I have a message from God in my heart
concerning the sinfulness of the wicked:
There is no fear of God before their eyes.
A Message from God?
As a pastor, nothing makes me more nervous than when someone says they have received a “message” from God! It makes me nervous because I am either skeptical (this probably isn’t really from God) OR frightened (what if I don’t like the message) OR hopeful (maybe this is something that changes everything). Just like Jake & Elwood Blues were persuaded and motivated to crazy things because they believed they were on a “mission from God,” I can’t help but wonder what’s going to happen next when someone begins with “God is telling me…”
David the worshipper begins Psalm 36 with those words, “I have a message from God in my heart.” At least that’s the way the NIV Bible translates it. The original Hebrew word ne-um can be translated “message” or “oracle” or “revelation,” but the important part of David’s intro deals with WHERE the message comes from and WHAT the message communicates. Most scholars believe that the message from God is something that has been revealed to David—something David has learned–through observation. But the meaning of the message may be even more significant and challenging than the medium. David’s conclusion—by observation and through the revelation of God—is that sinfulness comes from a lack of healthy fear.
Not only has David’s fear of the Lord taught him about the sinfulness of the wicked; but the sinfulness of the wicked had taught David about the fear of the Lord! What’s David’s “message from God?” What has David learned?
The Bible has a lot to say about the “fear of the Lord,” particularly in the Psalms and Proverbs. It teaches us that if we fear the Lord, God’s eyes are on us (Ps. 33:18); God protects us (Ps. 34:7); it will leads us to trust (Ps. 40:3); it is the “beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10; Prov. 9:10) and the “beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7); it is a source of blessing (Psalm 128:1); it adds length and health to our lives (Prov. 10:27; 14:27; 19:23); it will guard us against temptation (Prov. 16:6); and it will guard us against self-destruction and pride (Prov. 22:4).
Obviously, if we want to find real life in this world, it begins with having a healthy fear of the Almighty God.
But we almost always view fear as a negative thing—something to be avoided or conquered. Doesn’t scripture support that as well? After all, 1 John 4:18 says, “perfect love drives out fear,” and “the one who fears is not made perfect in love.” So, what does it mean to fear the Lord?
Martin Luther wrestled with this question. Ultimately, he concluded that our fear of God begins as a “servile fear,” where we are afraid of the punishment of our sinfulness; but that followers of Jesus eventually come to a place of “filial” fear—like a child—where we are afraid of displeasing or alienating the very One who is the source of our security and hope, our joy and our love. Luther’s idea is captured beautifully in Psalm 130:3-4. God is powerful to judge…but God is also mighty to save.
Lord, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive?
But you offer forgiveness, that we might learn to fear you.
After his shocking opening verse, David’s song in Psalm 36 proceeds to describe what he has learned from observing the wicked: they flatter themselves too much to notice their own sin (v. 2), they fail to act wisely or do good (v. 3), they plot evil and commit themselves to a sinful course (v. 4). But the bulk of David’s “revelation” is focused on the benefits of knowing and fearing God—God’s love & faithfulness (v. 5) God’s righteousness & justice (v. 6). He is our protection & provision (v. 8), He is the source of our life & light (v. 9). It isn’t simply God’s righteous judgment that produces holy fear in the hearts of His followers; it is also God’s unfathomable love.
In Luke 7:36-50 we read a story about a sinful woman at the feet of Jesus. She has a holy and healthy fear of the Lord. At the same table is a Pharisee—a good church guy—who Jesus calls out. Jesus tells them that her love and worship is a result of an understanding of her own forgiveness; and Jesus suggests that the Pharisee’s lack of love is the result of his self-righteous pride. He lacked a healthy fear of the Lord.
I HAVE A MESSAGE FROM GOD IN MY HEART TODAY…and so do YOU. That Message has a name…Jesus! He is forgiveness and freedom. He is love and life. But this Message we’ve been given isn’t one we have learned FROM the world…it’s One we have been given FOR the world! Jesus came representing both God’s judgment AND God’s forgiveness. His fearful judgment can avoided. His fearful forgiveness can be accepted & celebrated; and it is intended to be enjoyed and shared. His life is the only source of real life for you, for your family, for his church and for our world. Let’s fear him! Let’s love Him! And let’s always stay thirsty for Him!
Acts 9:31 – Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.