Why in the hell would God tell us to fear him? It seems to go against most of what the Bible teaches. Fear is presented as a negative emotion. We are often warned by the Prophets, Jesus and Paul, “Do not fear…” So what is the Psalmist getting at in Ps 128, “How joyful are those who fear the Lord-all who follow his ways! You will enjoy the fruit of your labor”? (v1-2)
In order to try and get at this a little bit, I think we have to look at the notion of fear of man. Fear of man, at it’s core, is caring more about what others think about us than what Jesus thinks about us. We only need look as far as the three temptations of Jesus to realize that this is a core temptation, especially for men. Satan tried to get Jesus himself to get his value what what others said about him when he said, “Jump from the Temple”. Basically, he was telling Jesus, “get your identity from what others say about you, prove you are worthy of love.” The Psalmist is saying that joy comes from making God our only audience.
I remember when I was first faced with the reality of fear of man in my own life. I was working at a camp, and my job was to oversee all of the entertainment. Basically, I was on stage multiples times a day asking people to tell me that I was good enough, funny enough, cleaver enough. After a month of this exhausting ritual, I realized that no matter how many people told me I was great, it wasn’t enough. I went to see a counselor when I got home to help me unpack what was going on in my heart. That began a journey that continues to this day. Slowly, as I began to focus more on what Jesus thinks about me and less about what others say and think about me, I experience, as the Psalmist promises, true joy.
Lord: Help me to focus today on what you say about me. I am your Beloved! Amen