Respect and Love

Reading: Psalm 111
Story has it that years ago someone sent a telegram to newly-weds. Since the cost was calculated on the number of words, they chose a suitable Bible verse and simply gave the reference, "one John four eighteen" - "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love."

The intention was good, but, alas! the best man had a Bible at the reception but mistook 1 John for the gospel of John. He hadnít checked it out beforehand and stood up to read the telegrams, "The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true" (Jn 4.17). What a whopper! He wouldnít live that one down in a long time!

For the senders of that telegram, the intention was to say that marriage is built on love - involving mutual commitment and trust - the basis of true confidence.

Psalm 111 says that "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (v. 10). To our modern ears the word "fear" seems too strong. It is negative and immobilising. It suggests a total separation from one who is "wholly other" and unapproachable - perhaps even vindictive and capricious.

Some folk would like to say "the love of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Thereís truth in that, but it isnít what the psalmist is saying. Perhaps it would be closer to the mark to substitute "healthy; respect."

The psalmist is praising God with all his heart, not withdrawing from him. He ponders the great works of the Lord, finding them a source of delight (v. 2). "Glorious and majestic are his deeds, and his righteousness endures forever" (v. 3).

The Lord is "gracious and compassionate" (v. 4). He feeds his people and remembers his covenant (v. 5). His works are faithful and just, his words trustworthy (v. 7). "He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant forever - holy and awesome is his name" (v. 9).

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise" (v. 10).

He isnít talking about terror that makes him hold back, but a strong healthy awareness of who God is - holy and gracious, willing to forgive, wanting to draw us into relationship with him. That realistic knowledge of God is the starting-point for true wisdom.

There are some people who are afraid of God, but donít know his love. A number of years ago I visited a home in Brisbane. The lady wanted to show me her garden. There, out of earshot of any other human being, she began to pour out an untold story of her life - an incident for which she had carried a load of guilt right up to this point. She was a church-goer, but always worshipped with fear. She had never grasped the grace of God which would bring forgiveness and peace - and love.

Some folk make flippant references to God as "the Bloke upstairs," while others give God an almost unapproachable majesty and awe. The awesome truth is that one who was God from all eternity emptied himself of that heavenly glory and "pitched his tent" on this earth as one of us. The majestic God came down so we can be forgiven and experience his love - as part of his family!

Prayer: O Lord our God! As we in awesome wonder consider all the worlds your hands have made, we see the stars, we hear the rolling thunder, your power throughout the universe displayed... then sings our soul, our Saviour God to you, how great you are! And when we think, O God, that you, your Son not sparing, sent him to die, we scarce can take it in, that on the cross, our burden gladly bearing, he bled and died to take away our sin... then sings our soul, our Saviour God to you, how great you are! We worship your majesty and are overwhelmed by your love! In Jesusí name, Amen.

So Great His Love

far grander
than human minds conceive,
to fling the stars in place
and hold creation by his word,
yet searching
knowing all,
at its very source
and power...
and love!

Not selfish love
all wrapped up
in his own

So great his love
for foolish
that he humbled himself
and came
so we could come
back home.

© Peter J. Blackburn, Burdekin BlueCare Devotions, 4 February 2003.
Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, © International Bible Society, 1984.

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