One of the ‘thank-you’ notes I’ve most treasured was from a friend I’d prepared as an adult for confirmation. It simply read ‘thank you for making God my friend and not to be feared.’
When the psalmist stresses the importance of the fear of the LORD I don’t think that means I was wrong to help someone to move beyond fear to knowing that she was loved. In the light of Jesus, the only answer I can make or this phrase echoes the interpretation of many – that ‘fear’ here is not about cowering in terror in the face of an angry God, but about remembering with reverence that God is God and I am not. It’s about approaching life with reverent care and delight, as part of worshipping, trusting and obeying the giver of life.
That seems to make sense of the psalmist’s assurances that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the road to a blessed and fulfilling life. It’s also an interpretation that I can live with.