In memory of Keith Schmaal: “Fear the Lord!” (Proverbs 3:5-7)

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. 

Heavenly Father, as we farewell today our brother in Christ Keith, comfort us with Your Word and strengthen us with Your Spirit. Amen.

What do you fear? There are many things we fear in this life. What do you fear? Poverty, unemployment, divorce, failing your family, failing your own expectations, sickness, loneliness, chaos and not being in control, loss of your loved ones, or may be something else? What do you fear?

There are many things to fear, but the ultimate enemy against which we stand no chance is death. There is nothing that we can do about it, and it will come after all of us.

As we live in this world, where so many things can go and do go wrong, where there is plenty of suffering, where we can and do get hurt, it is important to ask this question – what should we fear the most?

The Bible is actually very clear about this. And the answer may surprise many. It is none of the things we mentioned before. But we can read again and again who the Holy Spirit commands us to fear.

Fear the Lord! Fear the Lord your God! Jesus repeats this: “Do not fear those [things or people] who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Mat 10:28)

This is important to understand what is meant by these words ‘fear the Lord your God’. I wanted to reflect on them in Keith’s funeral, but I didn’t know what to preach on. Then the help was given to me.

Keith’s family told that for Keith his confirmation verse was very important. That was indeed as the psalmist wrote, a lamp to his feet, and a light to his path. It is these words from the book of Proverbs.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.

Fear the Lord … I can tell you what it means with an example from Keith’s life. That was a few years ago, when Keith wasn’t that well. We were about to celebrate our Lord’s Holy Meal together at his home.

You know how we as Christians begin our services, and our devotions. We do it by calling on the name of God the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. As I said these words, Keith, weak and exhausted as he was on that day, immediately got up and folded his hands in prayer.

I didn’t expect him to do it. He didn’t have to do it. But He did. This is what the Holy Spirit meant by fear the Lord your God. It is about knowing who we are – we are like grass – in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers (Ps 90:6).

And it is about knowing who the Holy God is, – God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”  (Exo 34:6-7)

This fear of God comes as part and parcel together with love of God and trust in God. Most of you would know this one: “You shall fear, love and trust in God above all things.”

This fear is about the deepest respect, awe and gratitude before the One to whom we owe everything in our lives. It is about knowing God as our Father, who created you, who richly and daily provides for you, who protects you from all danger, who guards and preserves you from evil. And all of this out of pure, fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit of worthiness in us.

It is about knowing God through Jesus, who has redeemed you, purchased you and delivered you from all sin, death and the power of devil, in order that you may be His own, and live under Him in everlasting blessedness.

It is about knowing God who comes to you and dwells with you and in you, as He calls you by the Gospel, enlightens you with His gifts, and keeps you in the true faith, God who daily and richly forgives you all your sins and at the last day will raise you up and will give you in Christ everlasting life.

Such fear of the Lord leads to trust. It leads to respect and reverence. It leads to love and obedience. It leads to gratitude and contentment. It leads to joy and peace, even to such peace that surpasses our understanding.

If you have this fear of the Lord, you don’t need to fear anything else in this world anymore. And it doesn’t mean that all sufferings and challenges will disappear overnight. You know that it is not how it works.

Instead, we have something much greater. We have the seal of the Holy Spirit on our hearts, God Himself dwelling in us and with us, and His presence is the guarantee of our life with Jesus in the age to come.

So, what shall we fear? [What could] separate us from the love of Christ? Poverty, failures, sickness, loneliness, chaos, loss of loved ones, or something else? No! Neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come […] nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart… fear the Lord your God! Keith held these verses dear to his heart and the Lord made straight his path as He had promised. Jesus called, and Keith followed. He followed the One who Himself is the way and the truth and the life.

And now he is with his Lord, in the house of the Father, where Jesus has prepared a place for him. And may our gracious and loving God grant to all of us to fear Him and trust in Him with all our hearts, so that when our time here is over, we may be there as well.

Amen.

One response to “In memory of Keith Schmaal: “Fear the Lord!” (Proverbs 3:5-7)

  1. Dear Guntars,

    Many thanks for posting this fine sermon in memory of Keith Schmaal.

    Our love to you and Jana.

    Greg

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