Last week I began writing about parallels between the call of God through Moses (and consequently Joshua) to the people of Israel to gather for the reading of the Law and the gathering of the church on the Lord’s day for corporate worship. The point is that the proclamation of the Word was central to the gathering. So, how do we respond to that priority? Last week I wrote about listening. We gather with the intent of hearing.
The text, from Deut. 31:11-12 is-
when all Israel assembles in the presence of the Lord your God at the place He chooses, you are to read this law aloud before all Israel. Gather the people—men, women, children, and foreigners living within your gates—so that they may listen and learn to fear the Lord your God and be careful to follow all the words of this law.
Now the second principle after LISTEN:
LEARN: listen for the intention of learning. And learning specifically about God and fearing Him. Sometimes we get so focused on temporary, felt needs that we miss the tremendous value of ultimately learning about God. There is nothing/no one more worthy of our learning than Him. As we hear the Word (which is about God) we hear about His actions, His character, His promises and we learn to fear Him. What does it mean to fear the Lord? A small digression is in order to consider three points of emphasis regarding fearing the Lord.
I learned a little about fearing God by the police here in Nicaragua. We have traffic police everywhere. They seem to have an omnipresent observation of one’s driving and violations are ticketed. As I started driving, I was terrified. Every time I approached an intersection I was filled with dread over getting pulled over and what would happen. I imagined myself, in my broken Spanish, saying something offensive and ending up in Jail (we have these really cool mobile jails that are literally pulled behind a semi and parked in various places around the city). I was afraid. Why? Because the police had the power and right to punish my wrongdoings. And the punishment is not pleasant. But there’s more. Beverly and I walk to school everyday. We have a truck but with morning traffic and the school only being about one kilometer away, it’s just easier to walk (although the walk is uphill in both directions and it’s usually in the snow – just kidding, it doesn’t snow in Managua.) On the way to school we come to a major intersection that is managed by a couple of policemen. Beverly and I were trying to be real nice and stand at the corner until the police stopped traffic. This particular policeman was so friendly. After he got used to us coming, he would stop all the cars and make sure we got across the street. He always spoke. We came to truly appreciate his kindness. And we also came to greatly respect his position and authority. Because of his position as a policeman, he controlled the intersection in a way that we could not. When I think about fearing the Lord I think there are elements of those illustrations. First, to fear the Lord is to truly fear, to be afraid because He is the Judge who will call us to judgement. He has the right and ability to hold us accountable for our actions, attitudes, and thoughts. Mine (and yours) fall short of His demands and “it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God!” (Hebrews 10:31) Now, it is absolutely true that we are secure in Christ and have been reconciled by His blood to God. (2 Corinthians 5:18-21) We do not cower in fear of the judgment because we know Christ has satisfied the justice of God. (1 John 2:1-2, 4:10) However, we should always stand in awe, and yes, trembling, of the fact that we will give an accounting before Him. Second, we respect His position as Sovereign Creator who has power to control all things, and in fact, does control all things. He alone is the Sovereign One, and He alone controls all things. The glorious truth of His sovereignty in light of the Gospel is this: because of the Cross and resurrection we know that the Lord is working sovereignly for our good. (Romans 8:18-39) The reality of the Gospel brings about a third aspect of what it means to fear God: love. Yes we love Him and we are motivated by His love for us to love and worship Him. What parent doesn’t want their children to obey them out of a heart of love and gratitude? Of course we fear the Judge. Of course we respect the Creator. But we also love our Father. We learn all of these things about the Lord as we read and hear the revelation of Himself to us in the Bible.
As the people of Israel are called to gather, they are to listen to the Word, in order to learn about God. While this may seem obvious, in many evangelical circles it is not the focal point of preaching. Much of the preaching in our day seems to be about me, us, ourselves rather than God. Honestly, many present the Bible, not as a book about God and His plan to redeem sinners by the work of Jesus Christ, but as a book about us, our dreams, or our purposes. The Bible is not about you. It is not about me. It is not a manual on finding my purpose, defeating my giants, discovering my destiny, handling my money, etc. It is God’s revelation about Himself and His eternal plan. Yes, there are principles that touch every area of life and guide us in living a godly life, but all of those things are rooted in WHO God is, WHAT God is like, WHAT God has done/is doing/will do. Our passion should be to know Him (Philippians 3:10) and to “grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord (2 Peter 3:18). When you go to church, are you eager to learn about God? To know God? Or is your primary interest to know how God will help you get your way in life? Do we want to learn to fear God and pursue His glory or do we want to learn how to somehow manipulate God for our own comfort? Just askin.
Okay I got a bit winded with that rant. Calm. Recap. We gather to LISTEN to the Word. We listen in order to LEARN to fear God. The Bible shows us what God is like, what He has done, and who He is. As we are confronted with those truths in the pages of the Bible, the Holy Spirit will teach us and grow us in our fear, respect, and love for God. We want that learning. So, I’m reading, or I’m going to corporate worship eager to hear the Word, and praying that the Lord will teach me about Himself as I hear and as I read.
I’m tired now (that’s a movie quote! Haven’t had one in a while so there you go). I’ll take up LIVE next week. Thanks for reading. Peace out.