The Fear of the Lord
By Iverna Tompkins
As transcribed by Jane Vaughn
Iverna is challenging us to truly and fully understand what the "fear of the Lord" is - and is not. She has stated that we, the church, have failed in this area, but when we really do come to know our God, the right kind of "fear" and awesome reverence will return and that knowledge of Him will influence every area of our lives. ed.jv.
Years ago, I was struggling with a particular thing in my life. It was something – character-wise – that I didn’t like about myself and I wanted to get rid of the behavior. But I kept going round and round doing the same old thing. Every time a similar situation presented itself, I responded in the same old way, just as I always had. Can any of you identify with that? I sincerely hope you don’t understand… Oh, by your responses, I see that you do. Well, okay. :-)
I really meant it when I prayed: “Oh, God, don’t let me do this again. Deliver me from – duh-dah, duh-dah, duh-dah,” and I meant that prayer with all my heart. But now I can see what I actually meant was: “YOU do it, God, not me!”
Then one day as I was reading in the psalms, I heard this in my heart: “Turn me and I shall be turned” (see Ps.80:3,7). What I heard wasn’t exactly the way it was written, but in my spirit I gleaned God’s message for me in that moment and I could agree: “If YOU turn me, I promise to stay turned!”
Of course, anytime you make a commitment to the Lord, He will give you a written test – or, a living test – very rapidly. :-) It wasn’t very long after that sincere heart-response, that a situation arose where I normally would have responded in a certain way – and He reminded me: “I turned you.” Now, I didn’t feel turned! I felt like I always had! Yet in one split second, I made a choice: “Not this time! Not this time! This time, I claim: I’ve been turned. I’ve been changed!”
I’ve had victory over that for 20-something years of my life – because He does turn us. But, Church, we must be very personally involved in remaining turned. The fear that I was displeasing Him overwhelmed me to a point of saying: “I want to be changed! I want to be cleansed!”
The fear of the Lord.
Being afraid. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!” (Heb.10:31).
You have no idea – you really have no idea – that every blessing… every blessing – like coming to this church and all of the ministry that you receive here – is making you vulnerable to God. “Unto whom…” Tell me the rest of that verse. “…much is given, much is required” (Lk.12:48b). We’ve been given much. Now it’s time for the fear of the Lord to take hold of us.
We need to recognize – “Whew! I can’t tell Him I’m innocent anymore.” I can’t plead: “I didn’t know that was such a terrible thing.” I can’t plead to Him: “Oh, I didn’t know You meant me,” because we have been taught much here, in this place. We have received many blessings from God – and now we are responsible.
Remember when satan came to Eve in the Garden of Eden? (Gen.3). He so innocently inquired of her: “Is it really true that God said you can’t eat of these trees?” And she responded: “Oh, we can eat of all the trees except that one. We can’t eat of that one or we’ll die.” And what was satan’s answer? He gave her his explanation: “He didn’t mean die – die!” :-) Have you ever heard that voice?
When the enemy says, “Well, it isn’t really… I mean, He’s not gonna do that to you! After all you’ve done for Him? He’s not gonna suddenly – cut you off. You’re not gonna come under the judgment of God; you’re His beloved.” We sort of agree: “Yeah – we’re in the New Testament! We’re under the blood!”
Well, then act like it! Live like it! Break some old habits! Let’s come to an understanding that we – not only God – must learn to…. Did you hear me say: “learn to”? We must learn to – hate evil – because it’s not natural for carnal man to hate evil. It is natural for carnal man to excuse it. Selah.
Evil. I’m not talking about the devil, the evil one. I’m speaking of evil. If you’d look that word up in your Bible resources, you would be amazed at the meaning. It includes gossip and slander and hurting another person. Of course we can hate the evil one – but we’re to hate evil.
Some of us are just, you know, we’re just dirty garbage cans. There are certain people that other people know who will open the lid and listen. And so they just dump. I’ve had people say to me, “I don’t know why I get all the garbage. I just don’t know why they spill it….” DUH!! You’re painted green and the lid’s off! :-) They just know you want to hear every gory little detail. “Pour it in!”
But there comes a day when the Lord will turn you – if you get to a place where you hate evil. When you see it hurting another person – when you see injury coming – when you see slander destroying and splitting the church – and all the rest of it. When you come to a place that you just hate that – THEN the fear of the Lord takes over.
And THEN you can understand: “Oh, Lord, they’re not mine, they’re Yours! These people that are pouring out the trash – they’re damaged.” Begin to cry out for them in prayer: “My God, have mercy.”
I even prayed that the other night when I heard the State of the Union address (Jan.2008). I don’t know if you reacted to it as I did and I’m not getting all political here. But I reacted to our president’s closing statement. I reacted negatively. He made this statement: “Let’s learn to trust the people.” Then he said, “God bless America.” But my thought was: “Why don’t we reverse this? Let’s learn to trust the God and bless the people! Selah.
You know what happens when you’re filled with the fear of the Lord and you hate evil? Wisdom comes to you. Wisdom. Often when I pray for people at the altar, one of the most common requests is: “Pray that I’ll have greater wisdom.” We all need that! I pray for it every day of my life. We need wisdom – God’s wisdom.
The Bible says here’s the way to wisdom: fear God. “The fear of the Lord – that is wisdom. And if you want understanding to go with it, you have to shun evil – and that is understanding.” That’s what it says in Job 28:28. “The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to shun evil, that is understanding.”
These are not gifts – wisdom and understanding. It’s not the “gift of….” The gift of the word of wisdom, yes (1Cor.12:8), but it’s not the gift of wisdom.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” Psalm 111:10 says. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” You begin to understand the true wisdom that flows into you when you understand Who your God is and Who it is you serve.
Ecclesiastes 7:18b says it like this: “The man who fears God will avoid all extremes” (NIV). And verse 19 adds: “Wisdom makes one wise man more powerful than ten rulers of a city.”
Mmm – mmmm! If we can take hold of these truths tonight, it’s going to be a different church tomorrow. We’re going to be a different marketplace when we step out there tomorrow. We’re going to be wise and harmless ( cf.Mt.10:16) because we have an honoring fear of the things that God is – His attributes – His nature. God is holy!
How many times do we sing: “Holy – Holy – Holy! Lord God Almighty!” Or just in the spirit, we sing: “Thou art holy! Thou art holy!” The elders around the throne at this very moment and through all eternity are singing, “Holy! Holy! Holy! Lord God Almighty!” (cf. Rev.4). What does that mean? Think about it.
What does this mean – “You are holy!”? It means that He cannot look upon un-holiness (Hab.1:13) – so He looks at us – each one of us – through His Son Who is perfect and holy. We are covered by His righteousness (Ro.5:18,19; 2Cor.5:21; Phil.3:9). What a mighty God we serve! That ought to bring us to an awe! We need to sing this one with such an awareness of its total truth! “You are awesome in this place Mighty God!” Awesome.
Awesome God – He’s in charge of your business.
Awesome God – He’s in charge of your body.
Awesome God – He’s in charge of your home and family.
Awesome, awesome God!
Often our pastor says, “He’s omniscient, omni-present, omnipotent. He’s: all-knowledge – present everywhere at once – and all the power belongs to Him. But just as often, that information goes in one ear and out the other – unless you are filled with the fear of the Lord.
If you’ve never really worshipped Him, it’s because you don’t have the fear of the Lord. Because – if you have the fear of the Lord – we have to worship! And if we don’t bow down in worship, we do bow down – in defeat. It’s your choice.
That’s what this psalmist is saying (in Psalm 42). “I feel defeated. I feel… my heart is breaking. When can I come and stand before You, God? You’ve left me. You’re not there anymore.”
Don’t lift your hands, but how many of you have ever felt that? And yet we know His Word promises: “I’ll never leave you!” (Heb.13:5; Dt.31:6).
The psalmist cries out – and we whine: “Oh, but Lord, it’s been so long since I’ve felt Your touch. It’s been so long since I’ve felt drawn to You. Oh, I don’t understand where the Lord went.”
Then the psalmist says, “Oh, I do remember – I remember when I used to lead the music. I remember when I was the leader and I used to get everyone else ready – ready to sing and ready to worship – but I’m telling you, I’m dried up now. It’s just like when a deer can’t find water out in the wilderness and it’s been running and going about and searching and it pants for water. Well, that’s the way I am,” the psalmist says. “I just ::pant-pant:: ”
May I be bold enough to say: some of you show that? That is true. Some of you are just…. you beat yourselves down – by recalling all the negatives: “You know – we’ve had these prophetic words – and God? I don’t know, I just don’t know. You know we’ve held on to them – we’ve believed – and they haven’t been fulfilled. We still have these same old problems and this and that and the other thing. Where are You, God?”
Well, just keep focusing on all the negatives…. Disregard the many blessings of God…. You will bow!! You will bow.
But there’s a better way to bow. We can lift up our heads – “to the hills from whence cometh our help. My help cometh from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth” (Ps.121:2).
There’s not one moment of your life, Sir – not one tick of the clock – from the time you were formed in your mother’s womb (Jer.1:5)…. Lady, not one second – has been out from under God’s scrutiny! (cf. Job 31:4) Nothing! There’s nothing you’ve done, said, thought, intended, or not done – that He’s not fully aware of (Pr.5:21). And He’s still saying the same thing to us tonight that He has said long before we were born: “I know the thoughts I have for you. I know the plans that I have for you.” (cf.Jer.29:11).
He goes on: “You fight ‘em. You argue. You deny them. You go another way. If I don’t do them in the right time for you, you’re mad at Me – but I love you. I stretch out My everlasting love towards you (Jer.31:3). My arm is not shortened (Is.59:1; Ps.98:1). My ear isn’t heavy (Is.59:1). I’m still listening. I’m listening – for the right prayer.” Selah.
“When can I come and stand before Him?” he says in verse 2. Any time you want to (Heb.10:19,22). Any – time – you want to! Yes, “Thank You, Lord.”
“Well, you know there are some times when you just feel that drawing.” Yeah – feel. The Word says, “If I draw nigh to Him, He will draw nigh to me” (Jas.4:7). So that says that any time – any day – night or day – I can be in His Presence. It’s my choice. Any time. Whether you feel it or not.
Go to Part 3