Psalm 103: 17-18
But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him,and his righteousness with their children’s children- with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.
Soundbiting can be very deceptive. We see it during every politically charged event, with people having their words taken out of context and then we make assumptions on what they are trying to say from a snippit. I had that feeling with this verse, and thought about how people talk about the “feat of the Lord”. So Lord loves that we fear him? Is he someone we should be afraid of? I think the key word in these two verses is children… the balance is somewhat similar to the fear that children need to have of their earthly parents.
I love my son, and don’t want him to be afraid of me, however in order to live a life within boundaries, there needs to be the understanding that I can correct and force the right way. A respect for power and authority. Children need to make right choices, but know that they’ll be corrected if they don’t.
Think of it another way, what keeps you driving on the right side of the road? The law, a common shared idea of what is right-and-wrong, fear of a ticket or an accident? But you don’t drive around being afraid of driving. You understand that their are consequences, that there is a higher authority, and if we respect that authroity, and do the right actions, there is nothing to worry about.
Let’s go back a bit further in this verse:
The LORD works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.
7 He made known his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel:
8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
15 As for man, his days are like grass,
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
So the Lord is: compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
I believe that this is critical to take into perspective with the last verse, which is about fearing. Just as we expect/hope from the legal system or of our own parents, that they show grace, compassion, not easily angered and abounding in love. It is in that tension that there is love and fear – all tied up in the same concept.
Think of it this way, to love someone is more than just letting them do whatever they want all the time. If you really love someone, you care enough to accept them for who they are, but also want to help them become a better person. In children this can be easy to see and understand, I don’t want my son to wear diapers for the rest of his life, so we take a stance of tough love to help him learn a new, better habit. But the same is true for adults. Think of friends who are trying to loose weight? Is it better love to help them deviate from their diet, or is it better love to partner with them?
You see, God is the compassionate father who wants to partner with us to become better than we are, to become all that he has designed us to be. Can he wipe us off the face of this earth? Yes. Are we due punishment? Certainly. But instead, he takes grace and patenencie upon us, and helps us to become better than we are. His love is so great, that is says his love is “everlasting to everlasting”.