Right Fear. Right Understanding. (Psalm 118:4)

Oh let those who fear the LORD say,
“His lovingkindness is everlasting.”

Psalm 118:4

The psalmist here binds together two things that are often discussed in the psalms: the fear of the LORD and God’s lovingkindness.

First off, the fear of the LORD is often given a bad rap. People hear about fearing God and get this idea of some all-powerful bully looming over us and ready to annihilate us at the first available opportunity. The reality is more in keeping with the parent-child dynamic. I’ve written about it before, but I can use the reminder that most people who grew up in homes with healthy parent-child relationships were, to some extent, afraid of their parents. When we followed our parents rules, we were not afraid. There is no fear in obedience and we none of us was afraid of our parents while we followed the rules. However, when we broke the rules and even when we considered breaking the rules, the fear of our parents came into play. That is an illustration of what the fear of God looks like. Obviously, the relationship with parents matures and changes and love of our parents and a desire to make them proud of us replaces the fear and the same — or something extremely similar — should happen in our relationship with God, I think.

Now couple that notion of fear with what the believer is supposed to say. The word translated say here can also mean say in one’s heart or think. This makes it seem that the verb carries more in it than merely uttering words, but implies a conviction of the truth of the words. I do not merely say that God’s lovingkindness (goodness, kindness, faithfulness) goes on and on without end, but that I say it in my heart and think that it is so. The exhortation to the believer is to begin with a healthy and right fear of God and from there to progress to the understanding that God’s goodness; kindness; faithfulness endures from eternity past to eternity future. I cannot exhaust it. I cannot reach a point where it ends. Wherever and whenever I am, the goodness; kindness; faithfulness of God is. In short, though I am to fear God, I am also to have a right understanding of Who He is (my Father in Heaven) and how He wants to relate to me (good, kind, faithful).

Let me be properly afraid of my Father in Heaven and do so with a right understanding that His goodness; kindness; faithfulness is without end or limit.


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