I tried to post this blog on Wednesday, but for some reason the “add post” page on WordPress just wouldn’t load! So, without further ado, here’s the post.
128 How blessed is everyone who fears the Lord,
Who walks in His ways.
2 When you shall eat of the fruit of your hands,
You will be happy and it will be well with you.
3 Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
[b]Within your house,
Your children like olive plants
Around your table.
4 Behold, for thus shall the man be blessed
Who fears the Lord.
5 The Lord bless you from Zion,
And may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.
6 Indeed, may you see your children’s children.
Peace be upon Israel!
You have heard the expression, I’m sure, that someone was a good, God-fearing person. We hold that as a virtue, believing God-fearing to be a healthy attitude, and it is indeed a scriptural stance; we find commands throughout the Bible to fear God, even in the New Testament. I thought the New Testament was supposed be more…pleasant than that! Well, it is, but we also do a terrible job of understanding what is meant by the “fearing the Lord.” Let’s take a moment and explore the idea of fear in this context. We’ll start by looking at what it isn’t, exploring the overwhelmingly negative ideas which we associate with fear, and then move into what fear of God is.
When we think of fear, we think of pain. Injury. Assorted traumas and hardships. But more than anything, we think of possibility: maybe there’s something lurking in the darkness of my closet, maybe there’s a criminal hiding in the alley, maybe that bee is going to sting me and cause me pain. If we approach God like this, it would understandably cause us trouble! The thing is, God isn’t something lurking in the darkness or down an alley, nor is He a creature waiting to hurt us. God is personal and active, unlike the monster in the closet, and He’s good, unlike the criminal. If we thought of God in this way, why would we ever approach Him at all? What faith is there in a violent offender or a closet monster? Certainly, there is none. But we know from the scriptures that God is not like this, that God promises us redemption, salvation, and resurrection.
No, we aren’t called to fear God like a monster. The “fear” we are called to is more of a respect and honor, the sort that you’d hold for a fire or a weapon (or in a more traditional sense, a king, though we have a hard time understanding the scope of this in our contemporary society). These things aren’t inherently damaging. Surely we’d live in a very different world if we never learned to use fire! Honestly, the example of a king is the most accurate, as God has self-control that is independent of us, unlike the fire or weapon, but we need to look at history a little bit to understand the role of a King in ancient middle-eastern society.
Back then, kings were at the absolute top of the social food-chain. As a result, people would come to the king to make requests, whether material, social, political, or something else entirely, and the king would take them on as their patron, fulfilling their needs as they themselves were unable. At the same time, however, the king held power which was unbelievable: he not only provided for his beneficiaries, but also governed the armies and other forces of the kingdom. This is how we are to “fear” God, not as a dangerous force, but as a powerful one! One who has promised to take us on as His beneficiaries rather than His enemies and to provide, as the Psalm says.
And with such a patron, what do we have to fear?