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A WORD FOR TODAY, June 28, 2021
“Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:26-31, WEB
The question for this week comes from the third servant song in the book of Isaiah. “Who among you fears Yahweh and obeys the voice of his servant?” (Isaiah 50:10, WEB)
We struggle with the word “fear” because it is understood as apprehension of negative consequences. We fear being punished. We fear being hurt. We fear losing something important to us. It is good to have a certain amount of fear because it protects us. If we fear bears, we will avoid being in a situation where we might be mauled by one. If we fear losing our job, we will be more conscious of the way we work. If we fear food poisoning, we will ensure safe cooking techniques and cleanliness in our kitchen. Though the fear is negative, our fear leads to a positive action that keeps us safe.
Some fear is not healthy. Take, for instance, the story from Mark when Jesus calmed the storm. The disciples, some of whom were veteran fishermen that must have dealt with similar sudden storms as they did worked, were frightened beyond the ability to do what they needed to do. They were shocked that Jesus could sleep while they were dying. The fear was real, no matter how many times they dealt with similar storms that fear should have spurred them to lifesaving action. Instead, their fear led them to accuse Jesus of not caring. He rebuked the storm and then rebuked the disciples. “Why are you so afraid,” He asked. Their fear of the storm was transformed into a totally different sort of fear.
“Who is this?” they asked. Who has such control over nature that He can calm a storm?
The Bible, especially the Book of Proverbs, repeatedly tells us that “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.” Fear of the Lord is not a fear that leads us to be so afraid of punishment, hurt, or loss. It is a fear that leads us to a deeper and fuller relationship with our God. We know of His power. We also know of His mercy and grace. We know He is faithful. Wisdom is seen in the lives of those who live according to His good and perfect Word; not in the things we can see but in the things that are. This fear is not terror but reverence and it leads us to delight in Him because by His power, mercy, grace, and faithfulness He has done the greatest thing of all: He made us His children and heirs to an eternal kingdom. This should lead us to a fear that causes us to gaze upon Him with grateful reverence and obedience to His Word. We do not do so because we are afraid that God will punish us for disobedience, but out of love because we are so blessed we want to please Him.
The question for today comes from the Third Servant Song in Isaiah. There are four Servant songs, all of which refer to Jesus Christ as the Servant. In this one we see that the Servant continues to learn even when the Servant is a teacher. God has given the Servant the knowledge necessary and continues to give the knowledge the Servant needs to do the work He is called to do. It seems to me that Jesus Christ knew everything He needed to know, and yet we hear in this passage that He continued to be taught. Every day He faced new situations; every day He had to make decisions about how to respond to the needs of the world. And every day He listened to the voice of God so that He would do what God wanted Him to do. In this passage we see that He kept His eyes on God even when men were treating Him poorly. It did not matter that they were insulting Him or striking Him. He stood firm, listening to the teaching of the One who opened His ears. He rests in the knowledge that God is with Him, and no matter what happens to Him, God will stay with Him. He has learned that He has nothing to fear of the world because His wisdom comes from the fear of the Lord.
Jesus taught the disciples to fear the Lord. Like the disciples on that boat in the middle of the storm, we tend to fear the things that can harm us but we have forgotten how to fear the One who holds our life, and eternal life, in His hands. This fear is a humbling of ourselves before Him, acceptance that He is worthy of our reverence and obedience. This fear leads us to live like Jesus, who as the Servant from Isaiah did live according to God’s Word even though He suffered at the hands of the world. He had no fear of them, as He taught His disciples, but had wisdom that came from a fear the One with the power, mercy, grace, and faithfulness.
The question from Isaiah asks who fears God and connects that fear with obedience to God’s servant. We understand that the servant is Jesus Himself, who taught us this proper fear of God. He showed us what the life of God’s people will look like. He was the suffering servant who was persecuted, humiliated and insulted. He was even crucified on the cross. Yet, He never wavered, standing firm on the word that had been given to Him. The promise of suffering is enough to make us afraid of the world, but Jesus comforts us with the truth that God has us in His hands. He cares for us. Those who fear God rightly need not fear the what the world will throw at us because Jesus offers us hope in the midst of our suffering and pain because we are of more value than sparrows because we are children of God and inheritors of His Kingdom.
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