Awe, Gratitude, and Fearing God (Bridges)

Psalm 130:3-4 goes like this:

Lord, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive?  But you offer forgiveness, that we might learn to fear you. (NLT)

I really appreciate how Jerry Bridges reflected on these verses in The Joy of Fearing God:

Here it is not the dread of divine wrath, but rather gratitude for divine forgiveness that draws forth from the psalmist the response he calls fear.

Both these attitudes – awe and gratitude – are necessary to a proper expression of the fear of God. Just as the centrifugal and centripetal forces cannot exist independently, so neither awe nor gratitude alone can represent adequately the biblical meaning of the fear of the Lord. Sometimes we will sense one more strongly than the other. We may on occasion experience overwhelming awe as God reveals Himself to our hearts in His majesty, or inexpressible gratitude as we encounter His mercy. Cherish those moments, but seek to maintain a balance between awe and gratitude.

There should always be a healthy tension between the confidence with which we come before God as His children and the reverential awe with which we behold Him as our sovereign Lord. There’s a difference between holy and unholy familiarity with God. We have indeed received the Spirit of adoption, the Spirit by whom we cry, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15). This expression conveys the warmth and confidence with which we may come into His presence. At the same time we should remember that this One whom we’re invited to address as our Father is still the sovereign and holy God. He is still the King who is eternal, immortal, and invisible, and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see (1 Timothy 1:17, 6:16).

Jerry Bridges, The Joy of Fearing God, p. 99.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

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