PANNING FOR GOLD
Digging into Psalm 34:4, 7
How can fear do away with fear?? It’s a matter of what you mean by “fear.” This song by David, the fugitive, includes two very different kinds of fear:
4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears. . . .
7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them (Psalm 34:4, 7 NIV).
The word “fears” in verse 4 comes from a Hebrew word (megowrah) that can mean the feeling of fear or can mean a situation that is fearful.* It’s what we normally mean when we say “fear.” It’s the kind of fear David experienced just before he wrote this psalm.
But David’s fears ended because the Lord delivered, or rescued, him. In fact, his angel had been camping around David all along, ready to deliver him from any danger that cropped up. How did David rate 24/7 angelic protection? Because he feared the Lord (verse 7).
Huh! It doesn’t seem as if a person would be afraid of a God who is so gracious and caring. Well, this word “fear” isn’t what we usually think of as fear. It comes from a Hebrew word (yare’) which means to stand in awe of, be awed, to fear, reverence, honor, respect.*
Perhaps you have always vaguely understood that “the fear of the Lord” meant awe and respect for Him. But you may still have trouble seeing how fear fits into that equation.
Years ago, I stumbled upon my first experience of it. Life was a blur of pain because of a betrayal, and I needed to talk to someone. I had all kinds of choices, but I had a deep sense I had better speak with my pastor only. I recognized that if I did not stick to the Lord’s way of behaving, things would not turn out well for me. Because I respected His wisdom above all others, I feared to depart from His ways.
Shortly after that, I encountered this respect and fear again. I was president of a local teachers’ association, and we were deep into rocky negotiations with the school board. The Lord made it clear that he expected me to refrain from criticizing or accusing the superintendent and school board members–and that, if I did that, he would help us gain what we truly needed. It was rather counterintuitive for me, but–who can refuse God, especially when he cares enough to intervene personally in your life?
One night, my vice president called to tell me of the talk going around the community concerning us teachers. I went to the basement to pray. I asked for some things–like wisdom and protection–but mostly I marveled at how sure I was that everything was going to be alright. That’s when I found out it’s true–if you fear the Lord and obey him, that puts an end to all other fears.
*Based on definitions from the Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius Lexicon, which is keyed to the “Theological Word Book of the Old Testament.”
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