Why Live in the Fear of the Lord?

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Since Jesus took all of our punishment at the cross and removed the fountain of fear, why would we still need to live in the fear of the Lord? It is clear throughout the scriptures that this is still the relationship God desires with us.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him. (Psalm 103:11)

How wonderful to see the new covenant in the Old Testament! Our God of mercy and grace is clearly seen in all of His Word. God’s faithful, unchanging love for His children is consistently revealed in the Old Testament writings. Everything changes in our life. Relationships change, finances change, circumstances change, health changes. Three things never change: our great God who is the same yesterday, today and forever, the eternal words He speaks, and His steadfast love for His children who fear Him!

[A]s far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12)

I will never forget when I was teaching from this text and an elderly gentleman raised his hand and asked, “Do you know why God said He has removed our transgressions from us as far as the east is from the west, instead of as far as the north is from the south?” I looked down again at the text and said, “No, I don’t.”

He then taught us all with his answer. “If God had told us ‘as far as the north is from the south, so far has he removed our transgressions from us,’ we all would have a picture in our minds of how far away God has removed our sins. There are limits to north and south. When you go north, you finally hit the North Pole. If you go any further, you are going south. But there are no limits to east and west. There is no way any of us can picture how far God has removed our sins from us. It is an immeasurable degree!” And we all worshiped God.

This promise of complete forgiveness was fulfilled, of course, in David’s greater Son, the Lord Jesus. David points us to the Cross of Calvary, the place where God removed our transgressions from us. Because of Jesus’ death on our behalf, God loves us as His dear children.

As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103:13-14)

In these verses David talks about the fear of the Lord in a very different way than the Apostle John does in 1 John 4. John describes a person trembling, withdrawing, and afraid of punishment. David describes an awesome reverence for God that draws us to Him, rather than a fear that drives us away.

God’s compassion is seen—not only in removing our transgressions, but in remembering we are dust. A father does not expect his child to function like a mature man or woman. A father’s compassion is seen in understanding the limitations of his children. God knows we are made of dust, and He does not expect us to be anything but dust. This is the depth of His compassion and also the way He displays His glory through us.

Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:4-6)

The new covenant is not only the source of our intimacy with God as our Father, it is also key to a relationship of great strength. Even though we are dust, inadequate in ourselves, God makes us sufficient through the resources of Christ for all He calls us to be and do. His glory is seen as God displays His power in the midst of our weakness.

[F]or the wind passes over it [a flower of the field] and it is gone, and its place knows it no more. But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments. (Psalm 103:16-18)

The steadfast love of the Lord—from eternity to eternity with all of time in between—is on those who fear Him! Even as David reminds us of God’s great compassion, he talks three times about the fear of the Lord in this great song of worship. This is a fear that draws us to God, not one that drives us away. We live always in an awesome reverence for the greatness of our God. Each moment we are aware that He is God, and we are not.

This post continues: Trembling at His Word in Awe and Wonder


This post is an adaptation from Bill Mills’ new book Language of the Heart: 20 Worship Prompters & Meditations on Prayerwhich is available in paperback or an eBook in our webstoreAmazon, and in the iBooks Store.

Below is a short interview with Bill Mills, the founder of Leadership Resources and author of Language of the Heart.

Bill Mills

Bill Mills is one of the founders of Leadership Resources International. His ministry began in youth work, where God gave him a heart for encouraging young people by teaching them the Bible. That same vision has remained through the development of our church conferences, pastoral training, and work with missions. Bill’s passion is still to bring the encouragement of the Scriptures to God’s people in order to equip them for ministry, and God has graciously allowed him to fulfill that passion through many hundreds of conferences throughout the world. Bill studied at North Park College, Northern Baptist Seminary, Luther Rice Seminary, and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Two of Bill’s great joys are sharing this work with his life partner, Karen, and fishing with his two sons, Peter and Joel.