Theme: Godly Fear
In this week’s lessons, we see how we ought to think and act biblically, and the blessings that the Lord provides when we do this.
Scripture: Psalm 128:1-6
There is an important balance between Psalm 128 and the previous one. In Psalm 127 the psalmist wanted to show that all blessings are attributable to God alone. Unless God is working in us and with us, every human endeavor is in vain. In Psalm 128 the poet reminds us that there are nevertheless important responsibilities that rest on the person who would partake of God’s blessings. In short, he must fear God and obey him.
1. The fear of the LORD. Later on in this psalm it is clear that its words are addressed primarily to the godly man, the head of his household. It speaks of his work, his wife, his sons and his children’s children. But even though the psalm is addressed to a man, husband or father primarily, it is important to see that the blessing promised in verse 1 is for “all.” That is, it is for anyone who will reverence God. A family is a true gift of God, but if God does not give a person a family, there will be other blessings.
What does it mean to “fear” the Lord? It is customary to say, when Bible teachers are talking about the fear of the Lord, that fear does not mean being afraid. And that is true, of course. The thought in the Hebrew (or English) word is that of reverence or respect.
The point is that God must be taken seriously. He must not be trifled with. He must be for us, as he is in reality, the center of everything we are, think or aspire to do. He must be the starting point for every project, the strength we seek for every valuable endeavor, the one we earnestly desire to please and honor as our goal.
There is no point at which the profound difference between the world and those who are truly God’s people is more radical than here. For those who think as the world does, God is a plaything of the mind and spiritual realities are mere “God-talk.” For the world, the only meaningful reality is what can be seen, felt, touched and measured by the senses. In other words, rather than being spiritual in their thinking, the people of this world are total secularists, at least in our day.
The word “secular” comes from the Latin word saeculum, meaning “this age.” So people who are secular, as opposed to being spiritual, are people whose mental boundaries are limited by this place and time. I often say that the clearest expression of pure secularism that I have ever come across is Carl Sagan’s line in “Cosmos,” the television series, when he looked out at the splendors of God’s starry nighttime heavens and declared, “The cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be.” That is the exact opposite of the psalmist who said, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Ps. 19:1). Francis Schaeffer called it operating in a closed universe, a universe containing nothing spiritual, nothing beyond itself.
It is altogether different for Christians. Harry Blamires is an Englishman who was a student and then a friend of C. S. Lewis. He wrote a book called The Christian Mind in which he said, “To think secularly is to think within a frame of reference bounded by the limits of our life on earth; it is to keep one’s calculations rooted in this worldly criteria. To think christianly is to accept all things with the mind as related, directly or indirectly, to man’s eternal destiny as the redeemed and chosen child of God.” This is what the psalmist is commending. He is telling us to begin with God, continue with God and end with God, and to do this in regard to all our thoughts and actions. This is the first thing the man of God must do to experience God’s rich blessing.
Explain what it means to fear the Lord.
What does the word “secular” mean? How do we see evidences of it today?
Reflection: Do you look to God as the starting point for every project? Do you approach all of life from a distinctively Christian perspective?