“Don’t take me on.”

Do not put the Lord your God to the test. Deuteronomy 6:1

Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10


It was a moment for a parental victory dance – or at least a high five with my wife. Our son was in a particularly rebellious mode. He was ready to do something he knew was wrong and in direct opposition to what I had told him. I wish I could remember the specifics. But I do remember the specifics of what I said to him. “Don’t take me on,” I said. “You will not win.” Or perhaps it was more like, “You. Will. Not. Win.”

It was a moment that I had to draw the line. I had to prevail. Not for my own good, but for his. In that moment I was like God…almost. I was at least partly bluffing. God never bluffs. I had some power over my son. God has all power over all of life of all of us. I love my son. But my love is a pale reflection of God’s love for us.

God says not to put him to the test. That means – somehow – there is a limit beyond which we must not go. That means that there is a breaking point at which something happens. That something is not good. There will be an end. There will be an accounting. There will be judgment.

Saul was brought up short on his way to Damascus. God asks, “Why do you persecute me. It is hard to kick against the goads” (Acts 26:14). He also said he would show Saul how much he would suffer for the Jesus’ name (Acts 9:16). Far worse was the deception of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11). When they sought to deceive the believers and lied to the Holy Spirit, they were struck dead. Jesus warns the lame man he had healed to be careful lest something worse happen to him (John 5:14).

The fear of the Lord is a secondary motivation for obedience. It is not primary. The primary motivation for obeying God’s commands is our love for him – engendered by his love for us. But once in a while it is good for us to remember to “fear and love God” Thanks, Martin Luther, for those words which begin his explanations to each of the Ten Commandments.

A friend of mine, served as a missionary in  Papua New Guinea. The treasurer of his nascent congregation was discovered to have embezzled money from church funds. When he was confronted, a fellow church member said, “What were you doing? Don’t you fear God!”

Sadly, we’ve all winked at sin. We’ve all failed to fear and love God as we should. Thankfully Jesus never failed in that. Furthermore, he offers forgiveness and his righteousness to us by faith. Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more (Romans 5:20). But as Paul says, “Shall we sin more that grace may abound? By no means. We’ve died to sin. How can we live in it any longer?” (cf. Romans 6:1-4).

So we do pray, “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Amen.

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