Monday, July 16, 2018

A Fortress and a Fountain

Proverbs gives us a double dose of wisdom on beating sin

I hate sin. I hate what it does in lives. I hate what it can do to me when I give in to temptation. I hate its continuing effects. Its onslaught can be so difficult to bear. I hate sin.

But there is a part of me (my understanding of the Bible tells me it is what I should call "my flesh") that loves sin. I can crave its offers and temptations. I can feel drawn to its allure. And that voice that tells me "just this once" is so powerful. It pains me to say that part of me loves (or at least strongly desires) sin.

I don't think I'm telling you anything that should be shocking because I have found that the people I talk to in honesty admit to a similar dilemma. We don't want to love it at all, and we want to fight it better. How can we do that?

You may have favorite verses you go to or stories in Scripture that help you explain the battle against sin, and there are many good ones, from taking up the armor of God to fleeing youthful lusts, to saying "no" to ungodliness and worldly lusts (Bonus points if you can find all of these phrases in Scripture, and triple bonus if these passages are marked in your Bible!).

I love all of those and more. But in my devotions this week, I was directed to two verses that present a twofold emphasis that I found very helpful and encouraging. It was, of all places, in Proverbs.
Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress,
    and for their children it will be a refuge.
 The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,
    turning a person from the snares of death.
Proverbs 14:26-27

These two verses both talk about the fear of the Lord, which chapter 1 tells us is the beginning of wisdom. This is not just being afraid of God, although it is a healthy awe and respect of his nature. It is the feeling that God is so great and good that I would not want to ever disappoint or disobey him. When I am so concerned about God's approval that nothing else matters, I am walking in the fear of the Lord. Of course, that approval comes when God declares us not guilty (justification) because we have placed our trust in the death of Jesus in our place. We come to know God truly, and come to "fear" him in the positive, influential way we can "fear" the best of loving parents. And when that is the case, these two verses tell me it can help me in my struggle against evil.

First, they tell me that this kind of reverent awe and honor of God above all will provide "a secure fortress." This speaks of protection, in the same way the psalmist speaks of the name of the Lord being "a strong tower" in which the righteous find safety. It can give such security that those closest to us can be encouraged to find that same security--that is the significance of the reference to our children--they can learn of it and find refuge from the dangers and attacks that would come toward those who fear God. There are spiritual forces of wickedness (see Ephesians 6) that are at work against us, but a right understanding and trust in God bring protection from attack.

Second, the fear of the Lord is described as a fountain of life that turns us from death traps. A fountain isn't just a source of life, but a beautiful source of life. I've seen fountains that are mesmerizing in their beauty--not just water flowing, but jumping and shooting and spraying in remarkable patterns--geysers, if you will. This fountain--which offers life--is of such beauty that we are pulled away from the snares (a trap set that is usually disguised) that would lead to our downfall and toward life instead. Sin can be like that--looking so good it draws us toward it. But then it catches us and we are trapped! But the fountain is so much more attractive that it draws us away from such traps.

What a picture we have here. Having the proper fear of the Lord is a fortress and a fountain. It protects us from attack, and it draws away from those disguised traps that would otherwise attract. We find protection and provision.

God wants us to fear him so that we might enter his fortress of security and be drawn to his fountain of life. When evil comes after us, knowing and fearing God can be our defense. And when temptation is beautiful, the greater beauty of the fountain of life will show the shallow attractions of evil for what they are.

Are you under sin's attack? Run to the God who is your fortress. Are you being drawn away by sin's charms? Turn your heart's eye to gaze upon the beauty of the life of God, flowing like a fountain and ready to refresh that longing you think sin will satisfy.