The Heart United to Fear God
William Nicholson, 1862
"Unite my heart to fear Your name." Psalm 86:11
Nothing can render man truly happy, but the fear of God — or true religion. Whatever a man may enjoy of this world, even though it is the dignity and wealth of royalty itself — he can have no solid bliss without the fear of God. Thus David, the king of Israel, properly estimated the matter, when he uttered this prayer, "Unite my heart to fear Your name."
On the other hand, the fear of God is connected with every Christian enjoyment, privilege, and anticipation of eternal bliss. The rich and incalculable advantages of a holy life are sufficient to give fervent importunity in the adoption of this prayer, "Unite my heart to fear Your name."
I. It is the Duty and Privilege of a Christian to Fear God.
If "the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him," it must be no slight honor to serve God. God has been feared in every age, by all ranks and degrees of men, who have found it pleasant and advantageous. We might point to the patriarchs, the prophets, etc.
1. The object of Christian veneration. "Your name."
This term denotes GOD HIMSELF, his nature as revealed to us in all his glorious perfections. It is said, "May the name of the God of Jacob defend you!" that is, May God himself defend you!
By the names Jehovah and Jah — God conveys to us the knowledge of his absolute, eternal, and immutable essence.
By the names Lord and God — we are to understand his sovereign authority.
And by the names Father, Son, and Spirit — we are to understand his essential relations.
The name of God also includes his TITLES. The first person in the Trinity is styled the "God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."
The second, "King of kings," etc.
The third, the "Comforter, the Spirit of wisdom and revelation."
The name of God implies his PERFECTIONS. Eternity, immortality, and invisibility, are his attributes. Hence, he is called "the King eternal," etc. 1 Timothy 1:17. God is often named by his attributes of wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.
God's name sometimes means his WORSHIP and ORDINANCES. When God says he will "put his name in Jerusalem, and in the temple," it means his worship. When the priests "despised God's name," they despised his worship, and offered the blind, the lame, and the sick on the altar.
Sometimes it means his WORD and WILL, "I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world!" John 17:6. That is, I have revealed your will. When the Church of Pergamos is said to "hold fast the name of Christ," it denotes that it adhered to the word and truth of Christ.
His name also signifies his WORKS, Psalm 8:1, 2.
2. The nature of the duty, fearing the name of the Lord.
(1.) The fear of God is distinct from slavish fear, which characterizes the wicked, Romans 8:15.
(2.) The fear of God, is filial fear, induced by Divine Sonship. John 1:12.
By the ransom of Christ,
by the renovation of the Spirit,
by the adoption of grace —
the sinner becomes the child of God. He loves his Almighty Parent, and he fears to offend him. He fears God as a friend — and not as an enemy; as a Father — and not as a judge.
(3.) The fear of God, is reverence. There is something solemn in the attributes of Deity — they inspire the mind with awe. See Genesis 28:17; Jeremiah 10:6, 7; Daniel 4:34, 35.
(4.) The fear of God, is delight in his worship and ordinances.
(5.) The fear of God, is hatred to sin, as offensive to him — and the pursuit of holiness as pleasing in his sight.
(6.) The fear of God, is submission to his will. Our belief, practice, and experience are now regulated by his word. There is submission to all his providential allotments as wise, and intended for good.
II. This implies that the Heart of Man Is Naturally Indisposed to Fear God, and Requires Divine Power to Produce It."Unite my heart to fear Your name."
The heart is naturally disaffected towards God. It has no relish for his service, nor delight in his ways. "The carnal mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so!" Romans 8:7. All its powers are out of course.
The judgment is darkened,
the will is perverted, and
the affections, instead of cheerfully fixing upon God the chief and infinite good — oppose and rebel against him.
The heart of man, while carnal, is supremely attached to other objects and idols. It is divided, separated from God. Its affections are scattered and divided among a thousand different objects. "Ephraim," says the prophet, "is a silly dove, without heart." "Their heart is divided." Hosea 10:2. Divided between . . .
God — and mammon,
sin — and holiness,
the trifles and the vanities of this world — and the blessedness of the next.
The lives of sinners are full of inconsistencies, running into opposite extremes, and becoming everything by turns. They are . . .
halting in their opinions,
inconstant in their affections,
and unstable in their conduct.
Sin has . . .
disjointed the whole frame of the heart,
rendered it irresolute and unfixed,
emptied it of everything that is good,
and filled it with all manner of evil. Genesis 6:5; Matthew 15:9; Jeremiah 17:9.
Even believers constantly feel within them, an evil heart prone to depart from the living God; and therefore they pray, "Unite my heart to fear Your name."
This prayer implies:
1. Sensibility . . .
of natural disaffection to God,
of wandering from God,
of indecision about God,
of coldness to God,
of danger from God's justice.
A divided heart is a great curse — scattered affections are a miserable plague.
2. Dependence. The prayer is to God, who alone can unite the heart to fear him. He has promised to do it. Jeremiah 32:39; Ezekiel 11:19. Feeling themselves helpless, they apply unto him.
3. Detachment from other objects as unprofitable and ruinous. Detach my heart . . .
from the world,
from the creature,
from vanity, etc.
Destroy the spell and break the chains that bind me. Let the superlative glory of your service eclipse the service of sin. Render carnal objects hateful and distasteful to me. Let the glories of your eternal kingdom induce me to part with all the trifles of earth, etc. etc.
4. Renovation. "Create within me a clean heart, and renew a steadfast spirit within me!" Psalm 51:10. Fulfill your promise: "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances." Ezekiel 36:26-27. Renew me in the spirit of my mind; then I shall delight to fear you. Then I shall have a relish for your service. Then I shall delight in your law after the inward man.
5. Love. There can be no real and abiding union without love to God. Dispose my heart to love you as the chief among ten thousand, etc. Let your love to me, by Christ, be shed abroad in my heart. Cause me to love you, because you have first loved me. Let all the powers of my heart be collected by your hand, and be concentrated in you. May neither father, nor mother, nor brother, nor sister, nor houses and land, nor gold and silver — ever divert me from you. Operate on my heart until I can say, "Whom have I in Heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever!" Psalm 73:25-26
6. Sincerity. "Unite my heart." Let my heart fear you.
7. Lastly. Decision, fixity, permanence. Let me be unhesitating, decided, neither turning to the right hand nor to the left, but "steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord." Like Paul, may I feel, "None of these things move me," etc., and like David, "My heart is fixed. O God, my heart is fixed!"
1. The advantages resulting from the fear of the Lord are incalculable.
2. Let all Christians pray for the application of Divine power to the heart, for nothing but heart-work can be pleasant and acceptable to God.
3. How suitable is this prayer for the penitent! Let him go to the cross for mercy, and there invoke God to unite his heart to fear him.