The Fountain of Life (2)
by Brian D. Dykstra, teacher at Hope PR Christian School in Walker, MI
“The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death” (Prov. 14:27).
We must not be casual in our relationship with God. We must fear God because He warned us that the way we live bears fruit. When Moses was about to die, he spoke to Israel before they entered Canaan. He instructed them that faithful obedience to God would result in one of them chasing a hundred of the enemy. Their flocks and fields would produce an abundance of food, and their wives would bear children. However, Moses also warned Israel that should they forsake God, the opposite would be true. One enemy would chase a hundred of them. Their fields and flocks would not produce much food, and their wives would not bear many children. Should they not repent, God would take the drastic step of removing them out of the pleasant promised land and sending them into captivity.
Yes, we should have a fear of the Lord based on awe for Him and a love for Him Who has done so much for us. Yet, we should not fail to have a type of fear for the Lord because He will chastise us for our sins, perhaps even severely. Because we are His precious sons and daughters, God will not allow us to live in sin.
The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, a source of spiritual life. Fearing God, obeying Him and fighting against our sinful nature shows we have spiritual life. The wicked do not fear or obey God. They do not fight temptation. God put His Spirit in us to make us, who were once dead in sin, alive in Christ. When we fear God, we know Him as our friend, just as when we live in sin for a time, we know God is not pleased with us and we have a guilty conscience. When we see the fear of God in our hearts, we know God is working in our hearts by His Spirit, and we have true life.
The fear of God helps us with the snares of death. A snare is a trap. People use traps to catch animals. Usually traps are used to kill animals. Satan sets snares, traps, for us. Satan wants us, not because he loves us, but because he deeply hates God and His people. Satan wants to do as much harm to the church as he can. A Christian knows the world is spiritually dangerous. We may not live as though this world is a place of fun and games. A deadly spiritual war rages about our souls every day. These are snares of death after all, not slight discomfort or nagging illness.
That brings us to the verses about Peter when he denied Christ. Satan set snares for Peter. Peter expected Christ would become king of a glorious earthly kingdom and lead Israel back the heights of power and wealth just as the days of David and Solomon. When Christ allowed Himself to be arrested, it was clear that this was not the way to begin a great earthly kingdom. Peter, who had just boasted that he was willing to die for Christ, and backed up his talk with the action of taking up a sword even though Christ’s followers were greatly outnumbered, heard Christ tell him to put his sword away. He must have felt humiliated that Christ rebuked his willingness to fight. Peter was so humiliated by Jesus allowing Himself to be taken, that he later lied and said he did not even know Christ. Satan snared Peter who then went out and wept bitterly.
It can be hard to recognize the dangers of the snares of death. Traps are not always put out in the open. Snares may be hidden, unseen. There are times when Satan is very open and brazen in his temptations. We are faced with the opportunity to do something which is obviously sinful. Yet, because sin appeals to our flesh, even these temptations can be hard to resist.
Sometimes Satan’s snares are subtle. Snares may appear to be harmless fun. Many people appear to do things, say things and live in a way that is sinful, yet we do not see anything bad happen to them. The world seems to be having a really good time. Their consciences do not even bother them. Then we think, “Why can’t we have a little fun too?” Why must we always hear, “Thou shalt not,” and have so few things which we can do? Our lives are so limited. If we give in to these temptations and are snared by the Devil, we are on the path of sin and death.
It is striking that God tells us here that the fear of the Lord is a fountain of life which causes us to depart from the snares of death. We do not have to depart from a place unless we are already there. We were in our homes this morning, so we had to depart in order to come to school and take up our work here. We are already in a world filled with snares, temptations. As we grow spiritually and understand God’s Word better, we learn just how many temptations we face every day. These snares are not distant. They are right around us all the time.
Mom asks us to help her around the house, but we want to play. Did we obey her cheerfully, in the fear of the Lord? Were we sinfully jealous of the brothers and sisters who did not have to help, so they could play? Did dad discipline us for something sinful we had done, but at the time we felt dad was being really unfair so we did not take correction thankfully in the fear of the Lord? Did we speak an unkind or careless word to a classmate because we felt we could make others laugh? Did we fail to love the neighbour as ourselves in the fear of the Lord? These are examples of the snares of death in which we already find ourselves. We must depart from them.
To recognize these snares and depart from them requires wisdom. Wisdom allows us to see the world for what it really is according to God’s Word. The world does not love God or His Word. The wicked are not striving to walk in fellowship with Christ or obey His commandments. The world is not our friend. Wisdom shows us we need God, not the things of this world. Wisdom shows us that a Christian life, though difficult, gives the happiness of knowing God as our Saviour and friend.
God promises to give wisdom to those who seek diligently for it. We have many opportunities to learn God’s wisdom. We attend church and hear good preaching. We have catechism and Sunday school. We have our own Christian schools. God has placed you children in covenant homes where your fathers and mothers care enough about you to instruct you in the fear of the Lord which is a fountain of life so we depart from the snares of death. Make the best of the opportunities you have, and drink deeply from the fountain of life.