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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Preached At:Providence Canadian Reformed Church
 Hamilton, Ontario
 
Title:The fear of the LORD is the sure way to a blessed new year
Text:Proverbs 14:26-27 (View)
Occasion:New Years Eve
Topic:Unclassified
 
Preached:2013
Added:2014-06-30
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Note:  All songs from the 2010 Book of Praise

Psalm 90:1,2,6,7

Psalm 111:1,2,5

Psalm 25:1,2,6

Hymn 64 (Profession of faith)

Hymn 85

Scripture reading:  John 4:1-26

Text:  Proverbs 14:26-27

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus,

525,949.  We are almost there.  We are almost at the 525,949 minute mark for 2013.  That’s how many minutes there were in this year gone by.  That’s also how many minutes you can anticipate for 2014.  Unless Christ returns sometime in this next year, you will have 525,949 minutes at your disposal in this new year.  In case you were wondering, that works out to 31,556,926 seconds.  The Lord graciously gives you all this time.  How are you going to make the most of it?

You could use that time foolishly.  You could take all those seconds and minutes and hours and just devote them to yourself and your wants and desires.  You could say that 2014 is going to be a me-year, this is the year it’s all about me.  This turning of a new year is something that just about everybody commemorates, both Christians and non-Christians.  Unbelievers have their own way of looking at the year ahead, a way that is usually consistent with their worldview.  An unbelieving worldview is characterized by foolishness.  So it follows that an unbeliever is going to look at the opportunities afforded by hundreds of thousands of minutes and millions of seconds in a foolish way.  It might come out in narcissism and self-centeredness, but it could come out in other ways too.  But whatever it is, it will be a foolish approach.  That’s what you can expect.

But what should be expected among Christians is something different.  As we look ahead to a new year, we would want to be wise in how we do that.  We would want to have our approach informed by the wisdom of God given in his Word.  If we’re going to make the most out of a new year, and seize the opportunities that lay ahead, we need to sit as students in the school of the Holy Spirit.  We need him to teach us from the Scriptures.  That’s why we’re here again this evening.  We want to approach this new year in a wise manner, led by the Word of God.

We’re going to do that this evening by looking at a pair of proverbs from Solomon.  There are many instances in the book of Proverbs where the sayings are apparently random and there’s no connection between one verse and the next.  This is not the case in our text for this evening.  These two verses are connected – both speak about the fear of the LORD.  They speak about the fear of the LORD in a positive way, teaching believers that the way of blessedness is found with fearing God.  This is certainly also going to be true as we look ahead to a new year.  Therefore, on this New Year’s Eve, I preach to you God’s Word and we’ll see how the fear of the LORD is the sure way to a blessed new year.

We’ll see that the fear of the LORD gives one:

  1. Strong confidence and a refuge for your family
  2. A fountain of life to save you from death

The Bible speaks frequently about the fear of God.  It’s an important biblical concept, but it’s easily misunderstood.  We usually think of fear as a bad thing, as a negative emotion or feeling.  Sometimes in the Bible fear is to be understood that way too.  There’s a reason why the most frequent command in the Bible is “Do not fear” or “do not be afraid” or words to that effect.  However, when it comes to the fear of God, the Scriptures are clear that this is a good thing.  Only a fool does not fear the LORD.  The fear of God is something virtuous and praiseworthy. 

So, what is it exactly?  The fear of God is when someone has high respect and awe for God.  The fear of God is when one recognizes that God is almighty and powerful, majestic and exalted.  The fear of God is what a person feels when he or she senses the holiness and perfection of God, but at the same time his or her own lack thereof.  Perhaps the best way to think about it would be to see it in terms of a child and its father.  Every child understands that his father has power and might.  A child knows that his father is strong and should not be messed with.  The child respects his father, but in the background there’s a sense that his father has power to correct any lack of respect or any disobedience.  This is the fear of God.

C. S. Lewis gave a good illustration of this in his book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  Mr. and Mrs. Beaver were telling Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy about Aslan the lion.  At a certain point, Susan asks if Aslan is safe – after all, he is a lion.   Mrs. Beaver replies, “…If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or just silly.”  Lucy then asks, “Then he isn’t safe?”  “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you?  Who said anything about safe?  ‘Course he isn’t safe.  But he’s good.  He’s the King, I tell you.”  Aslan is a good king, but he is to be feared because of his power.  No one messes with Aslan.    

This is far more the case with our God.  He created all things and still holds all things in the palm of his hand.  He has all power and might – he can do anything he wants, including instantly destroying any of his creatures.  Psalm 47:2 says it clearly, “For the LORD, the Most High, is to be feared, a great king over all the earth.”  So you see, there is awe and reverence in the fear of the LORD, but this does not exclude the possibility of trembling before his majesty.  You cannot trifle with God.  His majesty demands that he be taken seriously by everyone.        

The fear of God is vital for gaining wisdom.  According to Psalm 111, the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.  Proverbs 1 puts it slightly differently and tells us that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.  However it may be put, it’s clear that fearing God is a key that opens doors to riches.  You’re going to be blessed when you fear God. 

One of those blessings is described in verse 26 of Proverbs 14.  The fear of Yahweh gives one a strong confidence.  It is not incidental that Solomon uses the personal name of God here.  LORD is in all capital letters, which tells us that in Hebrew we have here God’s personal name Yahweh.  We’re speaking here of God who has a personal connection to his people.  When you fear God in the biblical sense, you’re in a covenant relationship with him.  You love him and are loved by him.  He says, “This is my beloved child.”  You say, “Yahweh is my God, my awesome God whom I love and whom I want to serve.”       

Loved ones, you see when you have this fear of Yahweh, you are connected to someone trustworthy.  You are in a relationship with someone who gives safety and security.  Evil might attack, it might oppress, but it cannot harm you in any meaningful way because you have a covenant bond with Yahweh, the mighty King.  Moreover, when you fear the LORD, you can be fully confident that he will work all things for good.   

Look at what happened with Abraham in Genesis 22.  Abraham was commanded by God to offer Isaac as a burnt offering.  He went to the mountain and was going to do exactly as God told him.  At the last minute, the angel of the LORD stopped him.  God said to Abraham in Genesis 22:12, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son from me.”  Did you get that?  Abraham feared God and that’s why he obeyed him.  Moreover, we need to see that in the light of Hebrews 11.  Hebrews 11 tells us that Abraham did this by faith.  According to Hebrews 11:19, Abraham had confidence that God could raise Isaac from the dead.  The fear of God led Abraham to confidence that God would make everything work out.  In the fear of Yahweh, Abraham had a strong confidence, strong security.

But this is best seen in what the Bible says about Christ.  In Isaiah 11, we have that prophecy about the stump of Jesse.  Isaiah says that the Holy Spirit will rest upon him.  According to the end of verse 2, he is the Spirit who works the fear of Yahweh.  Then Isaiah 11:3 says about the Messiah, “And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.”  That’s speaking about Christ and it’s certainly evident in his life, when he lived on this earth.  Remember that the fear of the LORD is a commandment.  It’s part and parcel of the First Commandment.  According to our Catechism’s summary of Scripture, part of what God requires in the First Commandment is that we love, fear, and honour God with all our heart.  The gospel announces that this is something that Christ did for us too.  He feared God in our place and he paid for all the times that we haven’t feared God as we should.  Now the same Holy Spirit who rests upon him, also lives in us and unites us to Christ.  He creates in us that desire to fear God, to follow the way of wisdom here in our text. 

As we look to a new year, one of our resolutions should be to grow in the fear of God, so that we can also grow in having that strong confidence, that we can be blessed in that way.  Then you might ask:  how can you grow in the fear of God?  This is related to knowing God.  When it comes to the fear of God, there are two ways that the Holy Spirit can foster this in us.  The natural world around us speaks to us of the majesty of God.  You can learn to fear God as your mighty Creator and King by being a good student of the natural world.  When the summer months come and you hear the thunder crashing and see the lightning lighting up the sky, let that inspire in you the fear of God who has created all these things and who holds them all in his hand.  If you have the opportunity to be outside the city on a clear night and you can look up and see all the stars and planets, let that foster in you the fear of God, the Creator who is bigger and grander than all the galaxies.  And what about the mountains?  Loved ones, never waste an opportunity to see mountains and stand in awe of your God.  In all these ways, and many more, the natural world testifies to us of our mighty God who is exalted. 

Of course, the other way that the Holy Spirit fosters in us the fear of God is through the Word of God.  Through the Scriptures, we are placed before the Holy One of Israel.  We can read passages like Isaiah 6, where the prophet had his encounter with God’s holiness and we can be reminded of what of our God is really like and how we should think about that.  That’s just one example.  As we come into this new year, I want to encourage you again to be a good student of Scripture.   If you don’t have a decent plan for reading the Bible, loved ones, tomorrow is the day to start.  Take up one of those plans and stick with it.  By doing that in this new year, you can grow in the fear of God and receive the blessings that come along with that.                        

There will be blessings for you, and also for your children.  That’s what we find in the second part of verse 26.  It says, “…and his children will have a refuge.”  The person who fears God not only has strong confidence for himself, it’s something that has a bearing on his whole family.  The children of a God-fearer have a safe place for them too.  When parents fear the LORD, that has a spill-over effect for their kids.  It’s a blessing for them too.  When mom and dad clearly fear God, it sets a good example for their kids.  When mom and dad respect the Word of the Lord, they teach their children that Word too.  They disciple them with it.  If parents fear God, they will instruct their children in his ways.  They’ll teach them that they are sinners in need of salvation.  They’ll teach their children about the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ.    God-fearing parents will also guide their children into a Christian walk of life.  All of this will be like a refuge, a safe place for covenant children.  With this type of instruction, a hedge is being put around them to protect them from our enemies, the devil, the world and our own flesh.  Loved ones, don’t you want that for your kids?  Don’t you want to see them have a refuge, not only in 2014, but always?  According to our text, it begins with you and whether or not you listen.  Follow the way of wisdom and fear God.  He will be security for you and a refuge for your family.  This is promised us in the Word of God.

According to verse 27, the fear of Yahweh is also a blessing in a different way.  It is a fountain of life.  In other words, when you fear God and listen to him, from that springs life.  Fearing God and listening to him is a good thing for us!  God is the Creator and the Designer of everything in this world.  He knows how everything is supposed to work, because he made it.  He has given us a manual, so to speak, a manual that gives clear directions on how things are designed to function.  The fear of God leads one to respect his will.  That will be for our temporal good as we live on this earth.  The Ninth Commandment gives us a good example of how this works.  If we fear God and follow his will, if we love the truth and strive to live with integrity, there are blessings that come from that.  When you live a life of lies, you have to tell lies to cover up your lies and after a while you start to lose track of which lies you told to which people.  Your lies catch up to you.  Honesty really is the best policy.  The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life as we live here. 

But there’s another aspect to this.  The fear of the LORD also means that we listen to the full scope of his Word.  We pay attention when his Word tells us that we are sinners.  We pay attention when his Word speaks of the gospel.  The fear of God also means responding positively to the call of God’s Word to faith and repentance.  The fear of God brings us to Christ. 

According to what we read from John 4, he is the fountain of eternal life.  From him flow living waters that can truly satisfy in this age and in the age to come.  When you fear God, you’ll also listen to what he says about his Son, Jesus.  You’ll come to him, resting and trusting that he is your Saviour.  You’ll turn from your sin and turn to him, and you’ll receive abundant life.  And living in him by the power of his Holy Spirit, you’ll also be given the strength and motivation to fear the LORD and strive to keep his commandments.  Christ is really where it all begins.  With him, we have a fountain of life and blessing in every respect.                 

This fountain of life that we have in the fear of God saves from death.  That’s what the second part of verse 27 says.  In verse 26, we find that the fear of God offers protection from the ways in which evil might attack us.  But in verse 27, we find that the fear of God also speaks to the ways in which evil might attract us and then kill us.

Notice the language in that last phrase of verse 27, “…that one may turn away from the snares of death.”  Solomon speaks of snares for a good reason.  He’s referring to a way of catching animals to kill them.  A hungry man would set a snare for an animal, often times the snare would be made of wire or rope.  In the ancient world, these snares would often have bait in them.  The bait attracts the prey to the snare.  The animal reaches for the bait and then…boom…it’s caught in the snare.  That’s the image here.  The snares of death are snares or traps that result in death.  They are things that have something attractive about them, there is some bait involved, but in the end this thing will kill you.  This is a picture of sin and evil. 

Sin often holds out bait for us.  There’s often something attractive or desirable about sin.  Think of King David on his rooftop.  He spotted an attractive woman bathing not so far away.  The bait was set in the snare for him.  This was a snare of death.  It resulted in the death of Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband.  It resulted in the death of the baby that was conceived from this adulterous relationship.  It could have resulted in David’s eternal death if he had not repented.  This was a story with which Solomon was undoubtedly familiar.  After all, it involved his mother Bathsheba and his father David.  The fear of God could have turned David away from the snares of death.  Instead, he took the bait.

You would think that Solomon would have learned from the foolishness of his father.  For the first part of his reign, Solomon feared the LORD and his wisdom was evident to all.  But when we get to 1 Kings 11, Solomon too takes the bait of the snares of death.  He falls in love with all these foreign women and ends up polluting Jerusalem with altars and temples for foreign gods.  His wives turned him away from the true God.  If only he had heeded his own words here in our text! 

The fear of the LORD can turn you away from the snares of death.  When you fear God, you will listen to his Word.  You will listen to its warnings and admonitions about sin.  The fear of God helps you to hear the Word and see sin for what it really is.  It’s bait in the trap.  It’s being held out for you, not to do you a favour, not to enhance your life, but to kill you.  That’s reality. 

Many aircraft are equipped with weather radar.  When you fly on an airline, the pilots up front always have a real time view of the weather that lies ahead.  Because there’s one thing that every pilot wants to avoid:  thunderstorms.  Aviation regulations actually state that every aircraft has to stay at least 20 nautical miles away from thunderstorms.  This has been learned through hard lessons taught by numerous accidents in years past.  Onboard weather radar helps pilots steer well-clear of any thunderstorm activity.  A thunderstorm can be a snare of death for an aircraft and anyone on board.  The fear of God is like that weather radar.  It paints the picture of reality for us.  It tells us the way to go to steer clear of the things that will harm or even kill us.  The fear of God does that by pointing us to the Word of God where all these things are clearly laid out for us.  When we fear of God, we see the way things really are.  We can see past the attractive bait and see the trap that could end it all for us.  In this way, the fear of God gives life and saves us from death.

Brothers and sisters, do you see why the fear of God is a good thing?  As Christians we all have the fear of God to some degree.  But more is better.  More fear of God is desirable.  As we launch into this new year of 2014, our text teaches us that the fear of God is something in which we should want to grow.  It’s something for which we should each pray.  We should pray that the LORD would deepen our understanding of who he is so that we may fear him more.  Why?  Because, as we’ve seen this evening, there are blessings that accrue from fearing him.  It is truly good to fear the LORD!

You have 525,949 minutes ahead of you in 2014.  Let’s resolve this evening to spend as many of those minutes as we can walking in the fear of God.  Let’s resolve that we strive to grow as children of God, fearing him, walking in his ways, honouring him in every aspect of our lives.  Loved ones, in the fear of God, may we all have a blessed new year!  AMEN.

Prayer:

O Yahweh our great God,

You are to be feared.  You are the Most High God, a great King over all the earth.  Your majesty is readily evident in creation.  We see even more of your transcendent glory as you reveal yourself in your Word.  By the power of your Holy Spirit, please make us more impressed with you.  Please teach us more to fear you.  We want to have that strong confidence and security.  We want our children to have a refuge with you too.  Father, we thank you that there is a fountain of life with you, and in our Lord Jesus.  Help us to continue looking in faith to him tonight and also in the year ahead.  As we fix our eyes on Christ, as we follow you, please open our eyes to the snares of death, so that we can avoid them.  Please make us see the reality of sin and what it does and how it will kill us.

We thank you for keeping us in the year gone by.  Through ups and downs you have been our faithful God again.  You are our rock and refuge, our help in ages past and our hope for years to come.  We recognize your steadfast love and faithfulness, we thank you and praise you for it. 

We pray that you would help us all to have a blessed New Year walking in the fear of you.  Please bless us and keep us this evening as we gather with friends and family.  Please keep us in your care and please help us all to have a safe and godly New Year’s celebration.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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