Reading: Psalm 76
For the director of music. With stringed instruments.
A psalm of Asaph. A song.
God is renowned in Judah; in Israel his name is great.
His tent is in Salem, his dwelling place in Zion.
There he broke the flashing arrows,
the shields and the swords, the weapons of war.
You are radiant with light,
more majestic than mountains rich with game.
The valiant lie plundered, they sleep their last sleep;
not one of the warriors can lift his hands.
At your rebuke, God of Jacob,
both horse and chariot lie still.
It is you alone who are to be feared.
Who can stand before you when you are angry?
From heaven you pronounced judgment,
and the land feared and was quiet—
when you, God, rose up to judge,
to save all the afflicted of the land.
Surely your wrath against mankind brings you praise,
and the survivors of your wrath are restrained.
Make vows to the LORD your God and fulfill them;
let all the neighboring lands bring gifts to the One to be feared.
He breaks the spirit of rulers; he is feared by the kings of the earth (NIV).*
Has the church abandoned the fear of God? Has our messaging focused so exclusively on the God of love and forgiveness that the very idea of cringing in fear before God is a completely foreign to us? In more general terms is fear a bad thing—an emotion we should always avoid? Is there something wrong with our relationship with God if we fear Him?
First we need to acknowledge that fear can have both good and bad consequences. A healthy fear of a sharp blade will keep me from sticking my hands under the deck of a running lawnmower. There is wisdom and there is safety in that kind of fear. But the constant fear of a violent, abusive spouse can be devastating to a person’s health and happiness. In brief, fear is essential for self-preservation, but too much of it has terrible consequences. It has a crippling effect by producing paralysis of the human spirit.
A complete lack of fear can have terrible consequences too. I still have both my hands because of a healthy fear of whirling blades. We all need a healthy fear of God. The psalmist states, “It is you alone who are to be feared.”
Jesus essentially said the same thing. “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
Response: LORD God, you are the One I need to fear. Give me a healthy dose of fear. I want to love and fear you, so that I will walk in full obedience to your commands. Amen.
Your Turn: Is there a place for both love and healthy fear in your relationship with God?
* New International Version, Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica
Some good news: The first volume of 365 Days through the Psalms by award-winning author David Kitz will be published in November, 2020, by Elk Lake Publishing. Two additional volumes will follow in 2021 to complete the three volume set of devotions from the Psalms.
Reading: Psalm 27
The LORD is my light and my salvation –
Whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life –
Of whom shall I be afraid?
When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh,
When my enemies and foes attack me,
They will stumble and fall.
Though an army besiege me,
My heart will not fear;
Though war break out against me
Even then will I be confident (NIV).*
Are you afraid of the dark? That may seem like a rather empty-headed question? Most adults have overcome their fear of the dark a long time ago, back in the dark ages of childhood. But have you really overcome your fear of dark places?
I would like to suggest that we have not overcome that most basic of fears. We have only learned to mask our fears and conveniently avoid those dark unknown recesses. Our fear of the dark is at its core a fear of the unknown. Hidden out there in the dark unknown regions is a whole battalion of hidden risks—the lurking boogeymen—who keep us close to home, who keep us on the well-beaten path, the well-marked path, a path of no-risk and least-resistance. How often do you dare to go where others have never gone? Are you still certain that you are not afraid of the dark?
In this psalm, David, the fearless warrior, reveals the secret to his victorious life—a life spent overcoming insurmountable obstacles. With reckless confidence this insignificant, no-rank shepherd boy took on the Goliaths of his time, and he rose to each and every challenge, time after time throughout his storied career.
So then, what was the secret to David’s success? It resides in his overwhelming confidence in the LORD. Surely, common sense would dictate that a wet-behind-the-ears shepherd boy is no match for an experienced warrior, such as the towering Goliath. But David exudes confidence: The LORD is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?
David was not afraid of the dark, or the giant, or the Philistine army arrayed against him. He feared only the LORD. The LORD was his light in a dark place. The LORD was his salvation in every battle and his deliverance in every hostile situation. David feared the LORD. He bowed in reverential awe before Him. He allied himself with the LORD his Maker. That’s an unbeatable combination.
Response: Lord Jesus, help me to truly walk in confident faith. I ally myself with you. You are my light and my salvation. Help me now to face my day and my future with confidence that comes from you, my Savior. Amen.
Your Turn: How often do you take a plunge into the unknown? Is God asking you to take a step of faith?
* New International Version, Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica
I will praise the LORD!
Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Fear the LORD, you his holy people,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good days,
keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from telling lies.
Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.
(Psalm 34:8-14, NIV)
Reading: Psalm 112
Praise the LORD.
Blessed are those who fear the LORD,
who find great delight in his commands.
Their children will be mighty in the land;
the generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches are in their houses,
and their righteousness endures forever.
Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,
for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.
Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely,
who conduct their affairs with justice.
Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever.
They will have no fear of bad news;
their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD.
Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear;
in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.
They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor,
their righteousness endures forever;
their horn will be lifted high in honor.
The wicked will see and be vexed,
they will gnash their teeth and waste away;
the longings of the wicked will come to nothing (NIV).
Is there a blessing to be had for those who fear the LORD? Absolutely yes, according to Psalm 112! When we put the LORD first in our lives and honor Him in all we say and do, He takes note. Blessings come from the LORD. Those blessings can come in various forms.
The psalmist begins by speaking of the blessing that flows to our children. A home where the love of God reigns is blessed indeed. Children grow up in a secure environment with loving role models and that sets the stage for their advancement as adults in society. The psalmist asserts the generation of the upright will be blessed.
Are you finding great delight in the LORD’s commands? There are consequences for that. You may be blessed with wealth and riches as a result. Fearing God brings a reward, but that reward must be used wisely in the service of God and others. Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely, who conduct their affairs with justice.
But this psalm does not promise us a trouble-free life. Though bad news may come, those who fear God will trust in Him and overcome adversity. Even in darkness light dawns for the upright. Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.
Response: Father God, I thank you for every blessing that comes from fearing you and living uprightly. When my way seems dark, shine your light on me. Lead me forward in the way of Christ. Amen.
Your Turn: Have you experienced God’s blessing? Which blessings do you value most?
Reading: Psalm 111
Praise the LORD!
I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,
in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them.
Full of honor and majesty is his work,
and his righteousness endures forever.
He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds;
the LORD is gracious and merciful.
He provides food for those who fear him; he is ever mindful of his covenant.
He has shown his people the power of his works,
in giving them the heritage of the nations.
The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy.
They are established forever and ever,
to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever.
Holy and awesome is his name.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.
His praise endures forever (NIV).
If the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the LORD, what is the end point or objective of this inducement to wisdom? I have often heard it argued that the fear of the LORD, which is frequently extolled in the Old Testament, has little to do with the common meaning for fear. We are to reverence or be in awe of the LORD, not be afraid of Him. To an extent this is true; however, I suspect that we often push this fearless approach to God too far. The Lion of the Tribe of Judah is not toothless. He has fangs and claws.
A healthy dose of godly fear can prevent a massive case of sin enslavement and heartache.
The reaction of God’s people when the Ten Commandments were given at Mount Sinai is well worth noting. When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die” (Exodus 22:18-19).
The very human fear expressed in this Exodus passage went well beyond a sense of awe and wonder. This was knee-buckling, heart-racing fear—the kind of fear that makes us dread doing anything that might offend this all-knowing, all-seeing, holy God. That’s a healthy fear—a fear that helps us to live and walk straight. Why would God want to induce this kind of fear?
God wants us to fear Him because He loves us. He wants to spare us from the agony of the terrible consequences of sin. A healthy fear of God leads us to an awe-induced love for Him. Now that’s wisdom.
Response: Father God, help me see your love for me in your commandments. In love, you correct me when I stray. Grant me understanding that comes through a healthy fear and love for you. Amen.
Your Turn: What does fearing God mean to you? Is God your chum, your friend or your master?
I will praise Him!