One Sunday, I looked at my family as we walked into church. My kids and husband donned shorts on and flip-flops. We went into worship in a casual setting with hands lifted high to our very contemporary worship and listened to our pastor, who was wearing jeans.
Of course, this scene is common now among churches, especially here in sunny Southern California. However, when I was a kid, we wore long dresses, sang hymns and took communion every Sunday. We were quiet as we listened to the scripture reading and knew that if we weren’t, my grandmother would hit us over the head from the pew behind with a rolled up bulletin.
While recently studying Psalm 34, I began to ask myself whether my kids are learning the fear of the Lord. Am I a woman who fears the Lord?
When doing my study, I researched the Hebrew word for “fear”. In this particular Psalm, the word “fear” stems from “yare”: which literally means to be afraid, shake in your boots – but also to stand in awe of, to reverence, honor and respect.
In the English language, we have many meanings to the word fear. I can fear the rats in my home. I can fear conflict. I can fear earthquakes. I can fear old age. I can also fear a great, awesome and holy God. We do not have an equivalent word for yare in the English language. It takes many words to make up for just one Hebrew word. But because the Hebrew language was so clear, they knew that this word “yare” meant to know who God is – his power, his strength, his attributes, his greatness– and then not take him for granted. They knew not to put God in a box because at any given point and time He can strike us dead. But even more than that, we must have an awe that the God of the universe loves me and is patient with me. Fearing the glory and majesty, we cannot understand, except with respect and humility.
In Psalm 34, David invites us to come and learn what it means to fear the Lord because as we all know God says, “Fearing the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”. (Proverbs 9:10, Ps. 111:10, Proverbs 1:7)
David commands us to fear the Lord (v.9) and then he promises for those of us who do, we will want for nothing. I am reminded that this promise does not mean that whatever we want will come our way, but whatever God deems good for us.
There is a quiz in these verses (v. 9-14): one to ask ourselves. How do I answer these questions? They are all actions of personal obedience. Choices we make. How we own our life.
Am I a woman who fears the Lord? Let’s find out:
Do I keep my tongue from evil? I want so much to be the woman who has no evil reports, who doesn’t enjoy gossip, who encourages others, who thinks the best of others. This sin has been passed on from generation to generation- all the way back to my great-great grandmother. I prayed for this sin to be broken in me when I became born again. I prayed especially for the generations after me. If I am to be a woman who fears the Lord, then I must keep my mouth from evil.
Do I lie or do I deceive? A woman who fears the Lord will not lie or deceive. My dad was a General Manager of a car dealership for 35 years – need I say more. I was a huge liar as a kid until I met Jesus when I was 27 and I did an about take. But if I fear the Lord and the consequences of this sin, I will not tell a lie. If the Holy Spirit resides within me, I cannot deceive and get away with it.
Do I run from mind-corrupting evil? A woman who fears the Lord doesn’t dwell in the house of the evil one. Are you cutting more and more of the world out year to year or are you letting more and more of it in? Are you becoming more slack when it comes to the kinds of movies and TV shows that you watch? Are the books that you read and the music that you listen to glorifying the Lord? What has God asked you to give up lately for him? For me to stay away from evil, I ask this question: “What is right with it?” instead of “What is wrong with it?” A woman who fears the Lord runs from evil.
Do I do good? If I want to be wise and fear the Lord, then I will do the work here on earth because I love the Creator of the universe. He is so patient with me and I deserve so little. He has filled His book, His Word, with practical ways for us to “act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God” Micah 6:8. I will do good, serving Him because I want to be His girl and will do whatever He signs me up for.
Do I look everywhere peace? Those who fear God run after peace. She looks for it. She is certain that as far as it depends on her, she is at peace with all people (Rom. 12;18). Do I need to forgive someone? Do I need to ask forgiveness of someone else? Is my home and my life a place of peace or does chaos follow me? Do I strive for peace in all areas of my life? Blessed is the peacemaker (a man who fears the Lord), for he shall be called a son of God. (Matt. 5:9)
But for today I take it to him “Lord, am I the woman you want me to be? Am I a woman who fears you? If not, show me the way!”