Thesis: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
1. Illust. Several yrs. ago John Anderson took his family to the Grand Canyon. Enjoyed beauty & majesty. Experience was enhanced when they decided to ride mules down into canyon. He writes: "Given that a slip could have been a 1/4 m. straight down, that the mules were as uncooperative as mules are said to be, that it was early Spring with ice still on the trail ... let's just say we developed a serious respect for the Grand Canyon. Our, uh, respect increased when Judy's mule began to munch on a bush 3 ft. below the trail. The mule's back, with Judy on it, pointed at a 45* angle straight toward the bottom. By then, an element of fear was entrench- ed." He says that feeling of terror mixed with wonder was one of the most exhilarating experiences of their lives. ("The Fear of God," The Other Side 25 [Jan./Feb. 1989]:47-48.)
2. That must have been something like the Israelites' experience with the living God--terror mixed with wonder.
a. It was something Moses did not want Israel to forget.
b. Deut. 4:10-13; cf. Ex. 20:18-21.
I. THE FEAR OF THE LORD.
A. Modern people are not accustomed to fearing God.
1. Something primitive people do--along with bowing down to the sun and sac. virgins to volcanoes.
2. Illust. Columbus was once stranded on Jamaica with dwindling supplies. Natives were not friendly. C. happened to know a lunar eclipse occurred that PM. Told chief: "Unless you help me my God will curse you & moon will lose its light!" Cheif refused but changed his mind when eclipse began. In early 1900s a British explorer who had read C.'s biography, tried same trick on African cheiftan. "Unless you obey me you will be cursed and the moon will lose its light!" Cheif: "If you mean the lunar eclipse that's happening day after tomorrow."
B. Even Christian people are not used to fearing God.
1. Sounds too Old Testament.
2. We fancy ourselves as having moved somewhat beyond that because we have learned about God's grace and love.
3. After all, John says: "Perfect love casts out fear";
Fear is for the spiritually immature.
II. SHOULD WE FEAR THE LORD?
A. Let's look at what the Bible says:
1. "The FOL is the beginning of wisdom" (Prov. 1:7).
2. Ecc. 12:13-14.
3. Isa. 8:12-13. <"That's all from the OT!">
4. Matt. 10:26-28.
5. 1 Peter 2:17; 3:13-15 (cf. Matt. 10:32-33).
B. What it means to fear God comes into clearer focus if we can imagine what it would be like to actually see God.
1. Hasn't happened too many times. (Israelites came close!)
2. An unfiltered experience with the living God!
a. Isa. 6:1-5.
b. Rev. 1:9-18.
C. The Bible clearly teaches we are supposed to fear the Lord.
1. It is a mixture of terror & awe; fear and respect.
a. Rudolf Otto: "Holiness of God is an aweful mystery. It's something you're both drawn to & repelled by."
b. Illust. Kathy likes suspense stories. Murders, rapists, serial killers. Keeps her awake at PM; one book upset her for weeks. Keeps reading! Both drawn to it and repulsed by it.
2. To fear the Lord is to know something of that terror and awe--it is to catch a glimpse of who God really is.
< What then? What is this terror mixed with awe good for? >
III. WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU FEAR THE LORD?
A. You obey him!
1. This what Prov. means by: "FOL is beginning of wisdom."
2. This is what Ecc. means by: "Fear God & keep his comm."
B. Deut. teaches the same lesson:
1. There's a tendency for modern folk to think in terms of God offering man a contract--agreement between equals.
a. Ancients did not make that mistake.
b. Thought in terms of a treaty--the kind made between the conqueror and the conquerees.
c. No quibbling. Accept the terms unconditionally.