 says that a righteous man will be remembered forever. How do you receive God's righteousness? How do you become a righteous man? In other words, how do you become someone who is considered to be innocent with regard to the keeping of the law? Through faith.
 
If you believe, God graciously looks upon you. He says, come to the fire, and be safe. Let me embrace you in my love. Someone who believes in God knows what his love is all about. For love always chooses. Loves rejects the one and accepts the other. You cannot, for example, choose both light and darkness. Love always implies choice. 
 
If you understand God’s love, then you also understand what it means to fear him. If you understand the love of God, then you also understand what God is capable of, what it means to be rejected by him. And that is why we stand in awe of what God has done through and to his Son. He took what is most precious to him, and rejected him. 
 
It is the opposite of what we would do. We would do everything to protect our children. We would risk our lives even. That is what a mother did who was in the news some time ago. She sacrificed her life for her child who was attacked by a cougar. 
 
But what did God do? He killed his own Son. That is the power of his fury. And why did he do that? He did that so that we can live, so that we do not have to be afraid of anything in this life, or the life to come. It means that we are fully aware of what he is capable of in his love. It means that we are fully aware that God can both accept and reject. That is why the apostle Paul says, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12)
 
Let me ask you, do you fear the Lord your God? Do you know him? Do you know what he has done for you? And do you also know what he is capable of? Do you tremble before him because of his almighty power? Do you know that he can cast you into the outer darkness forever? 
 
I do not mean those who do not want to live in their sins, and those who constantly struggle with their sins. For if you are truly sorry for your sins and truly love the Lord then you do not have to be afraid of him. On the contrary, then the opposite is true. 
 
But we are speaking about those who pretend to fear him, but in reality fear other things more: their loss of pleasure and the happiness that the world can bring.  Those things are first in their lives.
 
Brothers and sisters, boys and girls, God is a God to be feared. But he is also a God to be loved. And those who love him and want to serve him, even though we do this so imperfectly, do not have to be afraid of Him. That is the paradox of serving him. The very thing you fear is the very thing you love. It seems to be a contradiction. But it is not. For when you fear him, you express thereby that you have cast away all your other fears, your common fears and your ungodly fears. You have done that in the knowledge that, because you are a child of God, with him you are always safe. You do not have to be afraid. You do not have to be afraid in the new year either, no matter what is going to happen. For the almighty God is with those who fear him, with those who love him. With God there is always safety. Think about that in this new year. Amen.
 
I gratefully acknowledge Dr. Dan B. Allender & Dr. Tremper Longman III’s book Cry of the Soul which was a great help to me in preparing this sermon.



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. W.B. Slomp, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: www.edmontonimmanuel.ca

(c) Copyright 2011, Rev. W.B. Slomp

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