Fear to awe to joy

Humanly speaking, understanding how fear of God can produce joy is bewildering. Yet, in Christ, that is precisely the result of our relationship with the Saviour. In a prophetic Psalm, David looks forward to Christ who would bridge the chasm between fear of God and joy in His Son. Serve the LORD with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling. Kiss his son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him (Psalm 2:11-12 NIV).

These two verses reveal the two sides of fearing God which operate together to produce our awe of Him. And it is our awe of Him that produces our joy, satisfaction, and hope.

Our fear of the Lord begins to grow as we see that the LORD is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King. At his wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure his indignation (Jeremiah 10:10). God is a righteous judge, a God who displays his wrath every day (Psalm 7:11). As we learn more of God’s holiness, we discover that our sin arouses His wrath. We, like Israel, do wicked things, provoking the LORD to anger (2 Kings 17:11). Compared to Yahweh’s ultimate holiness, mankind is found to be severely lacking. In mankind’s natural condition there is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands (God); there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away from God (Romans 3:10-12). Our sin is offensive; therefore, God declares the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). When God awakens us to this reality, we are rightfully terrified of Him because His justice demands hell, and we are powerless to do anything to rectify our situation.

From a negative stance, fear of the Lord begins to rise in our hearts as we acknowledge God’s greatness, His holiness, His wrath, His justice, and His absolute authority over us. This fear becomes the seed of awe. There is a dual awakening taking place within us; God’s majestic greatness and our sinfully helpless minuteness. This is the heart of what David meant when he said, serve the LORD with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling.

But that still leaves us short of awe that produces joy towards God. Again, David prophetically speaks to this. His strange saying, kiss his son, points us to God’s Messiah Son, Jesus Christ. Only Jesus can quench God’s indignation against our sin (1 John 4:10). Only Jesus can turn us from God’s destruction through granting us faith and repentance (Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 2:25). This is because only Jesus Christ has suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit (1 Peter 3:18). Only Jesus bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed (1 Peter 2:24). In Christ we are healed of the worst disease of all, the sickness of sin. And here is our joy of appreciation. We take refuge in Jesus Christ where there is forgiveness (Colossians 1:14), and we are so glad that God has made a hiding place for us in His Son.

Awe of God grows out of a healthy fear of taking Him for granted or misrepresenting Him. Awe is maximized when we realise the blessing of God’s grace, because it is so undeserved, yet given so freely in Jesus Christ.

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