Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling.
Psalm 2:11
What a strong contradiction of feelings; joy and fear at the same moment. I guess the bottom line of fear and joy is the whole issue with sin. The root of all of our fear is that we are sinners. Adam became afraid of God after he had sinned, he actually hid himself because of his sin. Joy is our response when we first realize that our sins are forgiven. In a born again Christian we have both emotions, fear and joy. We are still afraid (and we should be) because of our obvious imperfections but our hearts are bursting with joy because of His great mercy that He has shown us. What about the sinner? There is no fear of God (and therefore never any real joy) because the sinner doesn’t realize he is a sinner. Only the grace of God opens our eyes to our own sins. Here is how Luther describes this beautiful contradiction.
“When I was a young man, I hated this verse (ps.2:11) 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… what Christ does for us is holy and perfect, and we should cling to his mercy. So 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. We have to mix joy with fear and mix fear with hope.”
If we act like we never sin or make excuses about our sinful behavior we will never experience the fear of God or the joy that only the forgiven can taste. Instead, we wander around in a numb state, never able to ever really enjoy anything to the fullest. We are covered with a coating of sin and religious excuses. Joy and the fear of God are inseparable twins in our celestial journey.


  1. My Gramps told me a LOT, “boy, you better fear the Lord.” I always thought how silly and argued the blind man’s argument that why should fear Him — He loves me. Even at the point of salvation I don’t remember fear only uncontainable joy and life. It was until I experienced His presence in a BIG way that I realized that reverent fear of God at the same time total security and worship Him with all I had. He is my AWESOME God! \o/

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