Does Forgiveness Create Fear???

24 Mar

In the last couple of years or so I have spent a lot more time in the Psalms. I was reading Psalm 130 last night and verses 3 & 4 gripped me. They are simply an incredible couple of verses.

“If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared” (Ps. 130:3-4).

Upon first reading this text, something seems terribly wrong. Wouldn’t it have made more sense for the psalmist to have said: “But with you there is justice, that you may be feared”? Isn’t it the possibility of God requiring payment for our sins that creates fear in the human soul? If God should “mark iniquities” then fear seems the only response that would be appropriate.

But the good news is that with God “there is forgiveness”! If that is the case, would not all “fear” be eliminated? You would certainly think so. Yet the psalmist speaks to us that the result of forgiveness (maybe even its purpose) is that we might fear God even more fervently.

Think about what he is saying to us. With God there is forgiveness. From Him comes the grace that provides the propitiation for our sins. He has taken every step necessary to accomplish our redemption through His Son. According to Psalm 103:10, He no longer deals with us according to our sins or repays us according to our iniquities. Certainly, our sins have been removed from us as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103:12).

This is why the “fear” of God mentioned in this text cannot be fear of facing condemnation or fear of encountering and experiencing His righteous wrath. Do you see the logic of the psalmist? If what we find with God is forgiveness for our sins, what grounds are there for us to live in terror of His judgment or wrath? If God has wiped clean the slate of our sin and guilt, then clearly He has chosen not to “mark iniquities” and just as clearly all reason for fear is gone. Therefore, if the “fear of God” in this passage were a reference to the dread of coming destruction, forgiveness is emptied of all meaning and value.

But according to what we read in v. 4, forgiveness is the foundation for fear! The unwavering knowledge that God will never “mark iniquities” (v. 3), which is to say, the certainty that our sins have been forever forgiven, is the reason why we fear God. There’s no escaping the force of the psalmist’s language: fearing God is the necessary outcome of forgiveness! This alone demands that fearing God requires something altogether different than being afraid of judgment.

Forgiveness, as much as any act of God, shows His unsurpassed greatness and majesty. The incomprehensible God of holiness and truth has acted in grace on behalf of hell-deserving sinners. Once the reality of this is fully grasped, the only reasonable response is one of brokenness, humility, and awe at such amazing love.

There certainly is joy in the knowledge of our forgiveness, as well as gratitude and praise. But these are perfectly consistent with holy fear, the shattering realization that it is by divine mercy alone that we are not forever consumed by divine wrath. We can at once “taste” the goodness of the Lord (Ps. 34:8a) and “fear” Him (Ps. 34:9a).

So, it’s on the basis of verses like Psalm 130 that we know that to fear God is not the same as being afraid of Him.


Posted by on March 24, 2014 in Christianity, Religion


25 responses to “Does Forgiveness Create Fear???

  1. Erick

    March 24, 2014 at 5:41 am

    Levi, If you look at the Strong’s definition of ‘fear’ in this verse, it can also mean “to stand in awe of; to be awed; reverence; honor; respect”. As you said, this is not fear in the sense of being afraid but of being reverent and in awe of someone or something so much more powerful than we are…and so much more loving than we could ever be. Have a great day!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Moore to ponder

    March 24, 2014 at 6:33 am

    Good post. I also agree with Erick. I have written on this. There is godly fear, and there is a fear that hath torment. This post did a good job explaining what Godly fear is like.



    • Levi Thetford

      March 24, 2014 at 6:51 am

      Sure there is fear of torment, but not for believers. Have a great day Theresa!


  3. theywhoseek

    March 24, 2014 at 5:25 pm

    Trembling here! In holy awesome fear of the wondrous works of our Lord and Savior. Thankful and grateful that He has put my sins behind His back and His redemptive work on the Cross has set me free. Amen and Amen!! ~ Blessings~


    • Levi Thetford

      March 24, 2014 at 5:47 pm

      Isn’t this great Deborah? I loved it. Now go and write something beautiful from this. I appreciate you!


  4. "light and salt"

    March 24, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    Very good post, Levi! God wants no one to be afraid of Him! He does want, however, people to respect Him, to love Him, to come to Him. And for those who do, grace for our sins is the reward!

    Thanks for sharing…
    Steve Pejay


    • Levi Thetford

      March 24, 2014 at 6:04 pm

      Thanks for the good comment Steve. Have a great evening!


      • "light and salt"

        March 25, 2014 at 11:55 am

        Great stories and thoughts, Levi! You keep writing and encouraging us…



        • Levi Thetford

          March 25, 2014 at 11:57 am

          You too Steve


          • "light and salt"

            March 25, 2014 at 4:11 pm


            Have a super day, Levi!



  5. TJ Petri

    March 24, 2014 at 6:47 pm

    Wow, I wish I could sit in on your Bible studies! I have so much to say on this, but to save people a long read, I will just say this; Many years ago, God put a verse on my heart -I was a luke warm believer then. The verse was ” The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”.

    Many years later another verse (after much growth) was given; It was about how the Lord has overcome the world, be of good cheer, fear not, etc..

    In the middle years, between the two verses, I had come to understand the work of Christ, and read through the OT prophecy outlining what the Messiah would be like and how He would die and rise. I had a valid and real fear when I read the first verse. When I read the second verse, I felt a thankful, grace filled protection. I think the Christ factor was the difference for me….


    • Levi Thetford

      March 24, 2014 at 6:53 pm

      TJ ” the Christ factor” makes All of the difference. Rom. 8:1 we have no condemnation when in Christ. We must always remember our posistion in Him. Not easy to do I know because we are still sinners but it’s true. Thank you for the great comment and sharing.


      • TJ Petri

        March 24, 2014 at 7:02 pm

        There is none righteous, no not one. Thankful for a Saviour! Great Post!


  6. vwoods1212

    March 24, 2014 at 7:28 pm

    Great post; i think when you know that God controls everything yet in that power He chooses to grant us grace, I would fear that capacity to destroy as He demonstrated so many times. Make me also wonder, why does He love me so much, but then you find out: He is love. Awesome. VW


    • Levi Thetford

      March 24, 2014 at 7:34 pm

      It’s just like the song “amazing Grace”. Why He set His love upon you and me I’ll never know, but He does. We love Him because He first loved us. Makes me want to shout. Thanks !


  7. Elaine

    March 24, 2014 at 11:23 pm

    How blessed and loved we are to have such a forgiving Father who is with us always and in every part of our lives. I am forever in awe of him because of how He loves each of us.


    • Levi Thetford

      March 25, 2014 at 9:14 am

      Im so happy to see you up and around. Hope you’re doing good. I’ve missed you!


      • Elaine

        March 25, 2014 at 9:36 am

        Thank you Levi! Feeling better each day and improving daily with therapy. I’ve missed being here!



    March 25, 2014 at 11:50 pm

    Wow great post and a good observation from Psalm 130. I love studying the fear of the Lord…and it’s wonderful to understand that our fear of the Lord now stems from love and reflects that of a Paternal-familial fear of the Lord



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