July 3, 2017 • Life for Leaders
The LORD is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with his justice and righteousness. He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure.
We don’t hear much these days about the fear of the Lord. In part, we avoid this language because it can be easily misconstrued, turning God into a vengeful tyrant whom we hope to avoid if at all possible. Sometimes churches and even parents use the threat of a wrathful God to motivate members and children to behave well. We have rightly rejected such a one-sided view of God, a view that overlooks his love and grace.
Yet in reaction to a mistaken notion of God’s scariness, we have at times turned him into a big pal and little more. God is not a refining fire who consumes our sin, but an innocuous little campfire who warms our feet when we’re chilly. God is an accepting friend who always approves of us and never expects us to do better. Such a lopsided picture of God misses the biblical vision of a God who is holy and merciful, just and justifying, demanding and loving.
Though we ought not to be afraid of God so that we avoid him, we must not minimize his majesty. Nor may we diminish his holiness. Biblical fear of the Lord brings us to our knees in worship, so that God might lift our faces and embrace us with his love. True fear of the Lord helps us never forget that our Friend is also the King of Kings, that the One who died for our sins is also the Judge of our sins.
Such fear is, according to Isaiah, the key to the treasure of God’s “salvation and wisdom and knowledge” (33:6). The fear of the Lord helps us to live wisely with God as our sovereign. It reminds us of how blessed we are to have an intimate relationship with the Holy God, our Creator and Redeemer.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
What does the phrase “the fear of the Lord” mean to you? Does it have negative connotations? Positive ones?
How have you experienced the fear of the Lord in your life?
What helps you to have an appropriate fear of God, a heart filled with reverence and honor?
Gracious God, I’m not sure I always get what it means to fear you. It’s so easy for me to err on one side of the other. There have been times in my life when I have been afraid of you, when I have avoided you and worried that you wouldn’t want relationship with me. And there have been times, many times, I must confess, when I have treated you more like my little buddy than the holy God of the Universe.
Teach me, Lord, to live with a holy, truthful, healthy fear of you. May I never presume upon our relationship, or live as if your holiness didn’t matter to me. May I come before you eagerly, knowing that you accept me in your grace. And may I come before you humbly, offering myself to you as my King. May a righteous fear of you be, indeed, the unexpected key to the treasure of relationship with you. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary: Life, Knowledge, and Wisdom (Isaiah 28ff.)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.