In the Fear of the Lord?
Today is the ninth in a series on the Song of Ascents Psalm 128. This Psalm was most likely written by or for David based on the theme “A Treasury of David”. According to the commentary, it is a Family Hymn; that is, it teaches how to have a happy and blessed home. I firmly believe, if it is followed, the blessings will transcend the home into the church, schools, city, state, and nation. Anybody who has read about King David might ask them self, “how is an adulterer and murderer qualified to speak about ‘how to have a happy home’”? While this is a great retort, we must bear in mind that in our failures, it does not imply that God’s ways are not viable; rather, our failures only prove that God’s ways are right. Sadly, people look for a perfect person in our world and never find one; so, we must learn from the mistakes of our life and from that of others. As I present four points that I believe are essential to our journey up the steps to the Temple of God, I challenge the reader to put their lives in the plumb-line of God’s word.
Point 1 – Two Paths of Life: Freedom or Enslavement (Psalms 128: 1-4)
In the time of King David, the nation was finally coming into its own and goodness prevailed. To stop this flow, the Devil opens a door of enticement. David had two choices: freedom or be enslaved. In the heat of the moment, the last thing mankind ever thinks of is “what are the long-term ramifications of my choice(s)”? The choice not to commit the sin must be made before the battle of the day begins not one second after enticement has caught your eye. Everything the Devil does appear innocuous on the surface. For this reason, we hear the phrases: “It’s only once”, “I’m just experimenting with ____”, “it’s just a fling” and, “I can give it up anytime I want to”. What we never hear is “I am choosing enslavement over freedom”. King David unconsciously chose to enslave himself, his family, and his nation that would remain in play even until this very day.
What behaviors we display in front of our kids, they will repeat them in ways we cannot comprehend. Consider the case of Jacob and his clan on the way back to Bethel. His sons learned the ways of deception from the master (Gen 34) and it meant they had to leave the land immediately or face certain death. David, the great king committed adultery and he knew it would offend God. Following this event, his 2nd son raped his brother’s sister Tamar (2 Sam 13). After that incident, Absalom killed his brother in revenge. After David rested in death, his son Solomon would go on to marry many foreign wives which led him astray; leading to the demise of a once powerful nation. After Solomon, Rehoboam would go on to insult the people and lose what was left of a kingdom. Do you see the problem? When the Devil dupes the parents, the children are always next and on-and-on.
Point 2 – Sin’s Long-Range Problem
It is my contention that if King David had been privy to the long-term effects of his choice, he would have turned on his heels and went about his business. Across social media, the term “free choice” is thrown around as a license to do whatever we darn well please without expectation of impunity. The problem with freedom of choice is that the price tag and outcome always come as a result and not by “instant gratification” as we in America are so accustomed to. As I mentioned in the introduction, the writer of the Psalm is David. Up until his fall, he led an exemplary life and would have been a prime example for the reader to follow (2 Sam 11-12); instead, he became the example not to follow. You will notice that the Bible contains many exhortations to avoid evil. The problem is, much of it was written to warn others from following the paths the writer had been down; read the words of Proverbs 1-8. The reason God allowed the many parts of the person to be recorded, is so that we can see the effects of sin, what it takes to overcome sin and the power of forgiveness. When God forgives our failures, whether we intended to sin or not, my brother and sister, they are forgiven! That does not, however, imply that they never occurred or that God somehow brushes them under the carpet to make the sinner look like a saint (1 John 1:19).
Our adversary, as I have stated I previous writings, entices us to do what is wrong to use that action against us in the form of blackmail. This is where “fear God” comes into play. Now fear God, means “Having respect for who he is, what he stands for, and acting on the plans he has for your life. When we sin, we have a choice: live in the shadows of guilt or bring them out into the open for healing. Every act of sin requires a sacrifice of some sort (Leviticus 5). Sometimes, that sacrifice is a ministry we have worked so hard to build only to have it undone. The Devil knows that if you are successful, a wave will sweep over the area where you live changing lives for Christ. The Devil cannot stop good news but, he can stop you by playing with your temptations and each of us has them. In writing this Psalm, I can only imagine the pain David must have felt in his heart as saw in his mind’s eye his face prints on the ground where he fell. Half to ¾ of what we see in scripture is the outcome of sin coupled with God’s forgiveness. The reader has the choice follow the sin or follow the path that person should have taken.
When you read how the man who fears God is blessed, that is the outcome of our choice(s); but, what the price tag? In scripture, it is recorded “being a friend of the world means being an enemy of God” (James 4:4). If there was no price tag on this choice, I’m pretty sure everyone in their right mind would want this kind of blessing for their family and their life. Yet, God’s word is clear, it means coming out from among the nations ideals, behaviors, and attitudes, to be the difference (Revelations 18:4). The term “contrast” comes to mind; it means “the state of being strikingly different from something else, typically something in juxtaposition or close association” (Dictionary.com). The commonality or association we have with the world is that we are human beings; subject to the same problems of those around us. God left us with a choice: freedom or enslavement.
Point 3 – Who are you Listening to?
A part of decision-making that needs to be brought to the forefront is that who we listen to through the process is as important as what we do. I think of Rehoboam the successor to the throne following Solomon. In 1st Kings and Chronical, it is recorded how Solomon fell from grace thanks to the foreign-born wives he had married. Rehoboam ended up with only a 1/3 of the kingdom that his father inherited. The only thing that Rehoboam did right was to ask his father’s counselors for their advice and then chose to listen to the group of men he grew up with instead. This breach of protocol would set the stage for the events that would occur years later. In the 31st chapter of Proverbs, the writer pseudo-name Lemuel recounts the encouragement of his mother on living up to the calling on his life. One of the first words out of her mouth was “listen to my son”.
Point 4 – Where the path makes a turn (Psalms 128: 6 – 129:3)
I heard it said, “not everyone will agree with our choices”. The problem is the underscoring need to be accepted will lead us down roads to failure or, to success depending on who you listen to. God calls us to listen and follow him (John 10:27-30). The question we need to ask our self is, “why am I following God’s commands”? Is it because of the blessings or, is it because we are convicted by credible information that his path is the right path? In the time of Jesus, many hundreds of people followed him and journeyed several days to listen to him and be healed; yet, when the tone shifted, people abandoned him and became witnesses for the state (John 6:60). It is much the same way in America today. A generation ago, the church held prominence and the churches were filled to capacity. Now that the moral climate has shifted in favor of “do as you please”, being a Christian is seen as unpopular. So, for the child to be accepted by his/her peers, he/she has a choice: live like them or, be the difference.
After David’s moral failure, ruling his kingdom became that much more difficult. Prior to the fall, warriors flocked to become one of David’s valiant fighters. After Uriah’s untimely demise, one could only imagine the concern the warriors had for their lives. David’s sons were now old enough to take the kingdom away from him by force if necessary. When Absalom tried to overthrow David, it is recorded that David fled for his life (2 Samuel 15:13-17). Understand this, sin will put you on the run, compel you to lie to cover up the offense and/or add more offenses against you.
In Revelations, we see the term “new Jerusalem” (Revelations 21:2) meaning, the old is passed away; when something passes away, the good and the bad go right along with it. I will tell you when we sin, the world as we knew is changed irrevocably. In the case of Adam and Eve, their new world came about after they committed sin (Gen 6). What we envisioned would occur before we committed sin, rarely comes to fruition; because, the instigator, Satan, is a master at word pictures and, bait-and-switch. For this reason, the writer of Proverbs 1-8 spoke about avoiding adultery; because, he had first-hand experience. Then, our roads never go back even after we confess and repent of the sin; the only thing that changes is our outlook on life and the direction we take after that.
What we do in life will either benefit us or be our greatest judge. Thankfully, no matter how much we fail, God still loves us and still forgives us. Unfortunately, though, what we do on earth affects those around us. For David, his illicit relationship with Bathsheba almost cost him his kingdom; as it was, it cost him his relationship with his natural sons. What is ironic about this Psalm and the warnings of Proverbs, the same person who wrote them also violated them. In fearing God, we turn our attention away from the temptation and say yes to God’s best for our life. It must be on our mind daily to make a choice to serve God no matter what we face because to do otherwise will make us another sad statistic. To know what it is to fear God, we must know what the word says about God, what it is to honor him, and the difference between good and evil. Come walk with me