Monday, November 27, 2006

Living in Awe of God

Holy and awesome is His name.
(Psalm 111:9)

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.
A good understanding have all those who keep His commandments.
(Psalm 111:10)
The Hebrew words for “awesome” and “fear” have the same root. This fear of the LORD is double-edged: For those who are opposed to God and His ways, it is abject terror, and leads only to judgment and destruction. But for those who repent and turn to Him, the fear of the LORD is the recognition of His awesome majesty. It is to stand in awe of God, and that is the beginning of wisdom. From it follows insight, understanding and skill for living. This is seen in the next line of verse 10:
A good understanding have all those who keep His commandments.
The Hebrew word for “understanding” refers to the kind of knowledge that leads to success. The word for “keep” means to do. There are no Hebrew words behind the phrase “His commandments” in this verse; it was added by the translators to aid our understanding. The sense of this line in the Hebrew is that those who do according to the fear of the LORD have a good understanding about life.

But keeping the commandments of God is certainly an appropriate response to the awe of God. In fact, it appears in the first verse of the very next psalm:
Blessed is the man who fears the LORD,
Who delights in His commandments.
(Psalm 112:1)
Living in awe of the LORD and keeping His commandments leads to happiness and well-being, which is what the Hebrew word used here for “blessed” means. The remainder of Psalm 112 describes the kind of life that is available for all who honor the majesty of God and walk in His ways:
  • His descendants will be blessed, and mighty on earth (v. 2).
  • Wealth and riches will be in his house (v. 3).
  • The effects of his right living will endure (v. 3).
  • He will have light even in the dark times of life (v. 4).
  • His heart will be gracious, and full of deep compassion and tender affection (v. 4), just as God is (Psalm 111:4).
  • He will show favor and lend to those in need. He will have a soft heart, but not a soft head, because he will possess discretion and good judgment (v. 5).
  • Whatever may happen, he will not be shaken out by, but will be able to remain stable (v. 6).
  • He will be well-remembered by all those whose lives he touches (v. 6).
  • When bad news is in the air, he will not be afraid, because he trusts in the LORD (v. 7). The word for “afraid” here is the same word for the “fear” of the LORD. When we live in awe of God, we do not have to be terrified by anything else.
  • His heart shall be sustained with the peace of God, and he will not be afraid of his enemies, but will rejoice in victory over them (v. 8).
  • He will have more than enough to meet all his needs, and plenty more besides for every good work (v. 9, see also 2 Corinthians 9:8-9).
  • He will give generously and consistently, and it will not be wasted, but will extend his influence for righteousness (v. 9)
  • His success and prosperity will confound the desires of the enemy (v. 10)
Living in awe of God is the beginning of a wise, happy and successful life.