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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, November 3, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Psalm 34:1–10, 22

I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
O magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together.
I sought the Lord, and he answered me,
and delivered me from all my fears.
Look to him, and be radiant;
so your faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor soul cried, and was heard by the Lord,
and was saved from every trouble.
The angel of the Lord encamps around
those who fear him, and delivers them.
O taste and see that the Lord is good;
happy are those who take refuge in him.
O fear the Lord, you his holy ones,
for those who fear him have no want.
The young lions suffer want and hunger,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
The Lord redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned. (NRSV)

When I was a youngster, I would hear at times frustrated adults utter this phrase: “Maybe it’s time to put the fear of God into this kid.” They were giving advice about how to handle the mischievous and rebellious actions of us kids; maybe this will get us kids into being good and respectful of authority. This perspective probably stems from an incorrect interpretation of the Bible—that the Old Testament is primarily a story of a wrathful God and the New Testament portrays the love of God through Jesus Christ.

Our passage today presents a more nuanced and different view of the fear of our Lord. Psalms 34:9 states, “Fear the Lord, all you his holy people; those who fear him lack nothing.” Here fear is not some negative human emotion aligned with threat. Rather the fear of the Lord exceeds our human understanding. It is mysterious, but it is a welcoming invitation into the presence of God. Fear of the Lord is thus transformational. It gives us awe, respect, joy, hope, wholeness, fulfillment, thanksgiving, peace, and humility before God. It is thus uplifting, giving us the ultimate meaning in our lives. It does not mean that in our life here on this earth we will never encounter adversity and hardship and that we will enjoy a longevity of life. But as noted theologian and Elmhurst University graduate Walter Bruggemann reassures us in his recent book, Virus as a Summons to Faith, we can deeply experience a relationship with our Lord that results in lacking nothing. So let us join David, the author of this psalm, in saying, “Praise the Lord.”

Dear Lord, help us to feel deeply your fear in our souls. And give us the courage and strength to live out our fear in you in our daily journey of faith. Amen.

Written by Larry Braskamp, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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