The Fear of the Lord
So Jeremiah took another scroll and gave it to the scribe Baruch son of Neriah, and as Jeremiah dictated, Baruch wrote on it all the words of the scroll that Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire. And many similar words were added to them.
Judgment came against Jehoiakim not simply because he acted foolishly in burning the Scriptures but because of the condition of heart which that action revealed. This is given to us in one flaming sentence in Verse 24: “Yet neither the king, nor any of his servants who heard all these words, was afraid, nor did they rend their garments.” These men had lost the fear of God. And when a nation or a people or an individual loses the fear of God, they are on their way to destruction. For the fear of God is based upon the sovereign power which he exercises in life. These men were shown to be stupid and senseless men who had lost their sense of reality entirely, because they had lost the fear of God.
There is one great fact everywhere revealed — in Scripture, in history, and even in nature — which has been called “the law of retribution.” That is, there is an inevitable consequence for doing wrong, and there is no way to escape it. Even an atheist, who does not believe in God at all, must admit that when he examines the laws of nature he is faced with the conclusion that you either obey the laws of nature and live, or disobey them and die. And man is helpless to change that. We are in the grip of forces greater than we are, and everything on every side testifies to this. That is why we learn respect for the laws of electricity. You do not fool around with 10,000 volts of electrical potential, thinking you are going to make up the laws as you go along. You had better find out what they are first, for you disobey them to your peril and death.
This is what God has implanted in every part of life. How foolish and utterly stupid is the person who seeks to ignore that fact. God requires of every nation that there be the recognition of his sovereign government of men, and the law of retribution for evil. History has testified repeatedly that God always accomplishes what he says he is going to do. God rules in the affairs of men. Napoleon, at the height of his career, once very boldly said, “God is on the side that has the heaviest artillery” — his cynical answer to someone who asked if God was on the side of France. Then came the Battle of Waterloo, where he lost both the battle and his empire. Years later, in exile on the island of St. Helena, chastened and humbled, Napoleon said, “Man proposes; God disposes.” This is the lesson with which life seeks to confront us. God is able to work his sovereign will — despite man. Therefore the basic, elementary knowledge of life with which everyone ought to start is the fear of God.
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Our Father, these words sober me. I pray that I will not point the finger of self-righteousness at others, but rather will acknowledge the times I have not shown you the fear worthy of your name.
Is the arrogant defiance of God in our cultural environment eroding our reverent fear of our holy God? Do we need to inventory our hearts for signs of self righteous pride?