In Psalm 147:11, we read, “But the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.” We are called to both fear God and hope in him. John Piper points out in his book The Pleasures of God that, usually, for us in life it is either one or the other. If you fear someone, you hope in someone else to save you. It’s not that way with God.
God’s wrath is awful. He could punish us at any minute and could extinguish us from all existence for all eternity. As the author of Hebrews says, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (10:31), and so it is. However, God’s protection and mercy is beautiful and wonderful. It really does give hope.
The “fear” of God is not just respect or reverence, like you hear so often in third grade Sunday-school class. It really is a terrifying chill that goes deep into your bones that says, “I deserve to be killed because of my sin.” It’s like the genuine fear of a son for his father — a good father, yes, but one who is firm, tough, and intolerable of wrongdoing.
The “hope” in God is not a blow-out-the-birthday candles wish. It is a sincere expectation with confidence. When God promises deliverance, provision, help in time of need, and so many other glorious things, he means it. We can hope in that. God, the tough, severe, firm Father, also says, “Though you are surrounded with hardship because of your mistakes, I will shelter you, I will shield you. I will hold you in the cleft of my hands so that you will survive. Hope in me.”
What are we to hope in? We are to hope in God’s steadfast love. The love of God is firmly fixed, unwavering, not subject to change on his children. That’s rock-solid hope. If God’s love could change, if he was subject to temper-tantrums and emotional decisions as we are, if we could do something to lose that love, we would be in a heap of trouble.
Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love.
– Psalm 33:18