In my ladies’ Sunday school class a few weeks ago, I talked about the implications of Psalm 34:11.
Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
This is an amazing verse to me, mostly because I tend to think of the fear of the Lord as something vague and intangible, certainly not something I can learn or teach. And if the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, I’d do well to at least think about and pray for ideas to know how to teach it!
Funny thing, though, I’ve never thought about or prayed for ideas for teaching it. Until a friend spoke up, “Just how do you teach this to your children?”
That was a good question and it made me think. Some of the things I am trying to teach are related to fearing God. I have been teaching them to see God’s hand directly in their lives. I like to point out that he is pleased when they choose to do right. We have a family narrative about how God has led us. (In the military, we have lots of twists and turns to recount!) Beyond this, I’m in new territory, and that’s what I want to think through tonight.
First, I’m wondering if I can verbalize how fearing God makes a difference in my life. (Deuteronomy 6:6 before 6:7, once again) I’ll have to take some quiet time to think through this idea.
Second, I can ask them questions. “What do you think it means to fear God?” “Does fearing God mean I want to run away from him?” “Can I fear God if I don’t know him?”
Third, as I consider the whole of Psalm 34, I see some themes that certainly seem related to the fear of the Lord. Look at it; this is great!
I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
3 Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together!
4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
6 This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
8 Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
9 Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
10 The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
Michelle here. The first ten verses are immediate and personal. David saw God work mightily (he notes: “Of David, when he changed his behavior before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away.”), and he wants us to experience God’s closeness and action in our lives, too. There is an explicit connection with the fear of God. In fact, God’s actions often are connected with the fear of God growing in believers and unbelievers alike.
11 Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Just suppose this verse is the theme of the whole Psalm. We would expect, then, the following verses to be in some way instructive or developing this theme. Let’s see if David teaches us in the following verses.
12 What man is there who desires life
and loves many days, that he may see good?
13 Keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking deceit.
14 Turn away from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.
Motivation, maybe? It is by the fear of the Lord that we depart from evil. Perhaps. I’m not convinced yet.
15 The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.
God is near. He sees me when I’m doing right. Not the first thought when I’m considering the fear of God, but it is an important one.
16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
In contrast, God sees those who are doing wrong. This is our more traditional view of fear of God.
17 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
20 He keeps all his bones;
not one of them is broken.
21 Affliction will slay the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.
The rest of these verses seem like variations on the theme: God is near. He is just; he is good. He is powerful. Studying how God works and connecting these actions with his character brings the fear of God. Perhaps these would be some good things to talk about together.
If you’d like to see what Charles Spurgeon had to say about Psalm 34, click here.