The works of his hands are faithful and just;
all his precepts are trustworthy.
They are established for ever and ever,
to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
He sent redemption to his people;
he has commanded his covenant for ever.
Holy and awesome is his name.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.
His praise endures for ever.
Reflection by Ellen Green
“The fear of the Lord” is a phrase I get caught up on. When I come across it in this text I sigh a big sigh. What I’m reacting to isn’t the Psalm, really, but the use and abuse of that phrase by modern conservative Christians for whom obedience to authority is high on the list of traits that define lovers and followers of God. In my own work teaching kids about our faith, the fear of the Lord doesn’t come up much. What I do emphasize is wonder and awe. The wonder of God is a subject written about by the theologian Rudolf Otto, who said that it “cannot, strictly speaking, be taught, it can only be evoked, awakened in the mind." I think that evoking wonder at who God is and how God moves is one purpose of the Psalms—at least as important a purpose as evoking fear of God’s judgment. What do the Psalms awaken in you? In times when reading the Bible feels more like being taught than being awakened, how do you experience God?