S-1333 12SAP/3B 7/29/12 Hymns: (O) #427 vs.1-3; (S) #427 vs.3-7; (C) #437
Text: Proverbs 9:1-10; Ephesians 5:6-21; John 6:51-69
Theme: “Fear is A GOOD Think” (Proverbs 9:10)
Question: “What Frightens You?” Armour, SD.
Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the O.T. lesson: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Proverbs 9:10).
Saints in Christ, life is a balancing act, a tightrope walk with over-commitment on one side and under-commitment on the other. And we need the wisdom of God to help us manage how to walk this tight rope, so that we may not fall prey to pride (which causes us to attempt too much) or to fear (which causes us to attempt to little).
On Friday night, June 15th of this year, Nik Wallenda became the first man to walk over the Niagara Gorge in 116 years—and the first ever to walk right over the falls. As the 100.000 + crowd gathered beneath him to watch his daredevil walk, you could hear the awe in their voices and fear in their faces. But he confidently walked the tightrope and 30 minutes later was standing on the other side. Mr. Wallenda had a healthy fear and respect for what he was doing, that he wore a safety harness.
John insists that “perfect love casts out fear” (1 Jn 4:18). On the other hand, Peter urges Christians to fear God (1 Pet 2:17), while Paul affirms his fear of the Lord (2 Cor 5:11). What shall we make of these apparent contradictions? “Fear” (ary) first appears in the OT when Adam and Eve rebel against Yahweh (Gen 3:10), so fear is bad. However, Job, who is a person of great piety, is described as someone who fears Yahweh (Job 1:1, 8–9; 2:3); so fear is good. From one angle, fear demonstrates our lack of trust in God’s goodness, while from a different perspective fearing God is the Bible’s way of describing a true believer as our text states today, (Pro. 9:10). In the OT it is often “the principle religious virtue.”
It is important for us as followers of Jesus to distinguish and realize that there is a wrong kind of fear and a right kind of fear. Certainly there is a good fear. Luther a Hebrew scholar in the Small Catechism speaks repeatedly in the meaning of the commandments... “We should fear, love and trust in God…”
This kind of fear is healthy, vital and beneficial. We see this demonstrated by those who feared the Lord. Joseph had the right kind of fear. When he was tempted by Potiphar’s wife, he shunned her advances saying: “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:8-9). David had the right kind of fear as well. While being chased by King Saul, he had opportunity to kill the King. But wouldn’t, saying: “Behold, this day your eyes have seen how the LORD gave you today into my hand in the cave. And some told me to kill you, but I spared you. I said, ‘I will not put out my hand against my lord, for he is the LORD’s anointed’” (1 Samuel 24:10).
Likewise for us, there is a good and healthy fear. When you are standing near a big electrical station, you see the sign in bold, large, red letters: “Danger, don’t approach or touch” Fear keeps us away.
When we properly fear God we will not fear man. So often though, our fear is the wrong kind of fear...Peter had the wrong kind of fear on the stormy sea. The disciples had the wrong kind of fear. On the eve when their Master and Lord was dragged from Gethsemane they fled and ran for their lives. PAUSE.
We, too, have the wrong kind of fear. We fear all kinds of stuff: We are afraid to go to the Dr. because he may say, “The big “C” word, “Its cancer!” When we have pain in our chest, and numbness in our arms, we fear that we might be having a heart attack. And yet, so many of us in this situation would not go to the doctor, even it meant costing us our life!
Some fear sickness and death... When Hamburg was stricken with the plague and large numbers were dying, the healthy, which were fearful of being numbered among the dead, flocked to the churches of the city, which they would not do previously. It was not the fear of God that drew them to church but the fear of the cholera; as soon as the pest abated, the zeal for the worship of God also abated. (Dallmann) [We can recall a similar process shortly after 9/11!] Some fear loneliness and loss... Willing to defy the will of God, as long as they are not alone…Some fear rejection and persecution by others... Willing to do whatever “the group” demands, so that they might be accepted.
We are far too quick to lose the true sense of the fear of God. Jesus teaches the truth saying: “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear Him who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:4-7).
Solomon the wise man of God and the author of our text, just before he died, wrote the book of Ecclesiastes. In the final chapter of this book, he states: “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” Ecclesiastes (12:13).
This is the joy of man: to fear God. The good kind of fear flows into our hearts as we see the love of Christ for mankind. Through the message of the cross the proper fear is created. Thus, we pray, like David, “Create in me a clean heart with the right fear so that I may truly love Thee O Lord.”
That GOOD fear is created by the Spirit that dwells in us and guides us along the journey of life. For this reason, as forgiven Children of God, standing in His Spirit by grace through faith, we no longer need to fear that the Lord will Judge us! Now He can be celebrated as a loving Father. We fear His wrath if we cross the line, as any wise child fears the punishing wrath of his father, but our love for Him is also constant! We know His forgiving love personally. We have tasted it, we have experienced it and have known it. Week after week the pastor says, “Go in the peace of the Lord, your sins are forgiven you!”
You are children of the heavenly Father – for whom Jesus Christ did suffer and die. He was the only ONE to ever fully fear the wrath of His Father in Heaven. He alone satisfied the Law’s demands on our lives. The price to satisfy all justice has been paid upon the cross, and your sins are remembered no more. The forgiveness that you crave is here for you in the very Word and Sacraments of Jesus. He absolves you through the voice of your pastor. He instructs you and moves you to repentance through the proclamation of His living Word. He feeds you from His table with His own Body and Blood. He blesses you with the blessing from Heaven as you gather in His Holy Name.
You have been given the gift of a living faith by the power of the Holy Spirit, who was poured out upon you in the waters of Holy Baptism. Your sinful flesh trembles in fear of the death that awaits all who sin; yet your new life in Christ Jesus will last beyond physical death unto resurrection and everlasting life!
Therefore, with great joy in our hearts today we Delight in the GOOD fear—the Fear of the Lord! Rejoice that you have received the gift of the Holy Spirit, and that by His power you have received the gift of Holy fear…This has been given you today through Jesus Christ your LORD and God. Amen.
Now the peace…
SOLI DEO GLORIA