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Wisdom, Fear, And Worship

     How do you view yourself? Yourself being your metaphysical qualities that make up the “inside” of you, not what you look like, but who you are. You craft an opinion of yourself. Other people formulate individual opinions of you. But the opinion that matters the most throughout all of your life is God’s opinion. And more importantly than anyone’s opinion of you based off of tiny snippets of external observations, God sees you for who you really are. He sees you without any cloak, any lies, any dressed wounds, and all lies, all mistakes, all sins. That should scare us. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7) When we fear God, it leads us to wisdom, and wisdom leads us to live skillfully, and living skillfully is not just knowing how handle human relationships, but how to operate in a relationship with God. The necessary underpinning of how a God-human relationship functions is worship. Worship is real wisdom, because the fear of the Lord is wisdom, and a fear of the Lord is an essential component to a relationship with God.
     The nexus of our relationship with God is worship. Since God is above us, He deserves our respect, but He is not like normal humans we respect, so He deserves something more than that. That is called worship. Worship is reverence for God, but it is more than just enlightened respect. It is also fear. “For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest.” (Hebrews 12:18) In the Old Covenant, worship was performed through sacrifice. We as humans want to be at peace with each other, with the elements, and, above all, with God, like Hebrews 4:1 says: “Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it.” (Hebrews 4:1) God knows who we really are because of His omnipotence. Because of His perfection, He is just. Justice demands that we are punished for who we really are—sinners and utterly morally corrupt. We, as humans, flee from this intimate knowledge in fear. The truth about ourselves cannot be disregarded. Either we must pay for sin at the cost of relationship with Him, or someone else must pay to give us that right relationship. The goal of restoring the relationship is worship in fear and veneration—but also in knowledge. And when we correctly worship, God has brought back how man was made to interact with God, as before the Fall, knowing God, not just knowing about God. After the Fall, dead in sin, we cannot be in relationship with God.
     People throughout the ages have theorized as how to reconcile themselves with God. Thanks to general revelation in creation and the conscience, people know that a God exists, and our lives need to reflect that. Earlier cultures believed in sacrifice—from Egypt to Rome, Babylon to Greece, there were sacrifices to God, (or the gods) in order to placate their god out of fear. Through the Classical Age, up to the end of the Roman Republic, people began to take a more analytical view of God—and then Christ descended to His creation. Christianity grew out of Judaism. Judaism started out in Ur, a city of the Chaldeans. Abram was called out of the city by God. God revealed Himself to Abram, promised him a land of prosperity and a lineage, even though he and his wife, Sarai, were past the age of childbearing. Their son, Isaac, had two sons, Esau and Jacob. God loved Jacob, and hated Esau. Jacob had twelve sons, and their posterity became the twelve tribes of Israel. These tribes went down to Egypt with the goodwill of Pharaoh, but years later, were made slaves there. God heard their cry and sent them a deliverer—Moses. God led them out of Egypt and to Mt. Sinai. There, He appeared in a whirlwind and spoke to Moses, initiating what is known today as the Old Covenant.
     The central theme of this Old Covenant is reconciliation, or atonement. “As he has done this day, so the Lord has commanded to do, to make atonement for you.” (Leviticus 8:34) This system revolved around the priests of the sons of Levi. These priests reconciled the people with God by offering sacrifices for the people’s sins, and their own sins, thus maintaining a safe relationship with God. However, this system was inadequate. The Torah, and the rules against sin, were harsh. “Fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; as he has caused disfigurement of a man, so shall it be done to him.” (Leviticus 24:20) The people, because of their disbelief and doubting, were barred entrance to the Promised Land—only their children were allowed in, proving the failure of the Covenant to effectively give the people the ability to interact with God. Even the epicenter of the relationship with God was imperfect, as the priests were flawed themselves, having to atone for themselves. The sacrifices every day reminded God of their sin. The sacrifices were insufficient. “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.” (Hebrews 10:4) Something new had to be introduced. They needed a sacrifice that was perfect, a leader that was perfect, and a Man who allowed people to truly know God.
Those needs all culminated in the New Covenant, God’s master plan for the universe. In 3 A.D., Jesus of Nazareth was born, perfectly God and perfectly man, sinless, and upright. He was perfect in wisdom, because He was God, but able to pay for sins because he was a perfect man. His life would substitute for the lives of His elect. His death would pay the inevitable price for sin, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.” (Hebrews 2:9)
     This is what the book of Hebrews is about, highlighting the differences between the two Covenants, and proving the superiority of the New Covenant. Jesus, brought Himself back to life, defeating death. Jesus was perfect, so he was better than the flawed Levitical priests who had to offer sacrifices for themselves: “if the anointed priest sins, bringing guilt on the people, then let him offer to the Lord for his sin which he has sinned a young bull without blemish as a sin offering.” (Leviticus 4:3) While Jesus did not have to offer anything for Himself, Jesus was one of us, as fully man and fully God. Jesus removed restrictive fear as well: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)
      Worship is superior in the New Covenant because not only do we have knowledge of God, but we know God, and proper fear-type wisdom is the proper use of knowledge. This is the New Covenant.
But the best thing about the entire plan, the laborious Old Covenant, the superior New Covenant, and the worship of the same God throughout, is that the Old Covenant is a shadow of the New Covenant. The Old prefigures the New. The Old was made to be unsatisfying. It was designed by God, and delivered to man to show that it was not sufficient, that there was something missing. And that missing piece was Christ. Imagine you are alone in an orchestra hall. A curtain lays over the stage. The lights are dead. There are no sounds. But slowly, the curtain starts to lift. The music starts. Around you, the audience changes. At the beginning, Adam and Eve are there, and later, Abraham, and Moses. Then the Israelites appear. Finally, the lights are fully on, the music is at full volume, and the church, saved by Christ, is there. All is revealed. For all of history, God was working. We just couldn’t see it fully, until now. And now—we see as much as our minds can take. And in Heaven, we will see everything, and we will be perfect in wisdom.

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