I Timothy 6:12-16; Exodus 33-34
“… the Beginning of Knowledge”
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
God our Father,
Creator of all things,
true source of light and wisdom,
origin of all that is:
Thank You for calling us to faith,
for planting Your Word in our hearts,
and for delivering us from our sin.
Thank You for calling us to Your service,
for giving us the ability to read Your Word
and share this good news with others. Through Christ, our Savior, Amen.
We have invested every Sunday since the turn of the calendar looking into what it means to have a Fear of God – why we might fear a loving God, what it means to be afraid, and how fearing the Lord means not having to be afraid of anything else!
So, let me stop right here for a minute and just ask: Has there been an “aha” moment for you in these last five weeks? Did you think, I’ve never heard that before? What stands out for you in this series?
We started off reading Proverbs 1:7 which tells us, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…” Next, we read Psalm 112:1 which tells us, “Blessed are those who fear the Lord, those who find great delight in His Commandments.” Then we read from I John 4 which gives us the flip side of the Fear-the-Lord coin: “God is love.” Then we read two stories that come straight from Jesus’ own life and ministry: about Jesus calming the storm on the sea, and how that made the disciples even more afraid(!), and then from Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus tells us to not worry about our daily sustenance followed by this quote: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the Kingdom”(!).
Augustus Montague Toplady was an 18th Century Anglican pastor, and he was a major Calvinist opponent of John Wesley. But what he’s best remembered for is a hymn he wrote. And this is a favorite hymn for a lot of people: “Rock of Ages” – look in your hymnbooks, #227, and listen for words or images of fear:
Rock of Ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in thee
Let the water and the blood from Thy wounded side which flowed,
be of sin the double cure; Save from wrath and make me pure.
Not the labor of my hands, can fulfill Thy Law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know, Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone Thou must save, and Thou alone
There are at least three clear biblical references in these opening two verses; can you see them?
- Exodus 33-34, the story of Moses asking to see more of God’s glory and God telling him to hide in the cleft of the rock as God’s glory passed by… (the burning bush, plagues in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, water from a rock, the manna from heaven, the pillar of fire and the pillar of smoke, the Ten Commandments – and he asked to see more … What God tells Moses is: “If you were to see My glory, Moses, you would immediately die!”…
- Why are we to fear God? – because to see God’s glory would mean certain death!
- The glory of God in its fullest expression is the totality of everything that God is – what Paul calls the “weight of glory” (II Corinthians 4:17 – S. Lewis wrote a whole book on this theme).
- The fullness of God’s glory is His infinity …
- The fullness of God’s glory is His eternity … – God, and God alone, simply is! In Bible study a few weeks ago one of our members asked who created God – so with a few questions and a few minutes of discussion we discovered that there are two options: 1) somebody bigger than God created God (an impossibility), or 2) No one created God – God is simply God!
- Jesus’ crucifixion after the Roman soldier stabbed His side to make sure He has died …
- The whole book of Romans, and maybe any of Paul’s letters which tell us that we are saved by grace through faith …
Listen to these words from the Apostle Paul to his spiritual son Timothy, and listen for how this applies today as well. I Timothy 6:12-16 …. —-
12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen. (NIV)
Paul is telling Timothy, and if we’re willing to listen, he is telling us, that we fear God for the same reasons we praise God! Because He is God!
And we know God the same way that Moses knew God! We know God as He reveals His glory to us, on our level, in ways that will not overwhelm us or destroy us. He will not give us more of Himself than we can handle! John Calvin says that “God has stooped to our level to make Himself known to us”(in the incarnation). He stooped to the request of Moses by allowing Moses see His back side! God stooped in the Old Testament as He spoke through the prophets. Ultimately, in Scripture, God stooped when He “dwelt among us” in the person of the Word which was with God and which was God!
But, as we see God stooping to our level as a baby in a manger, we coo and ahh, and we too quickly forget that He is still God!
In a few minutes we will participate in the process of ordaining and installing five of our Baptized members into positions of Ecclesiastic leadership. God stoops in our presence when He invites us into His service in His Church for His Kingdom-purposes in His world!
Before we do that, I want to invite us to turn to #227 in our hymnbooks, and in unison, and nearly a cappella sing this great hymn. But do not just sing the words, or hear others sing the words, listen to what those words say and pray them from your soul.
Because Christians need not fear God out of fear of eternal punishment – Christ has taken that away! We need not fear God out of fear that He will renege on His promises or reject us because we’re not good enough!
We fear God for His praise-worthy characteristics: the radiance of God’s infinite, eternal, majestic glory would simply, by His majesty, stamp us out of existence! We fear God because we know that if we were to actually see Him in all His glory, we would be no more!
God is to be feared because of who He is in the fullness of His majestic being! And, Fear of the Lord is just … the Beginning of Knowledge of God!
Let’s sing #227 together.
Oliphant, K. Scott; “The God Whom We Are to Fear”; TableTalk; January 2018; Pp. 14-17.
Toplady, Augustus Montague; Rock of Ages; 1776.