When you hear the phrase “fear the Lord”, what is the first idea or image that pops into your head? If you are like most people, you picture an angry, vindictive God who is just waiting to punish you for sin. Certainly we should fear the divine wrath of God. But is there more to the fear of the Lord? Today’s text is Joshua 4:24, “that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”
Joshua and all of Israel have just crossed over into the Promised Land. They crossed the Jordan River on dry ground. This was certainly meant to show the power of God. This was this particular generation’s defining moment, just like the previous generation’s moment was crossing the Red Sea on dry ground. I believe every generation has at least one defining moment, a moment in time in which everyone who is old enough to remember the event can recall where they were when it happened. For some, the date is December 7, 1941 (Pearl Harbor). For another generation, dates such as August 28, 1963 (MLK Jr.’s I Have a Dream Speech in Washington), November 22, 1963 (JFK assassination), or July 20, 1969 (Armstrong lands on the moon). For my generation the date is September 11, 2001 (terrorist attacks in NYC and Washington). For the current generation, certainly this coronavirus pandemic is going to be a defining moment that they will live through. It is one thing to be able to cross a river. It is another thing for that river to be supernaturally walled up so that the ground is dry for you to cross. But we also read in the text that during this time the Jordan River had overflowed its banks. Again, all of this is being done by God to reveal His power not only to Israel, but as our verse says, to all the peoples of the earth.
Israel was instructed to make a memorial once they crossed the Jordan River. One man from each the tribes of Israel was to pick up a stone from the Jordan River and carry it over to the other side. Once they crossed the Jordan River, the river went back to flowing normally, and Israel was now standing on the edge of the land that God had promised to give to them many, many years ago.
When we talk about the fear of the Lord, we aren’t simply talking about fear of divine punishment. The fear of the Lord, for Israel here and the child of God now is this, we don’t want to do anything or have anything in our life that would cause God to take His hand of blessing off of us. That is why the text says, “that you may fear the Lord your God forever” (bold-mine). The fear of the Lord was directed specifically to Israel here. Joshua is telling them to watch their life, and make sure that they are living rightly. This is one of the reasons why as a Christian, we must ask God to constantly search our heart, mind, and life and to reveal any sin that is in us. It is why we need to be diligent to spend time in the Word of God and prayer so that we will be better equipped when temptations come our way. It is also why we must be quick to confess our sin. We want to live to please God, and we don’t want there to be any reason that would cause God to take His hand of blessing off of us. Is there anything you need to talk to God about? Is there anything that God is trying to talk to you about? Don’t ignore the conviction you may be feeling. Instead, get alone with God and allow Him to speak through His Word, so that you can confess whatever is keeping God from blessing you. Then, each day ask God for His help to not give in to that temptation.
By His grace and for His glory,