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Teaching Children to Fear the Lord

May 9, 2013

The following is a great illustration from an old (1981) sermon by John Piper. Here are a few quotes…

Noël and the boys and I went out to Dick and Irene Tiegen’s place last week. They have a big dog as tall as Benjamin, which greeted us with barks and growls from where he was chained. But after we were there and in the house with the dog, he was friendly. Then we went outside again and Irene gave the warning: Don’t run from him. But as Karsten was heading out to the car, the dog came trotting up behind, and instead of slowing down and petting the dog, Karsten started to run, and immediately the dog barked and growled. What a lesson in the fear of God. Irene was Moses and she says to us Israelites, the Piper family, “Do not fear to draw near, but keep the fear of the dog (the fear of the Lord) before your eyes, lest you try to run away (lest you start to fall into sin).” God is a joy to be near and a terror to those who flee. The comparison breaks down, however: Irene put the dog in the basement, but nobody puts God in the basement.

If you are running from God because you are afraid of him, then you are not yet as afraid as you ought to be. In fact, your very flight is a mockery of God, presuming to think that you could outrun this German shepherd. If you really fear him and love your own life, stop running, turn around, and hug his neck for dear life, and he will lick your face. The fear of the Lord is fear of fleeing out of his fellowship into the way of sin. Therefore the fear of the Lord is full of peace and security and hope. It keeps us near to the merciful heart of God, our fortress, our refuge, our sanctuary, our shield, our sun. Isaiah 8:13says, “The Lord of Hosts, . . . let him be your fear, and let him be your dread, and he will become a sanctuary.” A proper fear of the Lord keeps us under the shadow of his wings where we need not be afraid.

Suppose when the dog started to growl at Karsten, he stopped running, stepped toward the dog, and put his arm around his neck, and then went slowly on toward the car. And suppose I called out, “Way to go, Karsten. Beautiful. That’s just the way to do it. I love it!” What would be the effect on Karsten? It would strengthen his hand and heart to keep on going and not give up. So it is with those who fear the Lord and hope in him. There are always temptations to allure us away from the fear of God: temptations to fear financial insecurity more than we fear God (cf. Proverbs 23:17), to fear rejection by our peers more than we fear God, to fear the loss of time spent in good deeds more than we fear God. We are tempted again and again to let go of our Great German Shepherd and run after some silly poodle. Again and again we must have our hand strengthened in God. We need to hear a saintly person say, “Well done. I love the way you fear the Lord.”

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