“Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.” Psalms 1 v 11
Fear is not an emotion that most people look forward to or enjoy experiencing. This verse in Psalms chapter 1 tells us to serve the Lord with fear and at the same time to rejoice with trembling. It may seem like a contradiction to talk about fear and rejoicing at the same time. Therefore we need to fully understand the type of fear that the Bible refers to when it is related to serving God.
When we are happy and rejoicing we are in a positive state of mind and it is this condition that the psalmist is referring to when he notes that we should rejoice with trembling. Usually we think that we would only tremble and shake in an involuntary manner when we are affected by great fear or anxiety. This fear of the Lord is most likely to mean an emotional, and possibly physical, reaction brought on by the excitement and the joy of knowing more about Him.
When we approach God we need not be afraid; this is not the type of fear that is being referred to in this verse. The fear that is used in relation to God is instructing us to regard God with reverence and awe.
Awe is a feeling of reverential respect mixed with wonder or fear. We often experience this feeling when faced with unusual sights of nature like vast fields, mountains, lakes, volcanoes and icebergs. These examples of nature are evidence of the creative power of God and they are primary examples of why we approach Him with fear - reverence and wonder - and why we rejoice with trembling: because we are beginning to understand the magnificence of all He has made – especially us. We, as human beings, are wonderful examples of God’s creative genius.
When we begin to understand God’s unlimited brilliance then we can do nothing else but praise Him. Knowing the complicated structure and capacity of the human being makes us marvel at the creative powers of the One who made us.
“I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” (Ps 139 v 14.) As we learn more about God and about His love for us, and all that He provides for our care, we are drawn to serve and praise Him constantly.
The more we know, the more we want to know; we begin a deeper search for more knowledge about ourselves and about our Creator. In our search we are constantly amazed at the untapped resources that we have within each of us; catching just a glimpse of the possibilities of ourselves makes us realise the unlimited power of God. This is one reason why we fear and rejoice in unison. We then begin to grow in wisdom.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps 111 v 10.) This statement is repeated in Prov 9 v 10 where the second part of this verse says “and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” Therefore if we want to increase in wisdom we have to serve God and the first step in service is getting to know the One you serve. In order to have a good relationship with God, and we need to have reverence and awe when we come to Him and that respect for God needs to permeate all that we do and in all that we are in relation to all that He has done and all that He is. Prov 1 v 7 reiterates that the fear of the Lord is the source of knowledge “but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”