“Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who find great delight in his commands” (Psalm 112:1) There are two words that give many pause in this single phrase: fear and commands. To the modern, secular, democratic mind, and even more to those who follow the postmodern philosophies of relativism, these words are anathema. To those who think in solely those terms, fear and and the idea of obeying anyone else but their own egos strikes them as totalitarian. But let us look at these words from another perspective, that of our faith.
Who is the Lord, and why should we fear him? What is this “fear”? With the eyes of faith, we know that this Lord is the God of Creation, who has no beginning and no end, who is, who was, and who always will be. Even more than this, he is the One whose love for us is so great that he sent his only begotten Son among us to walk with us, to reveal the depths and heights of his love to all humankind. This is a love so great that it would sacrifice everything, even life itself, in order to free us from the slavery of sin and death, forever. In Jesus he showed us that his love for us is unconditional. Through Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection he has reconciled our broken relationship with a love that not only forgives but forgets our failings. As the Apostle John tells us, “God is love” (1 John 4:8).
What is it that we fear then? We fear the loss of this love. This is wisdom. Though we are creatures, and though we are made in the image and likeness of God, we have often taken the gifts that God has given us, and misused them. God gave us life out of his love. Out of that same love he gave us intellect to be able to come to know him, to love him, and to serve him in this world and to be with him in the next. In that same love, he also gave us free will, a freedom as powerful as his own. Yet, each of us have used our intellects and our free wills to defy the love of God in countless ways. We are sinners. Still, his love is greater than our sins. We are his prodigal sons and daughters. We, in our puny pride, have said to him, “Give me my inheritance now. I want to do what I want to do. I do not want to bend my will to yours. I am free!” Like the prodigal son’s experience in the parable, life has a way of teaching us our limits. And when we suddenly realize our failings and feel the terrible emptiness of that broken relationship deep within our hearts, do we not turn back to him fearing that he might not take us back? But there he is, rushing toward us with his arms wide open, ready to embrace us, to put the family ring back on our finger, to welcome us back home again. What joy! This is our God. This is the wisdom that our fear teaches us.
When in faith, we come to know that God is love, we also come to know that all of his commands for us arise from that love. God knows that when we love him with all of our heart, mind, body and soul, and when we love our neighbor as ourself, we find the perfect means to the happiness our hearts desire. Of the commandments, we have been taught, these are the greatest. Jesus refines our understanding of his commands even more when he tells us, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). In faith, then, we “fear” the Lord by keeping his commands. That is, we love the Lord, by faithfully and willingly following his will. To defy his commands is to defy his love. Is that not the definition of foolishness? Indeed, it is true, “Blessed (and happy) are those who fear the Lord, who take great delight in his commands.”
Lord, in you alone do we find our joy. Help us to keep our eyes on your love and your commands at all times, especially when we are tempted to follow our own paths. Give us the grace of the true wisdom that comes from fear of the Lord. We pray these things in Jesus’ name. Amen!
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