The fear of Yahweh is a fountain of life,
turning people away from the snares of death.
(Proverbs 14:27, Christian Standard Bible)
For those of us desirous to live a good life, we’ve known since the very beginning of this book that it begins with a healthy awe, reverence, and trembling before the God of the universe whose name is Yahweh (Proverbs 1:7). And here we are again reminded that this humble posture before the Holy One is a fountain overflowing with life.
The second line of this individual saying enforces the first. The reason that trembling respect before Yahweh brings life is because it shapes our living. It’s the beginning of wisdom, which is applied skill and competence. And that kind of behavior, a turn towards Yahweh, bringing newfound skills and competence, by design turns us away from those things that bring death. We sidestep the snares laid down by the evil one. We struggle. We fight. We advance against the one who wages war against our souls.
Which means we evade the immediate effects that sin bring (a kind of dying), and more importantly, fearing Yahweh means we don’t have to fear the ultimate consequence of sin, our physical death. And that kind of perspective transforms Satan’s greatest potential weapon against us—death, our end—into something that actually works to our advantage.
Here’s how N.D. Wilson says speaks of death by living:
Cliches are true. Time flies. You can’t take it with you. You don’t know what you got till it’s gone. Dust to Dust.
In the ground, we all have empty hands.
Enjoy life now. And now. And now. Before the nows are gone. See the gifts. Savor the food, knowing that you will have to swallow…..
Time flies. Time, the ever-expiring resource. Time, the thief. Time, the motivator. Time, the finish.
Imagine being your flawed self without time. Stop shielding your inadequacies from observation, take a full beat, and dedicate a few of your precious seconds to giving the worst of your sinful impulses a two-eyed, unblinking stare. (I don’t encourage people to do this often.) Think about your temper. Your resentfulness. Your lust. Your lies. Your selfishness. Your despair. Think about all the trouble you have on the inside. [The giving in to all the snares of death Solomon warns of. (Proverbs 14:27)] Think about the weight of that burden. I hope that it’s a burden you fight, not a burden that has already conquered you. I hope it is a war, an advance, a struggle.
There is no end to this race. There is no finish line. There is no final round to this brawl. There is no clock counting down. You must struggle with that temper always. Forever. You will be seven hundred years old, still a lusting lecher weeping with guilt. A thousand-year-old woman who can’t stop her poisonous tongue…..
Mortality is a consequence of sin. But it is also a gift. A mercy. A kindness. Death is grace.
A fallen and corrupt human race with no end? Dark burdens with no finish?
Because of death, we can run the good race. We can fight the good fight. Completion exists.
We made ourselves filthy and corrupt, and God “cursed” us with death like a mother cursing her mud-caked children with a scalding shower. His curse swallows up our own. Time marches us to Death, and together they strip our hands. But there is a Man there, beside the grave, collecting all our grime, stripping more than hands—stripping hearts (and minds and souls). He assembles a burden like no other. He ran His own race. And though He is the Son of God, He moved through time. For three decades He ran toward death. And when He reached it, He could say what all mortals needed said.
It is finished.
And he went, along with that burden, into a hole.
All of us die. Walk through the torn curtain and be scraped bone clean. Empty your hands and hearts. Die. Be made new.
Taste every one of time’s moments. Swallow. Taste the next. Drink the water. Drink the wine. It is not good left in the glass. Sweat and struggle. Run. Fight. Receive. Give. [Fear Yahweh. Live!] Be grateful even for death, for the ticking clock counting down on you.
Seventy years. Eighty if you’re strong. Less if you’re like the Messiah. Look to Him and receive more grace. Stagger on. You can do it. Only a decade more. Or two. Or four. But there is a finish line. There will be an end to the weight on your back and the ache in your skull. This place is no Tartarus, and our God is no Scrooge. He gives without ceasing. Even when we fell, when our first parents defied Him, the first thing He gave them was an end, mortality, a path to resurrection, and the promise of a Guide.
And then he clothed them.
(N.D. Wilson, Death by Living)
In the midst of this sin-stained, fallen, and groaning world you have given us the remarkable gift of making death a grace. Only you could pull off something like that. So help us, Father. Fill us with your Spirit. Infuse us with awe and wonder at who You are. Help us to taste and see that you are good, and to fight the good fight, to struggle, advance, and never give up. To thus taste and swallow down every one of time’s moments. To come to our death by living, clothed all the while in the righteousness of Christ.
Yes, and very amen, in Jesus’ name.
Pursuing the wise and good life with you,
Proverbs Thirty-One Day Reading Plan
August 14: Proverbs ch. 1
Aug. 15: ch. 2
Aug. 16: ch. 3
Aug. 17: ch. 4
Aug. 18: ch. 5
Aug. 19: Grace Day
Aug. 20: ch. 6
Aug. 21: ch. 7
Aug. 22: ch. 8
Aug. 23: ch. 9
Aug. 24: ch. 10
Aug. 25: ch. 11
Aug. 26: Grace Day
Aug. 27: ch. 12
Aug. 28: ch. 13
Aug. 29: ch. 14
Aug. 30: ch. 15
Aug. 31: ch. 16
Sept. 1: ch. 17
Sept. 2: Grace Day
Sept. 3: ch. 18
Sept. 4: ch. 19
Sept. 5: ch. 20
Sept. 6: ch. 21
Sept. 7: ch. 22
Sept. 8: ch. 23
Sept. 9: Grace Day
Sept. 10: ch. 24
Sept. 11: ch. 25
Sept. 12: ch. 26
Sept. 13: ch. 27
Sept. 14: ch. 28
Sept. 15: ch. 29
Sept. 16: Grace Day
Sept. 17: ch. 30
Sept. 18: ch. 31
Samuel Johnson was born on September 18, 1709, and was an English writer who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer.
How Can We Pursue A Long Repentance In The Same Direction?
This last Sunday, in Calvary’s morning gathering, we studied the book of Haggai together as part of God’s Whole Story. Together we heard God speak through his prophet to his people after the exile, challenging them to remain faithful and to rebuild the temple.
The book of Haggai is the second shortest book in the Old Testament. It has 4 oracles (think: sermons), 2 chapters, and about 1,100 words.
In the book of Jeremiah we read of God’s intention for Daniel and all of those with him who have been exiled from the land of promise.
We are in a sermon series called The Whole Story, so named because we started off with the assumption, and belief really, that the whole Bible is a unified story that leads to Jesus. Each and every book is a bit like a chapter that contributes to the overall story that God is telling.
We Are Calvary
To say that we live in times of rapid change may be the very height of understatement. Our culture, and its norms, is changing at an unprecedented rate, making it increasingly challenging for the church to remain relevant—and faithful—in proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God, in a way that will bring about the expansion of that kingdom.
This past Sunday we (finally) made it out of the weighty, dark, somber, and serious writings of the Prophets of the Exile, and stepped into the Return from Exile of the people of God. Our first look into this aspect of the redemptive drama comes via three courageous servants of Yahweh—Zerrubabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. There story is found in the book of Ezra-Nehemiah (although our English Bibles separate them, through the centuries the Jewish people have always treated them as one book; so we will too.)
Especially When You Don't Feel Like It
Sunday is just about my favorite day of the week (“just about”…because my day off each week, our family’s Sabbath Saturday, is a tie or really close second). I love getting up that morning, making my smoothie, sitting in my favorite chair in our fireplace room, and pulling my Bible onto my lap. I relish the time spent listening to my Father speak, and I delight in those moments spent talking with him about the morning’s ministry, the people in our gathering that I hope he will transform, as well as the eleven other pastors (and their congregations) on whom I pray his blessing every Sunday.