The writer of Psalm111 is sure of a number of things:

  1. God’s unending goodness and kindness to those who trust him.
  2. That the right response of a believer in God is to praise God for his goodness and loving kindness.
  3. That God and the believer have a relationship through a covenant, which God will always honour.

So God treats his people as responsible beings, and always seeks to provide a framework where his followers can learn the art of responding to him with sincerity, justice and adoration (Proverbs 2).

The Psalmist says that this response can be expressed as ‘the fear of the Lord’ (verse 10) and, further, that ‘the fear of the Lord’ and the ‘getting of wisdom’ are closely linked. The ‘fear of the Lord’ is also defined as ‘the hatred of evil’ (Proverbs 8:13) and a ‘fearer of the Lord’ is one who finds ‘great delight in the Lord’s commands’ (Psalm 112:1). Can you think of a modern descriptor which means the same thing?

It is notable that the New Testament uses the ‘fear of the Lord’ much less frequently than the Old Testament. I don’t have a really clear view of why this is so. The sentiment is not discarded; Paul uses it in 2 Corinthians 5:11. But it appears to be bypassed in favour of a call to faith, one of the primary attributes of a true believer, as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13. Have you a view of other reasons why the N.T. tends to downplay the adage concerning the ‘fear of the Lord’?

To return to the Psalm: it is a debating point whether following God’s precepts leads to good understanding of what is meant by the ‘fear of the Lord’ or whether only those who trust and fear the Lord will have the wisdom to follow God’s precepts.  Is it possible that both these points of view can be true at the same time? And in all circumstances?

Passages in 1 John, chapters 2 and 3, discuss these questions in the light of disclosures of God’s plan for his people spelled out in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Ian Gibbs
Hobart North Uniting Church