Friday, December 18

Practicing the Fear of the LORD. A Final Mediation on the "I.O.U.S."

A few weeks ago I had "toyed" with adding a letter to the "I.O.U.S." of John Piper, the letter "P" representing the word "practice." (Last Meditation was on December 11th) Actually, I did a little more than toy with it; I actually wrote to Desiring God Ministries and explained my thoughts to them. I don't expect it'll amount to anything. Surely they receive hundreds of such emails. But I wasn't trying to be cute or clever. It just seemed a good thing. Let me explain.

Among my regularly scheduled devotional readings, Psalm 111:10 sort of "popped out" at me. It says,
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever. (ESV)

Now, if you consider that this is among the several "Praise Psalms," or "Hallel Psalms," (for Hallelujah, "praise the LORD"), these closing words exude a meaning all their own. But apart from these last words of Psalm 111 there is an interesting interplay between wisdom and our acquisition of it. "The fear of the LORD" is a not too unfamiliar phrase which we encounter in Scripture and which is rich with implications in itself. I am sort of (lovingly) setting aside these two phrases so that I can isolate the one I am interested in accentuating, namely, "all those who practice it have a good understanding." This is where my prayer centers--practice. All who practice "it" what? "It" refers to "the fear of the LORD." Notice it does not say, "all who know how to define it," or "all those who think it's a good idea." But all who practice it. It's the practicing of a virtue that evidences the reality of our faith in that virtue (or, rather in the God who prompts such virtues). Many in Bible-believing churches will grant that these things are true; they give them, as the OT says, "lip-service." They agree with the need for "the fear of the LORD." But, that, as we all know, is definitely NOT the same as exhibiting it, living it out in every day life, or . . . practicing it! Practicing the faith cannot be done by those who's only interest in God is circumstantial or from a distance.

For many in Bible-believing churches today, God is more of a name they respect at arm's length, not the intimate Lord of their heart. Thus, it is vitally necessary that we pray this prayer often:
Lord, guide me into a proper fear of God and then, help me to so embrace it, to so own it that I live it out, yes, practice it every day . . . as a lifestyle.
"Practical godliness is the test of wisdom," writes C. H. Spurgeon. "Men may know and be very orthodox, they may talk and be very eloquent, they may speculate and be very profound; but the best proof of their intelligence must be found in their actually doing the will  of the Lord."

Further, as we fear the LORD we gain a good understanding. What is God's will? How can we know? Answer? Fear the LORD, and the understanding will follow. Don't put the cart before the horse. Believe rightly (fear the LORD) and you will know God's will and live rightly (have a good understanding). We too often hear, "Show me your will and I will do it." God says, "Trust in me and I will show you my will."

One further thot: If we were to take the "P" of practice and place it at the beginning of Piper's "I.O.U.S." it would be "P.I.O.U.S." I don't know . . . it sorta works out. Right? Either way, even it doesn't "catch on," it'd be wise of us to pray for such a practicing heart. May our wise and loving God help us all!



Phyllis said...

This is an excellent start to the IOU'S!!

I don't think it's a coincidence that in the beginning of Abraham's journey, God dealt with Abraham's fear of himself. The story of Abraham and Abimelech clearly ends with both men fearing God.

He test's Abraham yet again with Isaac. God's words were "Don't do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing that you have not withheld your son, your only son from me."

I believe fearing God is foundational to the Christian life. A great start to the iou's.

David R. Nelson said...

Thanks, Honey. Good connection with Abraham & Abimelech.