Putting the Universe Right (Nehemiah 5)

Sermon Recap

Earth is a Goldilocks planet; if physical conditions were just a little different, it would be incapable of sustaining life. God has created the world with an order that is crucial to our physical survival. There is likewise a spiritual order that is equally essential. For us to participate in it, we must fear the Lord. We see that idea play out in Nehemiah 5 where we see that you will not pursue justice or live generously unless you fear God.

1. The Fear of God puts us in our place (and God in his)

The fear of God is simply the recognition that God is God and I am not. It says that I do not have the right to do what I want. I am a creature, dependent on an accountable to the God who made me. Because the rich nobles in Jerusalem do not take this into account, they are guilty of injustice (Neh. 5:1-5). (Which is why religious people especially need the fear of God; see Genesis 20:1-11.)

2. The Fear of God puts things right on earth

Nehemiah is angry at the injustice and the breaking of the law (Lev. 25:35-38). Nehemiah fears God and pursues justice in submission to his will (Neh. 5:6-13). As those who fear God, we should seek justice in our communities in obedience to his commands.

3. The Fear of God fuels generosity

Nehemiah lives generously toward those he serves, not claiming his rights, but feeding others at his own expense (Neh. 5:14-18). He does this because his fear of God produces hope that God will take care of him (Neh. 5:19). Fearing the God who gave himself for us in Christ will make us generous like him.

Reflection & Application Questions

  1. The fear of God is taking our rightful place in the order of God’s universe (and letting him be in his, at the center). Why is this such an important thing for us to flourish as his creatures?

  2. The Bible says we should fear God because he is the judge of all. Why is this such a difficult truth to believe for modern people like us?

  3. If you are a parent, how are you teaching your child the fear of God? Do you exercise right authority in your child’s life, in submission to God’s will? How can you grow in this? Why is this so important to their relationship with God?

  4. What are some ways that you have personally seen the danger of religious people failing to fear God?

  5. Why is fear of God so important to our efforts at pursuing justice on the earth?

  6. How is the fear of God related to childlike faith?

  7. Christ feared God and that led him to make the ultimate, generous sacrifice for us. How should fear of God lead you to live more generously?