The Fear of God
Psalm 33:6–15, 18–22
Fear can be either helpful or harmful. One of my helpful fears is my fear of heights. If I become injured from a fall, it will be a short fall. On the other hand, people may experience irrational fears. Every Christmas I watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Charlie Brown confesses he is afraid of everything — pantaphobia.
Proper fear can be positive. The Bible emphasizes a positive foundational fear — the fear of God. From a position of humble submission before Him, we fear Him and trust Him to take care of us. What does it mean to fear God?
We fear God when we stand in awe of Him as Creator. (6–9)
Psalm 33:6 sets forth a powerful truth. God spoke and the heavens and the stars came to be. Nothing exists apart from God’s powerful, creative word. Yet, if we back up to verse 5, we discover the truth that the powerful God of creation loves righteousness and justice.
His physical creation (earth) reveals the Lord’s unfailing love. The psalmist celebrates more than the mere fact of creation, he celebrates the character of the One who created.
We fear God when we willingly surrender to His plans as Lord. (10–15)
Not only is God the Creator, but God purposefully guides history. This focuses on nations or people groups.
This psalm reminds us God can frustrate and thwart the plans of peoples or nations. Reflect upon the moments in history God has frustrated nations and the plans of people.
“Happy is the nation whose God is the Lord — the people He has chosen to be His own possession.” The beatitude of verse 12 originally referred to the Hebrew people, but God blesses nations and people groups who worship Him.
Notice the descriptions of God’s activity — He looks down, He observes, He gazes, He forms and He considers. Respectful fear or submission is the proper response to an all-wise God.
We fear God when we depend on Him as our Shield and Provider. (18–22)
Psalm 33:16–17 describes the folly of false worldly trust in what cannot save. A large army will not save a king.
Great strength will not rescue a warrior. The horse is a false hope for safety and escape.
On whom can believers depend? Psalm 33:18 claims believers can depend on God’s faithful love because God keeps His eyes upon those who fear Him. Notice the terms used to describe the proper response of believers to God in this passage. Look! Depend! Wait! Rejoice! Trust! Hope!
What is our foundation for faithful trust? Our foundation for faithful trust is the character and nature of God. We are commanded to look because God keeps His eye on us. Look up to our God. Look at the past blessings of God.
We wait because He is our Help and Shield. We rejoice because He is trustworthy. We put our hope in Him because of His faithful love that rests on us. In the Bible, hope is not a mere wish. Rather, hope is confident expectation.
The faithful love of God is our hope. Indeed, the psalm closes with a reminder that God’s faithful love rests on us. Therefore, He is worthy of our hope.
By Mark Rathel
Professor at the Baptist College of Florida in Graceville, Florida