REJOICE WITH TREMBLING
Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling.Psalm 2:11
This kind of understanding of God is foreign to people in our hip, contemporary world. It seems like the natural man cannot deal with this seemingly conflicting vision of our God. For some, fear and trembling brings to mind the judgement of God and the misery involved in a life given over to a system of works trying to please this offended God. Then for others the pendulum has swung to the other extreme. The mention of joy is received as saying that God just overlooks man’s sin (a heretical view of grace) and gives us physical things in this life out of His love for us. Neither of these views are accurate. We rejoice with trembling when we see this majestic, holy God and realize His hatred for sin and love for sinners were reconciled when His Son was crucified in our place. Sin was judged by His death and mercy was extended to us as a result. When we receive His grace what else can we do, we rejoice with trembling before this magnificent God. Martin Luther saw this reality and it led to his conversion. Listen to Luther speak about this verse.
“When I was a young man, I hated this verse because I didn’t want to hear that I should fear God. I didn’t realize that fear should always be combined with joy and hope. We should fear God in a way that doesn’t entirely exclude joy. It should be a genuine joy—a joy that can’t be kept bottled up in our hearts. When we truly believe that we have been reconciled to God because of Christ, we will have a smile on our face, a twinkle in our eyes, and a song of praise on our lips. The Holy Spirit tells us to serve our heavenly King with inward and outward joy, combined with reverence. If we don’t, we’ll become overconfident. We’ll start acting like animals and sink into lustful human pleasures. If we make sure we don’t become overconfident, then God won’t be offended by our happiness. In fact, he’s offended by sadness and demands joy. That’s why people who were in mourning were not allowed to bring God sacrifices, and why the offerings in Malachi were unacceptable to God (Malachi 2:13). We have to mix joy with fear and mix fear with hope.”
As a young man I was uninterested in serving The Lord because I saw it as a joyless life filled with rules trying to please a holy God. I was shocked into reality when the claims of Christ were revealed to me in the gospel. It was so simple. It wasn’t service The Lord was looking for. He was after my heart. When the Holy Spirit helped me to connect the dots I suddenly saw it. He loved me, period. His forgiveness of my sins and of my self righteousness, won my heart. His love flooded my life and then another miracle happened. I began to taste the joy in knowing God and in living a holy life. I had entered into this new life, the life of rejoicing with trembling.