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Devotions,  Psalms

Joy and the Fear of God

Fear of God seems to have gone out of fashion. It is a wonderful and comforting thing to view God as a loving and tender Father, but more than a little frightening to view him as grabbing an iron bar and smashing nations like so much defective pottery (Psalm 2:9).

The psalmist says we are to serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling.

How do fear and joy come together in our understanding of God? It is easy, when we are feeling good, to bubble on about the joy of the Lord. But where does the sense of fear come in?

Fear of God starts with understanding who God is. He is holy, altogether other. Not like us.

Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Psalm 2:11

We are so limited in our vision. We can only see God in terms of history and metaphor.

Yes, we have the Bible, and all of God’s dealings with his people that are so well-documented there. This is our best source for information about the nature of God, but even so, God leaves us guessing.

Is he the God of the split personality, all wrath and vengeance in the Old Testament and all love and mercy in the New? Hardly. Read the words of Jesus and you will find enough there to instill a healthy fear of God’s wrath. Read the tender words of the Law in Exodus 19:3-6 and you will see God’s heart of love toward his people.

After looking to the record of God’s dealings in history, we have the many metaphors of the Bible to help us understand the nature of God.

But even here we can end up more confused than when we started. Is God a meek lamb or a raging lion?

Well, he is both. If this is confusing, we just have to try to wrap our little brains around it.

God is bigger than our history, and more than what we can envision from the pictures painted by the parables and metaphors of the Bible.

When we think we have God all figured out, we’d better think again. He can’t be quantified, codified, or tamed.

So we have cause to fear, and cause to rejoice in all that God is.

This is how Spurgeon ties it all together in his book The Treasury of David: “Fear, without joy, is torment; and joy, without holy fear, would be presumption.”

We must avoid presumption above all. Rejoice and fear.

We fear because God is holy and powerful, and we know we have fallen short of his plan for us.

We rejoice because he has reached out to us through Jesus Christ, his Son, to show us his love and mercy.

“Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” -Psalm 2:12


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