The Fear of the Lord
By Iverna Tompkins
As transcribed by Jane Vaughn
Let us read Psalm 42 together:
1 As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? 3 My tears have been my food day and night, While they continually say to me, “Where is your God?” 4 When I remember these things, I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go with the multitude; I went with them to the house of God, With the voice of joy and praise, With a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast. 5 Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him For the help of His countenance.
6 O my God, my soul is cast down within me; Therefore I will remember You from the land of the Jordan, And from the heights of Hermon, From the Hill Mizar. 7 Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls; All Your waves and billows have gone over me. 8 The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, And in the night His song shall be with me– A prayer to the God of my life. 9 I will say to God my Rock, “Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” 10 As with a breaking of my bones, My enemies reproach me, While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” 11 Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.
This is a familiar psalm. I imagine you have read it many times, as have I. Usually, I select this one to read when I have desperate feelings within me. I like being able to identify with someone else who feels as badly as I do – it just helps me get through my hard times. “Help, O God, I cried unto You – where are You? I’m going through some things.”
But my subject tonight, really more than this desperate cry, is – “the fear of the Lord.” I think one of the things that’s lacking among God’s people today is the true fear of the Lord.
In the 5th chapter of the Song of Solomon, the writer tells the story of the little Shulamite girl. She desperately goes from place to place to place trying to find her Beloved – because when He came and called to her she didn’t answer – it was an inconvenient time. (Think about it – for that alone would preach!). Because of her delay in response, He left and when she awakened, she realized: “How foolish of me that I didn’t move forward – in that altar call – when the opportunity was there.”
She realized: “How foolish of me – when the move of God was on that I was too stubborn or to downcast or too anything to arise and go forward.” And so she begins to search. She searches through the country and she searches through the city. Different ones find her as her search continues. In fact, even leadership discovers her – and they beat her up. (Editor’s note: read God’s Ravished Heart, by Iverna Tompkins, as she further develops the lessons in the Song of Solomon.).
Have you ever been beaten up by somebody when you were seeking the Lord? The way the beating goes is something like this, verbally – “Why don’t you settle down? Everyone else is satisfied. What are you looking for?” They just do not understand that level of thirst or hunger and so they don’t want you to be different from them.
She takes a tremendous beating and to everyone she encounters along the way she says, “Have you seen Him? Have you? Do you know where I can find Him?” And finally they ask her a question: “What is thy beloved more than any other beloved?” (Sol.5:9) If I’m not careful, I will stay right there because that’s what people are saying to us today: “What’s your God any different than any god? Why is it so important for you when – we have needs too?”
The Shulamite’s response is a striking revelation. She looks at them and exclaims: “Ohh-hhh-hhh! Let me describe Him for you.” And she does in this wonderful Song of Solomon. Then she summarizes with this: “I’ll tell you what He is – He is altogether lovely!” (S/S 5:16).
Now, who can say that? I can’t help but think, when we sing the songs we do… I can’t help but wonder: Do we really know what we’re singing? We sing of His greatness and magnificence and His beauty and that He is altogether this and that and the other… and yet, we often live in a state of – rebellion…
Let me tell you how rebellion talks. Rebellion says, “I know what the Lord wants – and I’m just praying about it.” Pause to let that one sink into your being. If you know what the Lord wants, sweet baby, there is nothing to pray about! It’s just “do – or die”!
I believe what’s lacking today – in the church – and the reason we’re not moving far more aggressively into the miraculous than we have so far – and why we’re not more successful in reaching the community for His Kingdom – with all of the things we believe in and teach (in this church) – is because we don’t really have the fear of the Lord. We don’t truly understand – His greatness.
How long has it been since you read Isaiah 40 where the prophet tells you how great our God is – and how He formed everything – and how He just measures the sky by a span of His hand – how He held all the waters in His hand then threw ‘em out: “You be a river. You be a lake. You be an ocean.”
And yet, the truth is, we think He’s too little to take care of us. I hear this mournful whine: “But, I’ve been praying for this soooo looong, and I, I just don’t understand why…” Of course you don’t fully understand – you isn’t Him! 🙂
There are many things that we do not – and may never – understand. Can you not agree with that? You see – God is not obligated to make clear to me the why. You can’t find it in the Book. It isn’t in this Bible. There’s no place where He says: “…and I’ll tell you why.” He just says, “I’ll tell you what – and I’ll tell you when – in that right moment, and not one moment before.”
Oh, I can just hear your plaintive cry (whine?): “ ::sigh:: Well, then, what’s… How are we to survive? If we don’t know why we’re going through what we are – and if we don’t know when we’re gonna get through it – how are we to make it through this mess? I mean – what kind of faith is…?” It’s the same kind of faith Abraham had – when the Lord said, “Now I’m going to test you, Abe. I want your only son – the one I promised to you.” (cf. Gen.22).
What in the world…? What in a man would allow him to take his only son (of promise) and offer him as a sacrifice? What allowed Abraham to start up the mountain – to move on – to say: “It’s okay, son. The Lord will provide a sacrifice.” (Gen.22:8). Then, after he binds the kid (actually, he was far more than a little child) – he draws forth his knife – and is ready to slay his son! What gave him that ability?
We too glibly say – “Faith.” And I’m not against faith. But I am against it being the god! Selah.
God is Who He says He is. And sometimes, when I’m just being in one of my “shock everybody” moods, I say, “Forget about faith! Just trust God.” You have to get this! There’s a big difference!
God is Who He says He is. He is the only God! He is the only true and living God. He is! And if His own people don’t believe it… [pause to digest that, please] …it’s because we do not truly know Him. And if we do not know Him, it is impossible to trust Him! (cf.Jer.5:4).
When you don’t really know Him – if I don’t really know Him – I only trust what I see – and feel – at any given moment. And that’s a very limited thing. I pray this is making sense to you.
Some of you know me only “sort of.” You know me by visual recognition – you know who I am and what I do here in the church, but you don’t know me – because we haven’t spent lots of time together. And so, you might be prone to believe almost anything about me if it was emphatically stated to you. Even if it was negative and someone guaranteed you: “But I’m telling you, I know this about her.” You might be prone to believe that because you don’t really “know” me. True.
But my children – if you said those very same things to them, would either say, “Yeah, that sounds like her” or they would say, “Not my mom, I know her,” – depending on the situation – because they really do know me.
I love to sing that chorus – the one that says: “I will search for You and I will find You. I will find You will all my heart.” Do you realize that is a tremendous declarative statement? That is a commitment! That is a promise – and you sing it! What you’re saying is: “I’m going after You, God, and I will find You; I will find You with everything I am. I will know You.”
Now listen – when the church knows their God like that, then the fear of the Lord will return. Instead of deciding whether we’ll obey Him, we would fear to disobey. Instead of deciding to please Him, we would fear to not please Him.
You say, “Well, I don’t want to be afraid of God.” Then walk according to His precepts.
Because I always try, desperately, to give you some kind of nugget that will help you down the line, as well as where you are today, think this through. I really do think, Church, that we’re going to go through some tough days in the future – possibly in the near future. Now, I’m not a “doom-and-gloomer” – I’m a realist. And I believe all you have to do is open your eyes and see the way things are going these days.
I think we need to understand that we – right now – are being prepared to be able – not just to tolerate – not just to survive – but to be able to stand and take the lead when others are failing and falling. But we have to know our God!
It isn’t just a matter of tenacity. It isn’t just a matter of declaring: “Oh, I will! – I will! – I will! – I will!” Because – how many times have you gone down saying, “I will!”?
It’s much more a matter of the influence of the Almighty God within us: “He maketh me to…” Say that. ::He maketh me to:: He maketh me to walk. He maketh me to stand. He maketh me to lie down. He is in charge! He is the Almighty God!
When we understand that as the Truth, we must also understand that there needs to come – are you ready for this? There also needs to come a – hatred of evil.
Proverbs 8:13 says this: “To fear the Lord is to hate evil.” God says, “I hate pride [that’s conceit, smugness, self-importance] and arrogance [as in haughtiness, superiority, over-confidence].” He hates those things (cf. Pr.6:16-19; Ps.101:5). It’s not just this that we usually hear so gently spoken: “Don’t be prideful and don’t be arrogant.” God says in this Proverb: “I hate pride and arrogance. I hate evil behavior and perverse [wicked, bad, mean, vicious] speech.”
I don’t think it was by chance, I believe it was by the specific direction of the Holy Spirit, that the worship leader led us in this particular direction this evening. And I’d be surprised if it was on his prepared list tonight – when he just began singing, “Create in me a clean heart.” I believe the Holy Spirit took that stream and just brought it back to all of us. And that is, truly, what has to happen: “Create in me a clean heart, O Lord” (cf.Ps.51:10).