"The FEAR of the LORD is the beginning of Wisdom." Prov. 1:7
But before I go on, how about a true & really gory tale?
About a thousand years ago, when I was a Sophomore in High School, I had a friend named Gary. One day Gary was at his friend's fathers warehouse. They decided to take a ride on the front forks of a forklift as it was rolling down the aisles. Oops! Gary fell off and the 2-ton machine ran over his left leg. Gary spent most of his Sophomore year in the hospital with two steel bolts sticking through his calf & thigh as the bones began to return from the powder-like substance the forklift had turned them into, and back into a substance that one could actually use to walk with.
WHAT DID WE LEARN???????
Ever since that day, I've had a very healthy sense of respect for forklifts.
Years ago, I was working at a local High School with "Special Needs" kids. I was helping one of the boys in his wood shop class. On the year first day, the instructor took a frozen hot dog over to one of the machines. (It was some type of machine that carved a block of wood into a bat-like form.) He told the class that he wanted them to think of the hot dog as one of their fingers. So he drops the hot dog onto the machine while it was on. "Grrrrrzzzztttch," there goes the hot dog.
The kids got the point. They had better understand what they are dealing with. They had better have a healthy sense of fear & respect for the equipment that they would be using...or else.
So this morning at Living Waters, Pastor Scott was preaching on "The Fear of God." Most of us at Living Waters tend not to emphasize the wrathful aspects of God too often. It's not that we don't know about it. It's just that so many people have had that stuff beaten over their heads for so long...and usually by others who don't really understand the concept properly, that they are more than a little put off by it.
But at the same time, this IS an issue that should be brought up to have a fuller understanding of the God of the Bible. Some folks think that God is this perpetually angry deity that is just waiting for an excuse to bring the pain. Others often treat God as if he were just a cosmic marshmallow that is tolerant of almost anything. Both concepts are completely wrong, and does a great disservice to the portrait of the God shown in scripture.
When the writer of Proverbs makes the statement that the "Fear of God" is where wisdom begins, he is making a very basic observation about humans and our tendency to think more of ourselves then we often should. The original sin in the third creation story is about us wanting to BE God...and we're NOT. Simple as that. The writer of that proverb is pointing out that if we want to actually understand the world around us, we had better start by knowing who we are NOT, and who God IS. (Our general place in the scheme of the universe.)
So Moses is sitting in the Tent of Meeting with YHWH one day. Moses says to God, "So, I know that we are friends & all. I was wondering if maybe I could see what your glory looks like?" To sum up God's response in brief, YHWH says to Moses, "Sorry, no one can see my face and live."
Interesting choice of words, I think. Moses wants to see god's GLORY. God responds by saying that no one can see his FACE. (Could they be one and the same?) The Bible points out that God is Spirit, so it would be a bit difficult for a human's physical eyes to see a spirit being in the first place.
All of that being said, there are times where folks do get a glimpse of God. You can read Isaiah, Ezekiel, Revelation, etc. You get the picture that at the briefest sign of YHWH showing up on the scene, it causes the human viewing this appearance to just about go into cardiac arrest. It's NOT that God is a big, mean monster. It is because this God is HOLY. When a sinful human gets a glimpse of the Holy God, it REALLY puts things in perspective.
On a side note: I get more than a little frustrated with folks who talk down to God, or treat him like one of their "Homies." I hear people say, "I want to find God...I want to get to God...my own way." Really?!?!?
So if you wanted to meet the President, you would just pull up in front of the White House, lay on the horn, and shout for him to get his butt out to the car right now...and bring a six-pack? You think that would work, do you?
So if you wouldn't try that with the President, who is just a mortal, why would you try that with God? Don't you think you should approach God on his terms?
My friend learned the hard way that you had better treat that forklift with respect. It might be a good idea to do the same with God. If you can wrap your selfish & sinful brain around that truth...and accept it, then you just might be ready for what comes next.
God is Holy. Were are not. However, rather than keeping his distance, THIS GOD draws near to us. Jesus came and broke down the barrier between the Father and all of us. Jesus often liked to refer to the Father as ABBA, which is the Aramaic version of "Dad," or even "Daddy." He invites us to do the same. Anyone who is willing to turn their life over to Jesus is now a child of the Holy One.
"But you received the Spirit of Sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children." Romans 8:15
"Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." So you are no longer a slave, but a SON; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir." Galatians 4: 6&7
Anyone who is in Jesus can now call the God of the universe, the creator, the Holy One "Daddy." Not to be flippant, but that sounds like a pretty good deal to me.
God isn't scary, but he isn't safe either. He took on human form and was crucified & resurrected. He says that we are to pick up our own cross on a daily basis. Does that sound safe??? But he is also LOVE...and he loves us. He invites us into a relationship with him. Relationships are always messy, and God seems to be fine with the messiness of it all.
When I was a little boy, my dad loved to watch me play. He would just sit there with a big smile on his face. I could crawl up into his lap anytime I pleased, and he loved it. If I did that today, it might be a painful experience for my Dad's lap. But my Dad still loves to be with me. Today, my Dad is elderly, but I still have a fearful respect for him. That is how our healthy relationship was built.
I need to do the same for my other Father, the Holy One whose child I am. I am his son. He is my Daddy. I'll never be able to love him as much as he loves me. But knowing that he DOES love me more than I can comprehend gives me great pause. It's a perfect love, "and perfect love drives out fear." 1 John 4:18
So what should I do? I'll sing this song to my Daddy, because he loves me.