“Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.” Psalm 2:11-12
Psalm 2 opens with David speaking about the heathen raging against God and people in general focussing on empty things. Together they counsel together against God’s anointed. But God’s got it all covered. He’s already decreed the Answer, the Deliverance. “You are my Son; this day have I begotten You.” And He’s already promised the heathen to His Son.
Well, that’s You, Lord, that David’s speaking about. And that’s Jesus that You are speaking about. And the heathen and vain ones are any that stand against You. And they have the choice of being broken with a rod of iron and dashed into pieces like a clay pot thrown to the ground because it won’t conform to the potter’s plan, or they can be wise and instructed. I had and have that same choice.
Maybe that seems kind of violent or rough. Maybe it is. Oh, wait, but perfect love casts out fear, right? 1 John 4:18 tells us “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear has torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love.” Don’t these contradict each other? No, they go together perfectly.
Isaiah 8:13 tells us that “It is the Lord of hosts whom you should regard as holy, and He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread.” See, it’s that whole idea of repentance needing to come first. I was listening to Ravi Zacharias answering a student’s question and the student was asking if it wasn’t sufficient enough to follow Jesus’s teachings to be a good person and accepted without committing to Jesus. Wouldn’t that be acceptable worship before God?
Ravi pointed out three necessary responses that must occur in our lives in a specific order. Basically they were repentance, redemption, and righteousness. See, kings and queens, and people everywhere want to jump to the top and be righteous before You, God. But there’s no way to meet Your righteousness, to be that kind of good, without You doing that in us. Our good is no match for Yours. Elsewhere Ravi observes, “Our hearts need to be transformed…We need a new birth…Only Jesus can give you the power to change.” That comes only through redemption by Christ. But how do we get to the point where we see our need for redemption? “Redemption is prior to righteousness. You cannot be righteous until you are first redeemed.” So how do we get there? How would these kings get there? How does any one in any nation get there?
Here’s the first step. “Only through repentance and faith in Christ can anyone be saved. No religious activity will be sufficient, only true faith in Jesus Christ alone.” (Ravi Zacharias) Isaiah tells us that “It is the Lord of hosts whom you should regard as holy, and He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread.” Stop and think about it. Whatever we fear controls our lives, doesn’t it? If I fear failure, I’m driven to succeed. If I fear flying, I avoid planes or take medicine. If I fear heights, I don’t go up where it’s high. If I fear what people think about me, I do all kinds of things to make them like me. I modify my behavior depending on my fear. So, what if I chose to fear God instead of anything else? What if my mind was preoccupied with Him? What if I cared most about Your acceptance, Lord? What if You were my driving force behind my behavior?
The truth is, we ought to fear what matters. If I’m going to serve and pay homage to something, it ought to be You, Lord, not something that really should have no control over me. So I guess, here You are, this fearful and terrible God and judge, giving these heathen kings and people a chance. When You invite them to be wise and instructed, You’re not inviting them to take a rational and mental break to think about things here. Your not telling them to think their way through things. As frail and finite as we are, how could we do that? How could we even think we are capable? How could we ever see the big picture clearly enough? So what are You saying?
Kings, wizen up. Be teachable. Rely on Me. Rely on My Words. You don’t have to understand all of what I’m doing or thinking. Learn to discern my ways. Let it warn you. It’s not enough to discern without proper action. After all, Herod and his counselors knew the prophesy of the Messiah, but they didn’t respond in obedience. Instead of receiving the Messiah, they wanted to slaughter him. Kings and all people, well, we need to act upon what we learn. Only when we act in correct response will we avoid the evil consequences. My thinking must lead to acting upon the right solution. I can reason all day and get no where. I can reason in the middle of a flood and drown. Or my behavior can act upon what I’ve learned and respond appropriately.
I suppose I could also just choose to be instructed, to accept correction in my ears and walk on. “Oh, look! There’s a cliff!” “Yes, isn’t that interesting.” I can hear and then keep walking, keep walking right off that cliff to my death. So it’s not just about being instructed but about understanding the punishment and accepting and responding to the correction, discipline, or chastening. It’s not just rational. It ought to involve my emotions. It ought to be tangible. Why? Because the consequence is real.
King Solomon shared this thought in Proverbs 28:14, “How blessed is the man who fears always, but he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity.” Let’s think about this. What if this is saying that the person who lives in continual fear that drives him to care most about what You, God, think, is a man to be envied because of that trust in You? What if that person is blessed because they act upon what they know rightly? Maybe it means that as a result of what they know about God, about You, they do something, they act appropriately and are filled with bliss because of that response. What if that kind of response leads them to be overjoyed in You?
So, that means fear and be overjoyed? Yeah, it does. Because it all has to do with the object of our fear. When we realize the greatness and power and omniscience and love and judgment and everything else that embodies You and that is Your right and we put it all together and we understand and begin to grasp it’s truth in You and I begin to see myself and see that I am no god but I am in need of a God, then I come to this point called repentance where I understand and act upon the greatness and necessity of You. That realization brings me to a decision, a point of action where I come to fear and trembling. Fear because You are worthy of being feared. All things belong to You, we’re made by You, are under Your control and You alone are the judge of all. Trembling comes because You invite me to change my way of thinking and living and enter into the safety and protection of You. Who wouldn’t twirl around in inexpressible joy to know and act upon the reality that though I should be judged guilty and spend an eternity separated from the holy God of my creation, I am forgiven, accepted, and made His? Yes, I am overjoyed. And I must never forget that fear.
Why not forget? I’m under grace now, right? Well, I don’t know who Moses Luzzatto is but he made this statement, “A man may be apprehensive every moment of the day lest he stumble and commit some deed that is wholly, or in part, opposed to the glory of God’s name.” Skip Moen continues with that, “In other words, ‘fearing’ is that state of mind attained when we are so concerned with the glory of God’s name that we dread doing anything that would diminish His magnificence. Being in such a state is, in fact, overwhelmingly joyful because it means that we are constantly aware of Him and thinking of His honor at every moment. True bliss is to be continually in His awareness, and that comes when we are caught up in magnifying Him at all times. In other words, we are so concerned with Him that we dread sin.”
That’s what the invitation is to, to constant living in You, to constant walking with Jesus. It’s an invitation to being caught up in You moment by moment. That’s what it is to serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. That’s what it is to kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. That’s what it is to be blessed by putting our trust in Him. That’s what it is to be more concerned with God and Your will than myself, my life, my circumstance, my friend, my ministry, or anything else.
Do you know why there’s no fear in love. Because there’s only fear when our actions go against God. Just like You said in Genesis 4:7, “If you do well, will you not be accepted? and if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. It’s desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” The choice is ours. I can choose God’s way and act in accord with Your word and feel the intensity and receive the depth of Your love. Or I can act on my own accord, and receive the consequences of those actions, which bring fear.
I’m not the only one who thinks about this stuff. I bet John might have been thinking about these things too. So I’m going to share his thoughts in 1 John 4. “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death. We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” We’re like the old time kings, just as good at making idols of ourselves. What a warning! But will I heed it? Will I act appropriately to that instruction?
In searching for Ravi Zacharias’ answer earlier, I heard him say this, “God gives you the most sacred gift of the prerogative of choice, but God does not give you the privilege of determining a different outcome to what the choice will entail. The consequences are bound to the choice and you go right back to the book of Genesis and it tells you ‘If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you don’t sin stalks at the door and desires to have you.'” Every last one of us, king or pauper is given this sacred gift of being able to make the choice ourselves. I can choose repentance and see how much I need You, God. Or, I can refuse repentance. But each choice comes with a different outcome and I must be willing to accept that outcome with my choice.
To choose repentance, leads to redemption. And only through repentance and redemption will I attain righteousness. I can’t skip one and attain the other. Ravi states elsewhere, “Our hearts need to be transformed…We need a new birth. Only Jesus can give you the power to change. Has your heart been redeemed by Christ?” He emphasizes, ““Redemption is prior to righteousness. You cannot be righteous until you are first redeemed…That is where it begins…We will never change the outside until we are changed within. Then the world will see the beauty of Christ and follow Him.” Quoted elsewhere, “Only through repentance and faith in Christ can anyone be saved. No religious activity will be sufficient, only true faith in Jesus Christ alone.”
If it were fear alone that held us to You, Lord, we would wind up being repulsed. But it’s so much more because the One we ought to fear actually loves us so and makes a way for us to not have to be afraid. The One whose wrath is terrible desires to be our Heavenly Father, our Abba. The truth is that the One who is absolutely worthy of my fear and dread, loves me so much that He gave His one and only Son to die and be resurrected to bring me back to Him.
Well, Lord, that’s a lot to think about. But I want to do more than just think about it. I want to live like I fear You more than anything. I want to live moment by moment as though I care about what You care about. I want to be acceptable to You so I want to behave in ways that are acceptable to You. I want to moment by moment walk with You and respond to You. I want to do more than meditate on Your word and on You. I want to walk it out. Help me to do that. Don’t let me use excuses about my own weaknesses. Because the truth is You’ve got me covered and Your love is sufficient for all my needs. I just have to keep myself centered in Your heart.