Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sabbath Time

One Minute Devotional is taking a Sabbath and will return the week of March 22, 2009. Peace!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A New Covenant Part II

They shall be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me for all time, for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them, never to draw back from doing good to them; and I will put the fear of me in their hearts, so that they may not turn from me. I will rejoice in doing good to them and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul. Jeremiah 32: 38-41 NRSV

Okay, so much for free will. Here is Jeremiah giving God's message of reassurance to the people after he has bought a field from his relative. The message seems to suggest that God is going to make sure things go well in God's future relationship with the people by placing the fear of God in the people's hearts. Just as the people are being planted in the land, so the fear of God will be planted in their hearts. Faithfulness as well as abundance are then assured.

I am not sure this is the covenant I was thinking about. I know that there is a give and take to having a covenant. All parties contribute and agree to the covenant. This verse makes a relationship with God feel like an enforced relationship - perhaps more in the lines of a dictatorship.

I think that is the real problem I have with fearing God. It feels enforced and unnatural. There isn't a relationship when you fear God. Although fear is a natural state, it is not healthy to remain in a state of fear. And I would be more likely to rebel than begin to deepen a relationship with anyone who made me fearful. I may struggle with loving God or find myself not living as if I was in love with God, but I am trying my best to do this everyday.

God, help us to come closer to you in a spirit of love and trust. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A New Covenant Part I

The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. Isaiah 11:2-3a NRSV

The prophets speak of fearing God. In this passage, Isaiah is pointing toward the new king of Israel. As Christians, we often immediately interpret this as Isaiah prophesying about Jesus.

This kingly personage is to be anointed with the spirit of the Lord which contains wisdom/understanding, counsel/might and knowledge/fear of the Lord. The prophet combines seemingly unrelated abilities into these spiritual gifts. Isaiah refers to wisdom and understanding as one spirit, the spirit of counsel and might as another and finally to knowledge and fear of God as the final spirit.

I see wisdom and understanding as the closest fit. Of course, a person could have understanding but not wisdom. I do think someone who is wise does have understanding, though.

Counsel and might are two harder concepts. I think of counsel as seeking advice or at least listening to others. Might I think of in terms of warfare. In other words, I associate might with physical strength. Perhaps this is the mental/physical link that we all have a better understanding when we are worn out and have are hard time thinking straight.

Wisdom, understanding, counsel and might would all be good strengths for anyone in leadership, especially a king! What about knowledge and fear of God? The Psalms say that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. We could interpret that in terms of knowledge. Perhaps fearing God is something every good leader should know or that the truly knowledgeable fear the Lord. Maybe a knowledgeable king would know that it is not by their power and might that they rule but through God's will. A healthy fear of God as king-maker would be pretty appropriate. As Isaiah goes on to say, he delights in fearing God. Fearing God for a ruler (or even a Messiah) is a good thing in order to keep power.

But it is so good for the rest of us? Something to ponder until tomorrow....

God, you are capable of giving our Godly rulers a spirit of fear of You. Is that also something you give to us? Help us to understand that we are not in control but you are. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Obey, Follow, Serve, Worship

Serve the Lord with fear, with trembling. Psalm 2:11 NRSV

The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. Psalm 19:9a NRSV

At this point, I am wondering if my followers are "afraid" to read this blog because I have been talking about fear for a couple of weeks! Hope you can continue to check these out without fear!

In the psalms, I come away with some general ideas about fear, these two verses being a guide. The whole concept of fear in relationship with God seems to have to do with obedience, following, serving and worshipping God. It makes me wonder about the "relationship" of other people with their gods in the ancient world. I suppose if you created your own god to worship, you wouldn't have any fear of them. In fact, you would be in control and probably wouldn't even have much respect for that god. But I imagine that there were some gods that people did fear as well.

I think the biggest difference is the relationship the Israelites had with God. The ten commandments were part of a covenant, an agreement with God. This wasn't a "do this or else" but "you do this and I will do that" kind of agreement. God was leading them away from slavery into a land where they would be provided for and would prosper if they obeyed, followed, served and worshipped God. The agreement was clear. And fear seems to be the emotion chosen to motivate the people - at least according to the psalms.

Today, I think our emotion to obey, follow, serve and worship is gratitude. Either way, the hoped for final result is love.

God, you ask for our love. We love you with all we are. We thank you and praise you. May we obey, follow, serve and worship you all of our days. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Beginning of Wisdom

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever. Psalm 111:10 NRSV

The psalms mention fear of God many times but this is the verse that comes immediately to mind when I think of fear in scripture: the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. I think the indicative word in this verse is the word "beginning." Without that word, the verse would read: The fear of the Lord is wisdom. With the use of the word beginning, this says to me that fearing God does not make one wise but it is simply the beginning of being wise. It is as though fearing God is the first step. There are many more steps yet to come to be truly wise.

The rest of this sentence says that all who practice fearing God have a good understanding. I understand many things but I don't always do them! Comprehension is only a part of wisdom. Wisdom also involves living your life in a right way, not just knowing how to live your life in the right way.

And the verse ends with the acknowledgment that praising God goes on forever. That is more important that fearing God! Perhaps it is the praise of God that is the heart of wisdom.

God, we praise and honor you now and forever. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Fear of God = God's Wrath?

Who considers the power of your anger? Your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you. So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart. Psalm 90:11-12 NRSV

I have a temper. Ask anyone in my family they can confirm this. It has nothing to do with the color of my hair - it has to do with my personality. When I lose my temper it is gone. I get angry. I totally lose it. I become loud, rude, hurtful, sometimes even violent, although I don't hit anyone or any pets. I have thrown things, slammed doors, or hit stuff. It is not a pretty sight. And forget counting to ten or any of those other ways to calm down - I am already past that point.

What happens in my son's eyes and emotions when I lose my temper like that? Does he fear me? What about parents who are abusive to their children in times of anger? Do their children fear them?

And if I can be that angry, what about God? If God has created me in God's image, can God get that uncontrollably angry? I cannot imagine what kind of wrath God could unleash. But the story of Noah as well as the story of the Israelites' behavior while Moses was receiving the ten commandments do come to mind.

If our fear should be as great as God's capability of anger, I don't think I have that much fear in me. Perhaps God's angry power isn't all that great because God loves us and wants us instead to be merciful and forgiving? Or maybe we aren't capable of as much fear as God is capable of such anger.

In that case, we need to heed the advice in verse 12: realize that we are human, that our lives are finite so that we can achieve wisdom. In realizing our human limitations, we can look at and live our lives in a wiser and healthier way.

God, we have no clue about Your capacity for anger, therefore cannot truly fear You. But we can realize our limitations and live our lives in Your way. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2009 Amelia G. Sims