Posted April 27, 2016
What man is there who desires life and loves many days,that he may see good?Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
While the whole of Psalm 34 is a psalm of thanksgiving, in verses 11-14 David takes a turn dabbling in wisdom literature akin to Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. Verse 11 of chapter 34 says, “Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” These verses that we’re looking at are what David puts on his syllabus as he seeks to teach his listeners the fear of the Lord.
The Fear of the Lord Defined
Before we move along too quickly, what is the fear of the Lord? Fear has generally taken on a negative connotation in our day and age, and yet we find that there are more than 150 references to fear of God in the Bible and they are done in a positive light. How is this so? The fear of God described in the Bible is associated with a reverential awe.
Martin Luther helps us by contrasting between servile fear and filial fear. “Servile” comes from the Latin word meaning servant, while “filial” comes from the Latin word meaning son. The first kind of fear would be present in a slave who’s genuinely afraid their master will maliciously beat them or a prisoner who is terrified of their jailer. Filial fear is a much different sort of fear: it’s a healthy reverence of a child toward his or her parents whom they respect. The children aren’t afraid of punishment or torture, but rather want to please their parents out of love and reverence. We can easily fall into servile fear when we forget the work of Jesus on our behalf and what it’s accomplished for us! Sinclair Ferguson describes it as “that indefinable mixture of reverence, fear, pleasure, joy, and awe which fills our hearts when we realize who God is and what He was done for us.”
The Fear of the Lord Embodied
While that sounds great in theory, what does the fear of the Lord look like practically in our lives? When the fear of the Lord takes up genuine residence in our hearts, what sort of people do we become? In these verses, we learn that the fear of the Lord transforms the activity of our tongues, feet, and hands in tangible ways..
The fear of the Lord actually teaches us to keep our tongue from evil and our lips from speaking deceit. This encompasses massive and grievous lies as well as “innocent” little white lies that seem to do no harm. The one who fears the Lord wants their tongue to proclaim truth, for God Himself is truth! There is no deceit in Him…
Not only does the fear of the Lord affect our tongues, but it also affects our feet. Like Joseph ran away from Potiphar’s wife who was trying to seduce him in Genesis 39, the fear of the Lord teaches us to turn away from evil and run as if our life depended on it! The fear of the Lord doesn’t just stop there!
It leads us to turn away from evil, but also leads us to do good with our hands. The fear of the Lord teaches us to say no and run from evil, but also teaches us to say yes and run toward doing good! Over time, our feet find less gravitational pull toward sinful God-dishonoring behavior, and more joy in doing good with our hands, seeking peace and pursuing it. Our feet have a long-term trajectory to them; a kingdom aim.
Why? Our tongues, feet, and hands have been summoned by our King; our hearts have been gripped by the beautiful and governing fear of the Lord.
Song by Aaron Strumpel.
Artwork by Emily Enabnit.
Devotional by Joel Limpic.