Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Psalm 2:11
When I was a young man, I hated this verse because I didn’t want to hear that I should fear God. I didn’t realize that fear should always be combined with joy and hope. I didn’t understand the difference between what we do and what Christ does for us. Everything we do is corrupt, just as all of creation is spoiled. So we shouldn’t become overconfident. We need to be afraid of God’s judgment. But what Christ does for us is holy and perfect, and we should cling to his mercy.
So we should fear God in a way that doesn’t entirely exclude joy. It should be a genuine joy – a joy that can’t be kept bottled up in our hearts. When we truly believe that we have been reconciled to God because of Christ, we will have a smile on our face, a twinkle in our eyes, and a song of praise on our lips. The Holy Spirit tells us to serve our heavenly King with inward and outward joy, combined with reverence. If we don’t, we’ll become overconfident. We’ll start acting like animals and sink into lustful human pleasures. If we make sure we don’t become overconfident, then God won’t be offended by our happiness. In fact, he’s offended by sadness and demands joy. That’s why people who were in mourning were not allowed to bring God sacrifices, and why the offerings in Malachi were unacceptable to God (Malachi2:13). We have to mix joy with fear and mix fear with hope.
This psalm warns us not to become either proud or despondent. Falling into despair is as offensive to God as being overconfident. God doesn’t want us to be down in the dumps or high up in the clouds. He wants us to be somewhere in the middle.
Barnas Sears, D.D.
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