…but do not fear me

Lent course bible study tonight:

Malachi 3:5 (New International Version)

5 “So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud labourers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me,” says the LORD Almighty.

As we explored this text, many of us were drawn to the highlighted part above; and read it in contrast more ‘traditional’ admonitions such as “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 1:7)

I pointed out that the word most often translated in the Old Testament as fear is the Hebrew word here is  (transliterated as yirah)  which can possibly mean fear, but also means awe, reverence, respect and devotion. A closely related Hebrew word is (transliterated as yare) which can mean fearful, but also means to stand in awe, reverence or honour. Fear is perhaps a poor translation, and the sense of the phrase might be closer to “awareness” or “cognizence” of God – a deep and profound sense of God which marks the true beginning of the journey of wisdom.

And then one of the group suggested that the phrase referred not to God, and our fear of him, but the lack of fear, awareness, cognizence, reverence in the sorcerers, adulterers or purjurers, and the light went on! It was further challenged when we looked at other translations, but which used “and do not fear me” rather than “but do not fear me”. The meaning can be construed completely differently! This phrase is not a contrast to Proverbs 1:7, but in the proper translation of its twin. How silly of me.

I am not above admitting that I got it wrong. The reading of Scripture is a complex task, and one for which I am poorly equipped, but it further emphasises the need to be exposed to multiple translations, multiple versions and corporate reading of Scripture. Proper hermeneutics is based not on personal interpretation (a key tenent of Protestantism) but on a communal response to hearing the words of God, individual paths and those led solely by one individual (whether that is me or Dr Mounce or any other ‘expert’) is a flawed exercise as it is the work of the Holy Spirit in the body of Christ, the faithful, to be open to the Scriptures.

More collective study needed. More input from everyone. More bible, I think and together we can help each other on our journey of faith.