Wednesday, May 6, 2009

O Lord, Teach Me the Fear of God

6 For who in the heavens can be compared to the LORD? Who among the sons of the mighty can be likened to the LORD? 7 God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, And to be held in reverence by all those around Him. (Psalm 89:6-7)

Jonathan Edwards, without emotion, and without theatrics, delivered a sermon that caused the assembly to groan and weep and repent, and many to fall to the ground in great fear of God. His famous sermon is called, 'Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.'

In many of our churches, today, such preaching would not be allowed; such ideas would not be entertained; and such results will never be seen. Does this change the fact that God is to be 'greatly feared in the assembly of the saints'? This is not just Old Testament stuff. Ananias and Sapphira learned the fear of the Lord the hard way, and the church witnessed how serious the Lord was concerning sin in the midst of His assembled people:

9Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. 10Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. 11And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things. (Acts 5:9-11)

Peter warned: '...judgement must begin at the house of God...' (I Peter 4:17) And so it must, before there can be salvation in the nation; for the nation follows the church. And how can we learn the fear of the Lord, unless we first learn of His hatred for sin, and the nature of sin as defined by the Law of God.

If the church will not address sin in its midst, then God will address sin in the land, and the church will be judged with the judgment upon the nation.

12And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, 13and said unto them, "It is written, 'My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.'"

14And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.

15And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the son of David; they were sore displeased, 16and said unto him, "Hearest thou what these say?" And Jesus saith unto them, "Yea; have ye never read, 'Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?'"

17And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there.

18Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered. 19And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, "Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever." And presently the fig tree withered away. 20And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, "How soon is the fig tree withered away!" 21Jesus answered and said unto them, "Verily I say unto you, 'If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, "Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done." 22And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.'"

23And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, "By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?" 24And Jesus answered and said unto them, "I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men?" And they reasoned with themselves, saying, "If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him? 26But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet."27And they answered Jesus, and said, "We cannot tell." And he said unto them, "Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things. 28But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. 29He answered and said, 'I will not:' but afterward he repented, and went. 30And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, 'I go, sir': and went not. 31Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, 'The first.' Jesus saith unto them, 'Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.' 32For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.

33Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country: 34And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. 35And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. 36Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. 37But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. 38But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. 39And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. 40When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? 41They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons. 42Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? 43Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. 44And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. 45And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.(Matthew 21:12-45)

This passage from the Gospel of Matthew highlights how serious Jesus is with sin in the midst of His Covenant People. The Church of Jesus day did not repent; they did not fall upon the Stone that came into their midst. As a consequence, in AD 70, the Stone fell upon them, their Temple, their city and their nation and ground them to powder. It was the Lord Jesus Christ, in His covenant wrath, who destroyed the Jewish nation, and scattered its remnants. But this is a lesson for us. God is no respecter of persons. Today, if there is not a brokenness amongst the covenant people of God; if the church will not be broken at the feet of Jesus, then it shall be ground to powder under the feet of Jesus, when Jesus brings judgment upon the nation that has followed the church into apostasy. What is the measure of our apostasy? It is the holy Law of God, and the holy life of Jesus, who is the ultimate Law-keeper.

Oh Lord, help us understand what it means to be a sinner in the hands of an angry God. Teach us, once again, the fear of the Lord; teach us to greatly fear Thy Holy Name in the midst of the assembly of Thy covenant people. Amen!

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