Fear. The shiver in your boots kind. An emotional tremble-in-awe with a palpitating heart seized with dread. Not a “Boo, I’ve got ya!” startled kind. Not a worshipful awe that shines light on a meditative rejoicing, but rather, a moon-ish one, cascading a sliver of light to reflect the reality of surrounding darkness. A fear that stuns the soul.
The moment silence gives way to say,
“For the thing I feared has overtaken me,
and what I dreaded has happened to me.”
The soul is moved beyond itself to retrace the flash of its dependent existence. It’s withering flight from life. The notion where perpetual rest is but a dream, and tranquility a vain imagination. Until, a voice breaks, “Peace be still.” “I will give you rest.”
Life seldom submits to my fantasy. I am not “woke” with the morning rush to be the Indiana Jones adventurer that always is pitted against things I fear the most. Yet, life can sometimes seem this way. For the adventure of a lifetime, in the experience of life, we must face our fears.
But how can fear give me clarity?
How can dread yield a love beyond my ability?
Just the sound of God’s voice set the first human’s wayward heart into a dreadful state, absolute terror of what might come. It is at the core of all humanity. Of course, this is not a unique fear, the terrifying reality of holiness exposing me for who I am is all too familiar. The oracle of old is true. The Psalm 36 struggle is from the beginning of time. “Do what is right in our own eyes…” the deception whimpers with flattering confidence (as if a divine secret was being withheld from me) “your eyes will be opened and you will be like God” (Deuteronomy 12:8; Genesis 3:4). I cease to delight in the good and melt toward the intimacy of evil.
In this state, I must face God. Who He is, do I dread it?
To discover my sin would I hate it?
Whom would I be like?
Adam and Eve hiding in the fate of my new found discovery, yet stepping out fully exposed?
Cain, to articulate and esteem my own actions as the rightful stand, and walk out from the Lord’s presence?
Adam and Eve stood before the dread of the Lord. Cain exited the Lord’s presence. (Gen. 3:8-9; 4:16)
Nonetheless, of all the things that give me goosebumps, or shutter my shoulders, there is only one thing I am called to face alone. A Holy God. “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31)
When we see God for who He is, we dreadfully see the scope of sin’s darkness, but then, God unveils the infinitive depths of His faithful love. We are shifted from hiding to drawing near, because we see Him for who He is, not for who we denied Him to be. Fear leads to a perfect love, which secures us to face each day. Do not draw back from being dependent on who God is:
- “God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in Him” (1 John 1:5)
- “God is love.” Know and believe the love God has for us. (I John 4:15-16)
- “God is not a man, that He might lie, or a son of man, that He might change His mind.” (Numbers 23:19)
- “God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” (Deuteronomy 4:23-24)
- “God is a compassionate God.” (Deut. 4:30-31)
- “God is the God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, mighty, and awe-inspiring God.” (Deut. 10:17)
- “God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.” (Deut. 20:4)
- “God of old is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” (Deut. 33:27)
- “God is gracious and merciful; He will not turn His face away from you if you return to Him.” (2 Chronicles 30:9)
- “God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)
- “God is the Judge.” (Psalm 50:6)
- “God is a God of salvation, and escape from death belongs to the Lord my Lord.” (Psalm 68:19-20)
- “God is a sun and shield. (Psalm 84:10-12)
- “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24)
- “God is faithful; you were called by Him into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (I Corinthians 1:9)
- “God is not a God of disorder but of peace.” (I Corinthians 14:33)
What does it mean to not face God, despite the dread, the pure reality of when sin is pinned up against holiness?
Evil’s promise “to be like God,” a good, ignored the reality of ways. The knowledge of evil set us out on a journey of not doing good. The lie was that all we needed was knowledge and to follow our desires to be like God. Though I possess the knowledge of good and evil. I do not possess the ability to do good, to behave wisely (Psalms 14:1-3; Romans3:11-18). God desires to move me beyond the mischievous notion that knowledge is the end and desires are truth. God seeks to give understanding, to communicate wisdom.
The first lyrical Psalm is the crossroad of the soul.
1 How happy is the one who does not
walk in the advice of the wicked
or stand in the pathway with sinners
or sit in the company of mockers!
2 Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction,
and he meditates on it day and night.
3 He is like a tree planted beside flowing streams
that bears its fruit in its season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.
4 The wicked are not like this;
instead, they are like chaff that the wind blows away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand up in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
6 For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to ruin.
As I was created to be dependent on God’s goodness and faithful love, my state is no less so now. For eternal life and joy to be known, for me to be intimate with the good, I must dwell before the presence of the Lord. However, I cannot rise to understand God’s faithful love, until I face the dread of God. The dread of what it means to not reject evil. So how can one proclaim, “God is good,” in a world of evil? Dwell with the good, love life; repel the evil, mourn death. Doing otherwise, this is the epitome of “not acting wisely” and “not doing good.” Notice the lyrical contrast of Psalm 36 between the person who has no dread of God before their eyes, and the person who understands the value of God’s faithful love.
Human wickedness (flee the presence of God)
An oracle within my heart
concerning the transgression of the wicked person:
Dread of God has no effect on him.
2 For with his flattering opinion of himself,
he does not discover and hate his iniquity.
3 The words from his mouth are malicious and deceptive;
he has stopped acting wisely and doing good.
4 Even on his bed he makes malicious plans.
He sets himself on a path that is not good,
and he does not reject evil.
5“Lord, your faithful love reaches to heaven,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
6 Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
your judgments like the deepest sea.
Lord, you preserve people and animals.
7 How priceless your faithful love is, God!
People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
8 They are filled from the abundance of your house.
You let them drink from your refreshing stream.
9 For the wellspring of life is with you.
By means of your light we see light.
10 Spread your faithful love over those who know you,
and your righteousness over the upright in heart.
11 Do not let the foot of the arrogant come near me
or the hand of the wicked drive me away.
12 There! The evildoers have fallen.
They have been thrown down and cannot rise.
To hear and to fear, that is the catalyst for me to know God.
To hear, to fear, and to trust propels Him to draw out His faithful love (Psalm 36:10; John 3:16; Romans 10:17). Then, and only then am I able to experience Christ’s gospel and follow His truth, “to take off your former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires, to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of truth” (Ephesians 4:22-24).
The soul at peace with God is something we should be terrified at not possessing.
Answer me when I call,
God, who vindicates me.
You freed me from affliction;
be gracious to me and hear my prayer.
2 How long, exalted ones, will my honor be insulted?
How long will you love what is worthless
and pursue a lie? Selah
3 Know that the Lord has set apart
the faithful for himself;
the Lord will hear when I call to him.
4 Be angry and do not sin;
on your bed, reflect in your heart and be still. Selah
5 Offer sacrifices in righteousness
and trust in the Lord.
6 Many are asking, “Who can show us anything good?”
Let the light of your face shine on us, Lord.
7 You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and new wine abound.
8 I will both lie down and sleep in peace,
for you alone, Lord, make me live in safety.
1 Peter 3:12; Ephesians 4:24; Hebrews 11:16; Revelations 21:3
*Scriptures taken from Christian Standard Bible (CSB)