Delighting In Fear

This prayer from Nehemiah 1:11 caught my attention:

“O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy.”

After reading it, it really caused me to pause and ask the question: does God see me as a person who delights to fear Him?

I would say that I delight in God, understanding His gracious work towards me which is completely undeserved. And I also fear Him because of the complete and absolute power and authority He has over the entire universe. Power to create with a Word. Power to judge the thoughts and intents of the heart. But does my fear of God stir up delight in my heart?


In the Hebrew this verb can mean “to take pleasure in, desire; to take delight in someone or something; or to feel inclined towards.” It defines romantic relationships like Shechem’s obsession toward Dinah [Genesis 34.19], as well as Boaz’s honorable response to Ruth [Ruth 3:13]. Saul uses this term when telling David that he would delight in nothing else than for him to gather 100 foreskins from his enemies [1 Samuel 8:25]. This same term is used to describe the level of Jonathan’s “best-friends” attitude towards David [1 Samuel 19:1]. King Ahasuerus desired to honor Mordecai with this same focused intent [Esther 6:6]. And it is used of God’s character as He delights to display to a greater extent His love rather than His anger [Micah 7:18]. In each of these instances, the object of delight is that which takes precedence over other things.


In the Hebrew the meaning can be “to fear; to fear God; to tremble for; to honour; or to be afraid.” Adam clearly is operating in the realm of being afraid when he hides from God in the garden after his sin [Genesis 3:10]. Solomon highlights the emphasis on respect and honor when noting that we are to fear both God and the government He establishes [Proverbs 24:21]. Malachi 3:20 records that those who fear God will leap like calves. God obviously understands that our “fear” of Him is not to be a cowering, timid, immobilizing, scared fear, but one which motivates action through obedience [ Haggai 1:12]. I think a perfect and realistic example is Jonah. God commanded Him to go preach, and Jonah feared the men in Nineveh more than He feared God and ran the opposite direction. God got hold of His heart through His Soveriegn control of the universe by tearing Jonah’s ship apart in a storm. In the midst of the storm Jonah comments that he “fears the Lord” [Jonah 1:9]. And in the end the rest of the people on the ship are convinced by God’s control in raising the storm and then calming it, causing them to “fear the Lord” as well [Jonah 1:16]. While the supernatural circumstances Jonah experienced don’t happen in our everyday life, Jonah’s disobedience while knowing full well that fearing the Lord requires complete obedience is something that we all can identify with.


We should strive to find our supreme delight as a follower of Christ through a proper fear of God. God has the power to control every element in the physical realm, and we should be filled with awe. But do we delight in His supreme power?  This should further motivate proper obedience to His commands. The final result would be a delight in God which would take precedence over all else because of His awesome power, resulting in our active obedience. I think that the wisest man to live hit the nail on the head in Ecclesiastes 12:13 when he said:

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”

If this then is our whole duty, should we not take utmost delight in it?


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