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Hebrew Spirituality: The Jewish Roots of Fearing God (part 4)

Post Title: What is not in the hands of heaven?

We celebrate the love of God, and rightly so. But if you remove that love from awe and reverence for God, then you are not walking with the Lord in the manner he desires. You are not being conformed to the image of Messiah. Rabbi Hirsch in his commentary on Psalm 25 says those who fear God, "bear within themselves the awareness of God and live their lives in constant realization of God and His will."

That is why those who have a biblical fear of the LORD enjoy the friendship of the LORD.

Proverbs 25:14 emphasizes the point, The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant. What does this term friendship (sod) mean? It speaks of intimate conversation, the kind only really good friends can engage in. It can have the connotation of counsel from a friend, even secret counsel that is received.

James picks up and develops this tradition in 2:22-23, You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"—and he was called a friend of God.

If for no other reason, this should put a desire in your heart to know truly and experience fully the awe and reverence for God. How many of you would like to have that intimacy with your Father in heaven? Then stand in awe and revere, worship your Maker and Savior!

As I said before, first and foremost you need to recognize is that growing in the fear of the LORD is a process. It is a learned behavior, an experience that takes a lifetime. It is not some mystical experience or one transforming moment. It is a walk of intimacy, a learned behavior, an attitude accompanied by appropriate action.

Listen carefully to Moses' instruction for Israel's kings beginning in Deut. 17:18. And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this Torah, approved by the Levitical priests. The kings of Israel were obligated to write their own Torah scroll, so they would know it so well that they could have intimacy with God. It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life that he may learn to fear the Lord, his God. The yirat Adonai is a learned experience.

You say, "I do not have yirat Adonai." You can learn it. One of the best ways is to begin by meditating on God and on his word, daily. For help, read my messages on the Jewish Roots of Meditation.

A great Jewish scholar, Louis Jacobs, wrote that religion devoid of the fear of God inevitably degenerates into a comfortable sentimentality, that inevitably gives way to spiritual idolatry. Sadly, there are churches with venerable histories that now bear painful witness to these words. We, too, must be aware and stand in awe.

Hopefully, you are studying, including memorizing passages of Scripture. But dear friends never forget it must lead to reverence for God. Abraham Joshua Heschel said, "The Greeks study in order to comprehend, the Hebrews study in order to revere." What a difference in mindset. Here is a well-known dictum in rabbinic literature, "Everything is in the hands of heaven except the fear of heaven." Why? Because ultimately, the moral choice is ours.

How then shall we live? I want to urge you in your spiritual formation to meditate on God's word and cultivate the awe of God.

I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty. Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. - 2 Cor 6:18-7:1

Remember, only those who have the fear of God, evidenced by right actions born of faith, know what it is to have the friendship of God. You know this familiar scripture found in John 15, starting with verse 12, This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. The Messiah calls disciples that obey his command to love, friends (haverim).

And just as we would expect after our study of the fear of God in the Hebrew Scriptures, Jesus continues, I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you (Jn 15:15). This was (and is) the precious privilege of following Yeshua, daily walking as his disciple. To be surrounded by the aura of his awe for God and to have him whisper things in your ear which reveal and explain to you the mysteries and secrets of God's rule and reign over all things.

The awe, the reverence of God is the cornerstone principle of spiritual formation.

I close with the end of all things, in Revelation 19:4, And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” And from the throne came a voice saying, “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great.”

Again, in Revelation, an angel says in a loud voice, Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water (Rev 14:7). That, dear friends, is our invitation. It is your choice. Stand in awe, serve, walk with, worship the one true God. Or not.

All is in the hands of heaven except the fear of heaven.

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This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.

Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice.

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