PURSUING THE ETERNAL WORD
The Bible teaching ministry of John Lifflander

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THE HIDDEN TREASURE OF THE LORD

"…the fear of the Lord is His treasure." Isaiah 33:6

Those who have raised children or have had to discipline them know that often they obey due to fear of punishment. We also know this about ourselves – how many of us are more careful about our driving speed when we see a police car on the side of the road? Surely this is not a complicated human trait; however modern psychology has attempted to nullify it and obfuscate it. Satan is working constantly to corrupt the God-given common sense that man has been endowed with. Moreover, he has been successful to a great extent in confusing this issue in the church. Many now feel that when the word fear is used in conjunction with God, it means only respect. Indeed it does mean respect, but it also means much more. Many also believe that to literally fear God is wrong, because God loves us. Nevertheless, do children stop loving their parents because they fear they may be punished by them? Or do parents stop loving their children just because they have to discipline them? Does not a happy, balanced home include fear of punishment for disobedience and wrongdoing?

Finding the True Treasure

Our tendency, especially in a hyper-materialistic society, is to rely on money for stability in our lives. It is very tempting to think and live this way, but the Word of God says that our stability should be based on something else. He tells us the following:

"Wisdom and knowledge will be the stability of your times, and the strength of salvation; the fear of the Lord is His treasure." Isaiah 33:6 (NKJV)

Stability, God tells us, will be found in wisdom and knowledge, and then He mentions the fear of the Lord as His treasure. But what is the relationship between the fear of God and knowledge and wisdom? We find out as we read the following Scriptures:

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction." Proverbs 1:7 (NKJV)

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." Proverbs 9:10 (NKJV)

Understanding God, and getting knowledge and wisdom from Him, all begin with fearing Him. We can study, pray, do wonderful things for others, and even serve as a deacon in church, but if we lack a proper fear of God, we will not unlock the treasure chest filled with His jewels of wisdom and knowledge. God wants us to fear no man, (Psalm 27:1) but the fear of God should be sought after, prayed for, considered, and embraced. It should be preached and taught and valued highly, even as we would value a treasure chest of gold, diamonds, and rubies. It should be understood as the key to unlocking the wisdom and knowledge that only comes from God’s divine hand. It should be desired for the enrichment of our souls and the stability of our spiritual lives.

The Only Phobia a Christian Should Have

What then does God mean when He uses the word "fear"? Some say it only means reverence. However, that simply is not true, for the meanings are revealed in the actual definitions for the words used in the original languages. The word used in Greek for "fear" in relation to the following Scriptures is phobos, which is similar to the English word, "phobia," and it is defined as follows, with the first definitions having more weight than the latter:

1) fear, dread, terror

1a) that which strikes terror

2) reverence for one's husband

This word is used in the following Scriptures:

"Therefore, my beloved…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling…" Philippians 2:12 (NKJV)

"And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear…" 1 Peter 1:17 (NKJV)

"Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." 2 Corinthians 7:1 (NKJV

Finally, we find in the following Scripture the juxtaposition of the words fear and reverence. In this sentence the Greek word used for reverence is aidos, and the word for fear is eulabeia, which also means caution. It would be redundant to use two words that mean reverence in the same sentence, so the Holy Spirit is differentiating the two for us in this passage:

"Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear." Hebrews 12:28

In other words, these two words could not mean the same thing or they would not be used together in the same sentence – one of them must mean "fear" in the literal sense. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word "yirah" is often used conjunction with fearing God, and it means: 1. fear, terror, 2. awesome and terrifying thing, (object causing fear) and 3. Fear (of God), respect, reverence.

The "Fool" Has No Fear

"To do evil is like sport to a fool, but a man of understanding has wisdom." Proverbs 10:23 (NKJV)

The word "fool" of the Bible does not have the same meaning as what the word evokes today. Biblical fools typically are not clowns walking around in a goofy manner, but are rather immoral people who do not fear God. There are several words used for fool in the Bible, but one Hebrew word is eviyl, which is pronounced "ev-eel," which gives us a hint of what English word it is associated with. The Hebrew word means to be perverse, to despise wisdom, to mock when found guilty, and to be quarrelsome. Fools may be very intelligent and educated, and may even be of high rank, but it is their moral character which is lacking. The fool of the Bible does not understand divine justice and thinks that he or she will "get away" with cheating, lying, stealing, adultery, etc. This is why we read in Psalm 14:1(a) "The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’"

One reason why men and women are fools is because of the way that God dispenses justice. The poet Coleridge said, in paraphase: "The wheels of justice grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine." Likewise, the Bible tell us:

"Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil." Ecclesiastes 8:11 (KJV)

If a lightning bolt were to fall from heaven and burn us every time we sinned, we would be apt to amend our behavior. However, that type of obedience is based on a reactive fear which is so specific it essentially prevents the exercise of man’s free will. Conversely, God is seeking those who serve Him not only because they fear Him, but also because they love Him. Moreover, it takes faith to believe in and understand divine justice, simply because it is not always apparent or immediate.

"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." 2 Peter 3:9 (NKJV)

Many Fools in the Church

"You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law?" Romans 2:21-23 (NKJV)

An interesting paradox has occurred in the church in the West. Many who proclaim they are born-again Christians are exhibiting the same spiritual blindness that the unbelieving fools exhibit. This is a perplexing spiritual phenomenon, because it means that in some believers’ minds a strange dichotomy must exist. They must be able to go to church and also continue in a life of grievous sin. Unfortunately, the preaching in many churches is aiding and abetting this unusual bifurcation of behavior. For we find that the preaching of the basics of Christian behavior are missing from many pulpits today. The church, not wanting to offend, is becoming an offense to God because it is not preaching against sin as it should. Consequently, adultery, fornication, homosexuality, pornography, child molestation, abortion, greed, covetousness, and the use of drugs and alcohol are rampant in the church, and things are getting worse and not better. Many believers watch all types of filth on television, and hardly blush. They are used to nudity and profanity, but then wonder why their spiritual life is so dry. The church lacks the witness it might have, because it does not look holy to the world. Money is mentioned much more often than holiness, and seems to be more important as well.

Greed drives many in America, but where is the preaching against it today? Is not financial success exalted in the many churches today, where often there is the greatest influence from members who have the greatest finances? Is it not true that many families with two incomes are sacrificing their children to the god of materialism by sending them off to daycare while the mother works at a full time job?

Moreover, at the highest echelons of business we see indictments against Christians who have brought shame upon themselves and Christ because of their dishonest dealings. Many more are working in professions that use con artistry and other deceptions to sell products and make money. Somehow believers are hardening their hearts against the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the quest for financial blessings. And even those who seek wealth honestly, often spend more time than is proper in their pursuit, for we read:

"Do not overwork to be rich; Because of your own understanding, cease! Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; They fly away like an eagle toward heaven." Proverbs 23:4-5 (NKJV)

"But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition." 1Timothy 6:9 (NKJV)

Many Christians have also become opportunists like the world. Many years ago, people in the United States would not take charity, and wanted nothing from the government. However, now many spend ways trying to figure out how they can get something from the public largess. God tell us He wants honest weights and scales, and this includes working for what we get. The spirit of wanting "something for nothing" has invaded the church, and rather than being rejected, it is becoming acceptable.

Christians need to understand that if they endeavor to get riches in a devious or dishonest way, or in a way that sacrifices their spiritual lives, or the spiritual lives of those around them, those riches will ultimately only cause sorrow. However, when God bestows them, there is no misery:

"The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it." Proverbs 10:22 (NKJV)

The Only Solution – Break Out the Treasure!

The same type of blindness and sin was prevalent in Isaiah’s time. He speaks of people who essentially seem faithful and go to church, and yet are involved in serious sin.

"Cry aloud, spare not;
Lift up your voice like a trumpet;
Tell My people their transgression,
And the house of Jacob their sins.
Yet they seek Me daily,
And delight to know My ways,
As a nation that did righteousness,
And did not forsake the ordinance of their God.
They ask of Me the ordinances of justice;
They take delight in approaching God."
Isaiah 58:1-2 (NKJV)

In other words, these people looked like strong believers. They had it in their hearts to seek God daily – meaning they probably had a somewhat disciplined prayer life. They even delighted to know God’s ways – they asked Him for the ordinances of justice. But somehow, in some perverted way, they still overtly disobeyed Him! They looked just like people who were holy, but they were unholy. They went to church and said "praise the Lord" and "God is good," and then continued in a secret life that was an abomination to God. They reveled in being close to God, and seemed to really want to follow Him, but were instead filled with vile sins and would not sacrifice their indulgences to truly obey Him.

Isaiah is told to "Cry aloud and spare not," but what exactly does this mean?

It means that preachers and teachers and others are to speak the truth without sparing those close to them that are in sin. In one church a couple who were regulars in the congregation were living together outside of marriage, but the pastor would say nothing because his congregation was small and he did not want to lose them. What sheer blindness! What a sad picture of so many churches today. What a pathetic picture of a minister who cares more for his own job than for his sheep. Who would want to be in that man’s shoes when he appears before Jesus Christ for an accounting of how he led his flock?

However, this type of ministerial behavior is not limited to small churches. Many pastors and teachers are avoiding preaching and teaching against sins because of the price that must be paid for such words. The problem with many in today’s comfortable church is that they do not want to pay the price for holiness. Living the Christian life in the correct manner will always involve a sacrifice – there is no way around it. That sacrifice may not include the type of persecution one receives in foreign countries where the Gospel is illegal, but it might involve antagonism from other believers who do not wish to live the life God is calling Christians to.

Jeremiah Questioned by Hypocrites

Jeremiah saw the same blindness in the remnant of Israel who were left after the Babylonians came and took most of the Jews away. The remnant secretly wanted to go to Egypt, but they sought out Jeremiah and asked him what God wanted them to do. We read:

"So they said to Jeremiah, ‘Let the Lord be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not do according to everything which the Lord your God sends us by you. Whether it is pleasing or displeasing, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God to whom we send you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the Lord our God.’" Jeremiah 42:5-6 (NKJV)

Does this not sound like a sincere statement? Why would these people say such a thing if it were not true? Especially since these Jews were spared the Babylonian captivity, and were given all the land with the vineyards, houses, farms, and animals that were left when most of the people were taken away? The reason is essentially because they did not fear God. He promised to protect them in Judah, but they were more afraid of the Babylonians. Moreover, they desired the things of Egypt, and Egypt often represents the world and sin in the Bible. This is how Jeremiah answered them:

"‘Then hear now the word of the Lord, O remnant of Judah! Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: "If you wholly set your faces to enter Egypt, and go to dwell there, then it shall be that the sword which you feared shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt; the famine of which you were afraid shall follow close after you there in Egypt; and there you shall die. So shall it be with all the men who set their faces to go to Egypt to dwell there. They shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence. And none of them shall remain or escape from the disaster that I will bring upon them."’" Jeremiah 42:15-17 (NKJV)

And they answered back:

"…You speak falsely! The Lord our God has not sent you to say, ‘Do not go to Egypt to dwell there.’ But Baruch the son of Neriah has set you against us, to deliver us into the hand of the Chaldeans, that they may put us to death or carry us away captive to Babylon." Jeremiah 43:2-3 (NKJV) (partial)

Deep in their hearts, these people wanted their sinful lifestyle, but they also wanted to appear to be "right with God." They knew that Jeremiah was a prophet – he was well known and had predicted everything that had happened to Judah against all the false prophets who had said the Babylonians would not attack. They knew he did not speak falsely, but they wanted to "have their cake and eat it to." They wanted to say they were doing God’s will even as they were disobeying Him. Their pledge to obey God, regardless of the difficulties, was undermined by a lack of faith in His promise to judge them if they disobeyed – in other words, they lacked the fear of God. And so it is today.

The Emperor’s Clothes in Church?

Immodest dress is one example of hypocrisy today. Who are we trying to kid when women and girls come to church dressed like the latest rock stars, with bellies exposed, skintight clothing, miniskirts, etc.? Do we close our eyes and pray that God will bless the service when we allow immodesty in His holy temple? Have we forgotten the following Scripture?

"In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing." 1 Timothy 2:9 (NKJV)

Shall the church be an accessory in promoting lust and adultery? Will we train our young women to groom themselves to elicit lust through tight and revealing clothing, rather than be admired because of their modesty and chastity? We read in Matthew:

"But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:28 (NKJV)

When were these things preached last in your church? Have they been ignored because someone might be offended? If the fear of God does not prevail over the fear of men (or women) then the church is destined to failure. Where is the backbone of the church? Does it not rest in the preachers and prophets and teachers that God has ordained? If these fail, who will preach the truth?

Unfortunately, King Saul is the example many pastors follow today, for when he was pressured this was his excuse to disobey God:

"Then Saul said to Samuel, ‘I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.’" 1 Samuel 15:24 (NKJV)

Nevertheless, the immodest clothing is only symptomatic of the deep blindness to sin that occurs when we stop believing all the promises of God’s judgment. It is representative of body of believers that have compromised with sensual sin, and have even taught it to an upcoming younger generation as acceptable to God. It reveals the twisted thought life that deranges the spiritual purity of believers when they imbibe worldly and lustful movies and television shows because they are addicted to the world’s entertainment. It speaks to us of a church that is soft on sin, and shepherds who are becoming hirelings because they have become too weak to call out sin in the congregation.

Moreover, it tells us that our view of the holiness of God has been diminished if we are ignoring the deep truths of His Word. And it reveals that many of us are mocking His grace with our actions, even if our words, like the Israelites of Isaiah’s time, sound otherwise. Let us not forget God’s promises include not only wonderful blessings for those who obey Him, but also judgment for those who disobey - Peter tells us that judgment begins in the house of God (1 Peter 4:17). Deuteronomy 28 outlines the dreadful curses that will come upon the disobedient, and they are summed up in verse 15:

"But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you:" Deuteronomy 28:15 (NKJV)

Samuel also warned Israel what would happen if they did not obey God:

"However, if you do not obey the voice of the Lord, but rebel against the commandment of the Lord, then the hand of the Lord will be against you, as it was against your fathers." 1 Samuel 12:15 (NKJV)

Not Too Late to Change

Nevertheless, for those who wish to change their ways, there is the promise of grace, as there was for the Jews in Malachi’s time:

"Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard them; and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who meditate on His name. ‘They shall be Mine,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘On the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.’" Malachi 3:16-17 (NKJV)

When we fear and obey God, not only do we unlock the hidden treasure He promises, but we also become that treasure:

"Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine." Exodus 19:5 (NKJV)

Written by John Lifflander
August 22, 2004
Copyright 2004