The Lord is like a father to his children,
tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
For he knows how weak we are;
he remembers we are only dust.
Our days on earth are like grass;
like wildflowers, we bloom and die.
The wind blows, and we are gone—
as though we had never been here.
But the love of the Lord remains forever
with those who fear him.
His salvation extends to the children’s children (NLT)
Sometimes we may find ourselves imagining God standing over us, arms folded, lips pursed, insisting we march forward into battle like real grown-ups ought to do. Such imaginings don’t exactly inspire us to march anywhere let alone into battle.
We do recognise that Scripture teaches us that we can find strength from God, that we can face all circumstances in that strength. But we also recognise that this strength is not self-generated. Our weakness leaves space for God’s strength. Our being powerless to alter circumstances opens the door to God doing just that.
This Psalm reminds us that God knows we are weak. He is under no illusions. He is not shocked when we fail or taken aback when we struggle. He knows our fallibility and fragility. It seems for us to grasp that we need to “fear” him. Which is not at all being terrified of some demanding tyrant. After all, he is described here as tender and compassionate.
Fear is more about respect and reverence, about knowing our place, about not being arrogant about our ability to shape and reshape life to fit our wishes or demands. It seems that my fearing God frees me from being afraid of life. It means that I both recognise how weak I am and how strong God is.