Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Kingdom Prepared for You

March 2, 2009

Monday of the First Week of Lent

You shall not defraud or rob your neighbor. You shall not withhold overnight the wages of your day laborer. You shall not curse the deaf, or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but you shall fear your God. I am the LORD. Leviticus 19:13-14

Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.' Matthew 25:34-36


Out of the depths I call to you, LORD; Lord, hear my cry! May your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. If you, LORD, mark our sins, Lord, who can stand? But with you is forgiveness and so you are revered. I wait with longing for the LORD, my soul waits for his word. (Psalm 130:1-5)


The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. Psalm 19:10

It is one of the “gifts” of the Holy Spirit and it is right there in today’s scripture once again. We’ve barely taken the first step on our Lenten journey. Jesus invites us along. But if we have this gift of fear, how can we possibly follow freely? If such fear is a gift, why is the Bible literally filled with references to “be not afraid,” “fear not,” and “do not be afraid?”

In Leviticus, are we reading about a vengeful God ready to pounce on us – or at least bounce us out of paradise if we do not follow the precepts laid out to Moses?

A different kind of emotion is the object here. Proverbs 15:33 helps us understand this gift is not a negative emotion like those evoked by the films of Alfred Hitchcock, Steven King or M. Night Shyamalan. Instead we learn that “The fear of the LORD is training for wisdom, and humility goes before honors.” If we expect wisdom, then we must have a high level of respect based upon humility and obedience.

C.S. Lewis – who put a friendly Lion at the center of his imaginary world – helps us to understand this. In his book, The Problem of Pain, Lewis wrote that this fear is not the same kind of fear one has of a ghost or a tiger. As Lewis describes fear of the Lord, it is one filled with awe, in which you “feel wonder and a certain shrinking” or “a sense of inadequacy to cope with such a visitant of or prostration before it.” It is a fear that comes forth out of love for the Lord.

This gift is not the fear of a servant hoping to avoid punishment. Rather it is a fear that you would offend someone who loves you, to whom who you want to stay close. Such offenses would cut you off from God even though our awe and wonder of God teaches us through that “wisdom” that God would never cut Himself off from us.

We expect the judgment outlined in Matthew 25. So how can we hope to inherit the kingdom if we do not have a corresponding sense of trust linked with this awesome respect and fear of not offending the Lord who listens to us and for us always? The sense of trust is echoed in Psalm 130:2-4 -- “Lord, hear my cry. May your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. If you, LORD, mark our sins, Lord, who can stand? But with you is forgiveness and so you are revered.”

That is why the Psalmist concluded that “I wait with longing for the LORD, my soul waits for his word.” We wait with longing for the love that we know will never be withdrawn because the Lord has a Kingdom prepared for us from the foundation of the world.

In the end, this “fear” may not be OUR fear of the Lord but about the LORD’S fear that we will wander off on some prodigal excursion and not return home. When we wander off with our inheritance, He waits with the anticipation and anxiety of a mother – in bed but not able to rest while her teenager is out at night with the car. She waits in stillness to hear the comforting sound of the front door opening after midnight and the clinking of the deadbolt as the signal that she has the freedom to sleep.


Maybe the best way to appreciate “fear of the Lord” is to “rest in the Lord.”

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Start your week with 20 minutes of rest with the Lord before the anxiety of the world invades. Spending time with Jesus will dispel us from any notion that this is a God of fear.

This refreshing start will give us the energy and love to carry out the rest of the expectations laid out in Matthew 25.

No comments: