I really think the summer is flying by just a little too quickly. My to-do list seems to be growing instead of shrinking, as the days are disappearing. I didn’t realize how much participating in SSMT would magnify the words of my verse 1.
Today we get to post the 12th verse in our memory list, so be sure to check out Adrienne’s post to the Siestas. I am still going through Psalm 103, so, big surprise, the next verse is:
For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. ~Psalm 103:11 (KJV)
When I was a kid, I pictured “fearing the Lord” as cowering like the cowardly lion before the “great and powerful Oz”. I thought the Bible was telling us to “be afraid, be very afraid.” And then I memorized verses like, “fear not, for I am with thee”. Talk about confusion for a little kid. Well, God used a lesson from my Dad to teach me about “fearing the Lord”.
I loved to swim. Growing up in a part of the country where sun and surf were king, suited me so well. If there was a body of water, and my parents gave me permission, I was in it. We would go to the lake and to the beach. I loved the water. I had not even an inkling that the water could be dangerous. I remember my Dad teaching me how to dive off the side of a pier from a squat and later from standing. Oh, I didn’t know how to swim like a competitive swimmer, my swimming was more utilitarian than that, but I loved challenging the limits of my breath, arms, and legs. I only got out of the water when I had to.
I must have freaked my parents out a few times because I remember my Dad saying I “had no fear” when it came to the water. I was in the second or third grade at the time. “You want me to be afraid of the water?” I asked. This seemed to contradict an earlier lesson in fear regarding a huge horse at a festival.
“Well, not afraid of it, that’s not good either,” he replied.
“I don’t understand.” I was treading water in the deep end of the pool at our apartment complex. Secretly seeing how long I could appear to hover there before my arms and legs gave out.
“Water can be very dangerous and you don’t respect that part of it.”
I’m sure I gave him a confused look. I had been taught to respect my parents and those in authority over me. I didn’t get how that applied to water. He shifted gears.
“Would you play with a rattle snake?” He continued.
“It would probably bite me and I might die.”
“But you don’t run screaming if you see a snake either.” He was right, I had been around a number of snakes, and just over a year later would even catch a pigmy rattler on the driveway of our home (using precaution of course). “You act appropriately around snakes because you have a ‘healthy fear’ of them. You respect them. You need to respect the water like you do snakes.”
I remember being really confused because I didn’t see how water could be dangerous if I knew how to swim. Over the years, I did have several close encounters with water, and by the grace of God, I survived them. Some were because of my recklessness and some were just fluke things that there was no way I could have prepared for. Years later as a teenager, when a large wave smashed me into the ocean floor and began dragging me out with the undertow, my Dad’s words flashed through my mind. We had been warned that the undertow was particularly bad, but I still got in the water. I clawed at the sand and held my breath for all I was worth. I remember praying that God would help me. The force pressing me into the sand lifted and I was able to surface. I got out of the water and sat on the shore for a good while watching the waves crash. Unfortunately for a 21 year old man staying a few doors down from us, the undertow claimed his life that day. My respect for water changed. I didn’t fear it, but I definitely approached it with more respect from then on.
When we are told to “fear God”, we are to have a proper view of who God is and what He is capable of. We aren’t called to cower out of fear, but to humble ourselves out of respect. God could easily force us to do His will. He could smite us all without speaking a word. We forget sometimes that He is the Creator of all things. He’s the one who quiets the storms or raises the flood waters. He’s even the one who allows waves to smash us into the sand for a lesson we so desperately need for our own good. But He’s also the living water… our salvation and our deliverer who washes away our sins. He wants us to choose to love and respect and obey Him. If we do, He promises mercy… and “so great” mercy at that.