My thoughts (Robert Ferguson):
I remember a few years back my husband and I took a walk on a long paved trail. We ended up walking about five miles before we turned around and made our way back to the car. At two different points the trail crosses over bodies of water. The bridge that crosses over the water is paved, but on either side of the bridge there are observation areas that jut out over the water about three feet. The metal grates under these observation areas allow you to see right down into the water some 30 to 40 feet below. The first time we approached one of these observation areas, we were nervous and approached cautiously. As we stepped on the grates nervously, I assured my husband that thousands of people have stepped on these grates; and none had met their death on this trail. After a while I felt as if I trusted the engineers who designed this bridge. Nevertheless we took in the beautiful view, snapped a couple of selfies and quickly hustled back to solid ground. For just a few minutes we experienced the fear of falling into the rushing water below us.
As I read today’s verse, I was struck by the words, “Blessed are those who fear the Lord.” In some contexts fear does not mean being scared of someone, which is how in the modern world we think of the word. I have never been comfortable with a god I have to fear.
However if we consider “fear” to mean having a great respect for someone and even giving allegiance and obedience to the person whom we respect, then perhaps we can read this passage differently. Fear of God does not mean to be frightened into spiritual paralysis. Nor does it mean a servile fear which is the response of a person trying to please God but who does not understand the meaning of grace. In other words, in the Bible “fear” often is a statement of obedience, out of complete trust for God. The promise of the psalm is that if we place this kind of trust in God, we will be blessed.
When my husband and I were standing on the bridge, I found peace by trusting that the engineers knew what they were doing when they designed the observation area. Our reading for today tells us that we must trust God and stand in awe of how well God knows what God is doing. God wants to have relationship with us and has crafted a bridge that reunites humankind with our Creator. That bridge is salvation; and because of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, we are able to commune with God and have access to never ending grace. A loving, accepting God is not calling us to tremble in mortal fear or to try and hide. We are called to obedience and relationship with our heavenly Creator. This is good news!
Thought for the day: To fear God is to stand in awe of God’s goodness and grace and mercy towards us!
We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the suggestions on the How to Pray page.