(Psalm 111, Proverbs 1, James 4, Isaiah 6, Revelation 14)
Introduction: One of my law school classmates had the practice of standing at the front of the class, before the professor arrived, and telling a joke. Often the joke was about God. The class would roar with laughter and I would try not to smile because I thought the joke improper. I was worried about respect for God. Today when I preach I always try to say something funny. Although it is generally not reflected in these lessons, I hardly ever teach a class where the students do not laugh. What does God expect of us when it comes to respect and reverence? Are His standards the same as ours: we want people to laugh with us and not at us? Let's jump into our Bible study and find out what it means to reverence God!
- The Fear of the Lord
- Read Psalms 111:10. What does it mean to "fear" God? (The Hebrew can also mean "reverence.")
- We are told that fear begins to make us wise. How can fear make us wise?
- Have you ever found that when you got scared you got smarter? Or, is scared and smarter different than the fear and wisdom mentioned in Psalms 111?
- Why does the Psalmist talk about following God's precepts in this verse?(The Old Testament often repeats the same concept in a little different way("parallelism"). That is the case here. What this teaches us is that fearing God means that we follow His rules.)
- How are wisdom and good understanding parallel? (This shows how the fear of God gives us wisdom. If we obey God's rules, it helps us to better understand our relationship to God and the people around us. That is emotional intelligence.)
- Read Proverbs 1:28-31. What does "fear the Lord" mean in this context? (Again, fear is used to mean accepting direction from God.)
- When we refuse to accept God's direction for our lives, what happens? (Two things. First, we suffer the natural results of our choices (v.31 "eat the fruit of their ways"). Second, God may very well not do anything to intervene to help us (v.28 "they will call to Me but I will not answer").
- If fearing God means we obey Him, what does loving God mean? (We learned during our past lessons this quarter that loving God also results in our obedience. John 14:15)
- After looking at these texts, what do you think is the key ingredient to showing reverence towards God? (Obeying Him.)
- Do our words have anything to do with showing reverence towards God? (Read Exodus 20:7)
- What do you think is encompassed in the command not to misuse the name of the Lord?
- Would that include giving a false impression of God?
- Would that include saying that God does or does not approve of certain activities when it is not true?
- Joy and Laughter
- Read James 4:7-10. Is this telling us not to laugh or have joy?
- When we are told to "submit to God" - is this the same as fearing God? (Yes. I think this is the same concept.)
- Should we understand that submitting to God precludes laughter and joy?
- Is it only certain people that should not laugh or have joy? (I think this is directed to those who have not come to terms with their sins. God tells us to take seriously the sin in our life. We should not laugh about it or take joy in it.)
- Read Isaiah 6:5-7. How did Isaiah feel about his sins?
- When Isaiah considered his sins, what was his point of comparison? (When he got a clear view of the "Lord Almighty" he realized his sinful nature.)
- When you judge how "good" you are, what is your point of comparison?
- Should we have the same point of comparison as Isaiah?
- How will our fear of God impact upon our view of our sins?(Can you see there is a pattern here? When we fear and love God we determine to obey Him. Coming face to face with God's commandments causes us to see the sin in our life. That, in turn, should cause us to take our sins very seriously.)
- What does Isaiah 6:6-7 teach us about God's desire to leave us without laughter or joy? (God sends an angel immediately to Isaiah to assure him of God's forgiveness and atonement for his sins.)
- Read 1 Peter 1:8-9. Once we realize that we have God's forgiveness for our sins, what emotion do we feel? (Joy! "Inexpressible and glorious joy.")
- Read Psalms 126:2-3. When it comes to joking and laughter, what guidelines would you suggest from these verses we have studied? What about jokes involving God? (If we are making fun of God, if we are joking about our sins, then we are not showing respect for God or for His commandments. On the other hand, if we take seriously God's commands for our life, if we soberly consider our sins and seek His salvation, then the result should be joy and laughter in our lives. We have joy in what God has done for us.)
- Respect Earned?
- We have discussed what it means to fear God. We know what it means to respect other people. Do you respect all people? Should you?
- Compare 1 Timothy 3:8 with 1 Peter 2:17. What does this suggest is our obligation to respect others? (Although 1 Peter 2:17 refers to giving "proper" respect to everyone, the Greek really means respect everyone. On the other hand, 1 Timothy teaches us that we should be "worthy" of respect, suggesting that some are due more respect than others. In the book of Titus, older men are instructed to be "worthy of respect." Titus 2:2. We should work to be worthy of the respect of others.)
- What is our basis for respecting God? How has God earned our respect?
- Let's read what the first angel of Revelation 14 says. Read Revelation 14:6-7. On what basis is respect (fear of and glory to)God given? (He is our Creator and our Judge.)
- Why is God worthy to judge us?(Comparing John 9:39 with John 5:21-22 reveals that Jesus came to this world because He knew we would be judged. He not only wanted to provide a way of salvation for us, He wanted us to understand the salvation that He offered to us. As a result, God the Father entrusted to God the Son the judgment.)
- Friend, would you say that your actions and your speech reflect a reverence towards God? If that is not true, why not ask God to help you with a change of attitude today?
- Next Week: Why Forgive?