A Proper Fear of God
By Linda King
Saturday, March 5 – Psalms 87, 90, 136; Gen. 47:27–48:7; 1 Cor. 10:1–13; Mark 7:1–23
(BCP Readings for today)
Psalm 90 is peculiar in its authorship by Moses, the man of God. This dates it as the earliest of the psalms. “Lord, you have been our dwelling place from one generation to another.” Moses affirms God’s protection and provision for his children from age to age. He is eternal and unchanging, and man is not. His transcendence contrasts sharply with the frailty and brevity of man’s substance. The vastness of time in our human realm is like a day in God’s sight “You turn us back to the dust and say, ‘Go back, O child of earth (v. 3).’” Man is swept away like a dream; “we fade away suddenly like the grass (v. 5).”
In the light of God’s countenance, our iniquities and secret sins are exposed (v. 8). “He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts (1 Cor. 4:5b).” There is nowhere to hide when our sin is seen in the light of God’s holiness. Life is full of labor and sorrow. The years are long and heavy under God’s wrath. “For your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you (v. 11).” We finish our days as a sigh. It is almost too much to bear.
Is there a lesson to be learned from trouble and sorrow? Job knew more suffering in his lifetime than we can imagine. Yet he could testify, “The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding (Job 28:28).” So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom (v. 12). Time is swift. The end of our days may come at any time, just as Job’s family came to early deaths. Numbering our days aright is the beginning of wisdom and a proper fear of God. There is urgency for readiness.
My father ended his days on earth just a few weeks ago. He certainly broke the curve in v. 10, “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty.” He was 98-1/2 and slipped gently into eternity in his sleep. Almost 20 years ago, a video interview was recorded of my mother and father, in which was asked, “What is your advice to those who are yet to be born, after you have gone?” Dad’s answer was straightforward and without hesitation, “Know the Lord. There is nothing more important than having a personal relationship with Jesus!” He had learned to “number his days to get a heart of wisdom.” Before his faith was personal, Dad had witnessed his family numbering their days in godly purpose. God had been the dwelling place of parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, showing “his glorious power to their children” (v.16).
Sorrow and affliction are redeemed by the loving compassion of God, who gives gracious loving-kindness in proportion to our former misery (v.15). The surety of God’s grace and favor directs the work of our hands, as we abide in the power of God to end our days well.
Image by Anne Worner (used by permission via Creative Commons).