Fearing the Lord

Daily Scripture readings for July, set #25:

Leviticus, chapters 26-27
Psalm 47
Matthew 21:12-22
Acts 28:17-31

I think chapter 26 is my favorite chapter of Leviticus. Even this chapter is somewhat dull reading compared to Exodus (simply in terms of content), but Leviticus 26 does such a good job summarizing the Old Covenant that it’s standing out in my mind as a noteworthy and important text. Check out how many of the paragraphs start with the word “if.” The whole chapter is God’s list of how his people need to behave in the covenant he has made with them, but the whole thing hinges on IF they hold up their end of the deal. It’s interesting to compare a chapter like this with Jeremiah 31, especially with regard to the presence of “if” in the text.

Psalm 47 is short and sweet, celebrating God’s reign as King with many “shouts of praise.” This Psalm also employs a common biblical command to “fear” the Lord, which is a difficult thing for many to understand. Regarding this, I noticed a logical progression in verses 1-2 that’s worth pointing out: “Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy! For the Lord, the Most High, is to be feared, a great king over all the earth.” Notice that verse 2 starts with “for,” which means “because.” So, to paraphrase… “clap and shout with joy because the Lord is someone you should be afraid of.” Clearly, in this context, the idea of “fearing” the Lord does NOT equate with being afraid of him. The biblical concept of fearing God means much more than simply being frightened.

Matthew 21 finds Jesus returning to his chapter 17 statements about moving mountains if one has enough faith, following it up with this bold summary: “Whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith” (vs 22). This teaching is actually quite strange to me, because it comes as Jesus’ response to the disciples’ question about his withering of the fig tree. Is this verse really trying to teach us that we can destroy vegetation that bothers us if we have enough faith? I must admit, I do not understand this passage.

Acts 28 closes out the book, and the saga of Paul’s missionary journeys and trials and everything comes to a close without any real resolution. The text simply leaves us with Paul “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance” (vs 31). Nice work, Paul. It’s worth pointing out that this chapter also includes Paul quoting Isaiah 6 to the Jews in Rome. This, you may remember, is a text that Jesus also quoted in Matthew 13. The same exact reference being quoted by both Paul and Jesus makes me feel like Isaiah 6:9-10 contains a pretty important concept.

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