Should we fear God?
Psalm 111 (NIVUK)
1 Praise the Lord.
I will extol the Lord with all my heart
in the council of the upright and in the assembly.
2 Great are the works of the Lord;
they are pondered by all who delight in them.
3 Glorious and majestic are his deeds,
and his righteousness endures for ever.
4 He has caused his wonders to be remembered;
the Lord is gracious and compassionate.
5 He provides food for those who fear him;
he remembers his covenant for ever.
6 He has shown his people the power of his works,
giving them the lands of other nations.
7 The works of his hands are faithful and just;
all his precepts are trustworthy.
8 They are established for ever and ever,
enacted in faithfulness and uprightness.
9 He provided redemption for his people;
he ordained his covenant for ever –
holy and awesome is his name.
10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all who follow his precepts have good understanding.
To him belongs eternal praise.
What does it mean to fear God? I think verse 10 gives us a hint. Sometimes we can treat God like our servant. We ask for this and we ask for that, like spoilt children expecting God to answer all our prayers in such a way that benefits us. We seek the glory rather than the blessing.
Our reading today is really a call to respect and reverence the one who is our creator. If you respect someone you’re not afraid of them but you might fear that one day you will do something to be distanced from them. Reverence is built upon a sincere desire to honour and admire. To fear God in this respect is to approach him in humility and trust knowing in the words of a psalm, ‘it is he who’s made us and not we ourselves.’ In the spirit of reverence we encounter the glory. In times of spiritual awakening this reverence for God is displayed throughout the community.
If we are called to reverence God, shouldn’t we also be learning that social distancing can teach us to reverence another who is made in his image? To keep my distance out of reverence and fear for another’s safety is to become an agent of love toward another and to God.
Lord God Almighty,
Suddenly we your creatures
Long for hope and reassurance
Fear lives at the back of our minds
We no longer talk with the confidence of past days
We are aware of our fragility
The air we breathe that gives us life
Also now brings death and harm to us
And to others around us
In our fear and isolation
Help us learn to reverence
To respect each other
To keep our distance
Not out of fear
But out of love
Turn our distant hearts once more to you
For your voice calls us out of isolation
Into communion and fellowship with you
Strange as it is in our distancing from others
May we find ourselves drawn closer to you
Come purifying fire, Spirit of God
Burn up the fear in our lives
Make us into a holy people
Holy and approachable
Loving and compassionate
Living out justice and mercy
Full of laugher and joy
Knowing your loving presence casts out all fear.
We bow in humble reverence