The phrase “those who fear him” (i.e., fear God), occurs three times in today’s Psalm. The sense of ‘fear’ is to be in awe of what God must be. This Psalm should reach deep into our hearts; it is particularly encouraging to those who are thinking God has cut off their contact with Him because of their behaviour.
This Psalm of David tells us to “Bless the LORD, O my soul and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases … who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy” (Psalm 103:2-4). He adds, “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love … he does not deal with us according to our sins” (verses 8,10).
Verse 11 has the first reference to fear. We read, “For as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him”. Two verses further on we read, “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him”.
The point is made a third time, “the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him” (verse 17). God’s steadfast love, compassion, mercy and forgiveness are not for everybody and anybody – it is for those who seek to develop the right attitude of mind toward Him.
The Apostle John writes, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). God has always had this attitude toward human beings, because “God made man in his own image” (Genesis 9:6). God said this to Noah and his sons as they were about to repopulate a devastated earth, but we know succeeding generations largely failed to fear God.
It is our challenge to see human life from God’s point of view. He looks out on a “sea” of humanity who create “gods” of their own imagination, or thinks all life that exists is just the end result of an incredible timeless sequence of “accidents”. How can God continue to ‘love’ those who have not the slightest thought for Him, or who have ‘gods’ of their own imagination? Is not the answer obvious!
Another question. Do most who say they believe in God really fear Him? Many take His benefits, His mercy, forgiveness, and love for granted. Corinthians illustrates the wrong attitudes among believers there: they came together to remember Christ in the way he requested at the last supper. But Paul tells them, “anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgement on himself, that is why many of you are weak and ill … when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world” (1 Corinthians 11:29,30,32).
So in Corinth many had no fear of God because their attitude was all wrong. These are lessons for us to appreciate as we seek “all his benefits”. Let us try harder to be true children of God and to be among those “who fear him”.