Only Fear the Lord

“Only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things He hath done for you.” I Samuel 12:24

The surrounding nations and especially the Ammonites were beginning to trouble and oppress the people of Israel. Samuel’s two sons, whom he had appointed judges at Beersheba, were proving themselves un­worthy of their high calling. In the midst of these national calamities the children of Israel petitioned the aged Samuel for a king. We must not brush this evil of the Israelites aside or ignore it as having little significance. The people here committed a most terrible sin against God. The Lord God had ever been their King, He had ever sustained them and kept them safe. As their King He had given them a mighty victory over the Egyptians, had led them through the wilderness supplying them with their daily sustenance in His manna. As their Sovereign He had put to route all their enemies in order that they might in­herit the Land of Promise. Walking in His paths and righteous in His eyes He had ever prospered and increased them as His chosen people. But now, hard pressed, Israel does not turn to her God but rather forsakes Him and foolishly places her trust in man. How rebellious, defiant, and un­thankful, indeed. But God in His good pleasure sees fit to grant their sinful re­quest and Samuel, by Divine command, anoints Saul to be king over Israel.

The above verse constitutes a dramatic climax to what served as both Samuel’s farewell sermon and Saul’s coronation ser­mon. Having reviewed for the people the great goodness of their God, showed to them the audacity and wickedness of their de­mand, Samuel proceeds to admonish and instruct them in the ways of continued favor with their God. To sum it all up, Samuel exhorts the people, “Only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth with all your heart: For consider how great things He hath done for you.’’ And Samuel’s words echo over the expanse of time, resounding their admonition to us as well as Israel of old.

Only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth with all your heart. This must be the governing principle in the life of the Christian pilgrim throughout his earthly journey. It must be the controlling force in every aspect of his life. His one desire must be that all the days of his life he walk uprightly before the Lord.

The fear of the Lord which Samuel speaks of is a feeling of deep reverence and love on the part of God’s people to­wards God. It is a phrase used frequently throughout Scripture. Proverbs 8:13 says, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil.” Proverbs 14:27 speaks of the fear of the Lord in this way, “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.” And so we see that the fear of the Lord is an earnest activity in the heart and life of the regenerated child of God. For it is only the child of God who can hate evil and who comes to drink from the fountain of life, fleeing the snares of death.

Very concrete and simple, isn’t it, free from any abstract delusion. This in the fear of the Lord, to hate evil. Certainly, it is hatred for the evil we see manifested in the world round about us. Absolutely, it is to vehemently oppose the iniquity within the church today. But first and foremost it is hatred, a loathing and abhorring of our own sins and our own selves. That’s neces­sarily the first step. It is to cry out from the depths of our own soul, “Lord, be merciful to me the sinner.” It is to have the firm conviction with David in Psalm 86 that apart from God’s mercy we lie in the lowest hell. Do you grasp the force of that? Apart from God we lie in the LOWEST hell. Don’t you see, then, how great a matter our salvation is? We are saved from the depths, the very depths of hell itself. To fear the Lord, then, is to have the assurance of our deliverance and salvation and thereby to strive against the sin which yet clings to us.

But this fear of the Lord is not simply negative in character. It is not only a flee­ing from sin but a fleeing unto righteous­ness. It is a warm embracing of the truth, an ardent love of God, and a fervent desire to walk steadfastly in all His precepts. That’s the fear of the Lord which must, and by God’s grace does, characterize the life of the Christian pilgrim.

And why is this fear of the Lord such a necessary part of the Christian life? Be­cause, even as Samuel pointed out to Israel, “. . . consider how great things He hath done for you.” Unto you He has applied the atoning blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. Unto you has He revealed Himself through the irresistible operation of His Holy Spirit, called you unto newness of life, given you a place in His church, and He it is who supplies you with strength from day to day. Why, then, fear the Lord? Out of hearts bubbling over with unsurpassable love and the deepest of gratitude.

Israel’s history testifies that she did not heed the warning of Samuel. Her desire for a king had only been the first step toward ultimate worldliness. It did not take long for Israel to adopt the other sinful practices of her reprobate neighbors. And by the time God calls the prophet Isaiah, except for a small remnant, all of Israel had forsaken the Lord and established the worship of heathen idols. May we learn from Israel and may God give us His grace to walk in His fear, applying unto us the promises thereof. “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings.” Malachi 4:2: “And His mercy is on them that fear Him from generation to generation.” Luke 1:50.

Prayer: Oh God, we confess that thou hast done great and marvelous things for us. We pray keep us walking in Thy fear and serving Thee in truth. Give unto us also the confidence and assurance of Thy prom­ise, “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him; and He will shew them His covenant” (Ps. 25:14). AMEN.