Serve the Lord With Fear? Rejoice in Him With Trembling?

Psalm 2:10-12 (SAAS LXX)
"And now , O kings, understand; Be instructed, all you judges of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear 
And rejoice in Him with trembling.
Lay hold of His instruction, lest the Lord be angry,
And you perish from the righteous way
When His fury shall be quickly kindled,
Blessed are those who trust in Him."

Romans 11:22 NKJV
"Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you (Roman Christians), goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off."

Romans 2:1-4 NKJV
"Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?"

  • When we consider the differences between Rejoicing, Fear, and Trembling, it can be confusing at first. 

REJOICE, v.i. rejois'.
To experience joy and gladness in a high degree; to be exhilarated with lively and pleasurable sensations; to exult.
When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn. Prov. 29.
I will rejoice in thy salvation. Ps. 9.
REJOICE, v.t. rejois'. To make joyful; to gladden; to animate with lively pleasurable sensations; to exhilarate.
Whoso loveth wisdom rejoiceth his father. Prov. 29.
While she, great saint, rejoices heaven. 
TREM'BLING, ppr. Shaking, as with fear, cold or weakness; quaking; shivering.
FEAR, n. [See the Verb.]

1. A painful emotion or passion excited by an expectation of evil, or the apprehension of impending danger. Fear expresses less apprehension than dread, and dread less than terror and fright. The force of this passion, beginning with the most moderate degree, may be thus expressed, fear, dread, terror, fright. Fear is accompanied with a desire to avoid or ward off the expected evil. Fear is an uneasiness of mind, upon the thought of future evil likely to befall us.
Fear is the passion of our nature which excites us to provide for our security, on the approach of evil.

  • Of course, the approach of an evil to us in this case is the righteous judgment of God Almighty.
As believing Christians, we should not take the outcome of God's final judgment for granted. David said we must fear God, tremble, and rejoice. Just because you believe in eternal security doesn't mean you are secure. Eternal security is Biblical for the elect, but remember there are those who presumed upon the riches of God's goodness in Matthew 7:15-23 and claimed to be faithful, but God never knew them. This makes me tremble and fear. However, the promises of God in His Word give me hope and reason to rejoice.
I think we first have to be honest and not deceive ourselves. Below are some links to good articles on assurance.
Below is John Piper on Psalm 2:11-12. He says it better than I ever could.

Rejoice with Trembling

A Meditation on Psalm 2:11-12

January 7, 2006 | by John Piper | Scripture: Psalms 2:11–12 | Topic: Joy

Psalms 2:11–12 ESV
Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Serve the Lord with fear . . .
This command does not cancel out Psalm 100:2: “Serve the Lord with gladness.” Serving the
Lord with fear and serving the Lord with gladness do not contradict each other. The next phrase
will make that plain (“rejoice with trembling”). There is real fear and real joy. The reason there is
real fear is that there is real danger. Our God is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29). Yes, the elect are
safe in Christ. But examine yourself, Paul says, “to see whether you are in the faith; test
yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2
Cor. 13:5). “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).
Confidence in Christ is not careless. Our security is rooted in God’s daily keeping, not our past
decisions. “[He] is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the
presence of his glory” (Jude 1:24). Part of how he keeps us is by awakening the vigilance to rest
daily in Christ and not in ourselves.
. . . and rejoice with trembling.
Fear does not rob us of our joy for two reasons. One is that it drives us to Christ where there is
safety. The other is that even when we get there the part of fear that Christ relieves is the hopedestroying
part. But he leaves another part—the part we want to feel forever. There is an awe or
wonder or trembling in the presence of grandeur that we want to feel as long as we are sure it will
not destroy us. This trembling does not compete with joy; it is part of joy. People go to terrifying
movies because they know the monster cannot get into the theater. They want to be scared as
long as they are safe. For some reason it feels good. This is an echo of the truth that they were
made for God. There is something profoundly satisfying about being “frightened” when we cannot
be hurt. It is the best when the trembling comes from the grandeur of holiness.
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way . . .
God is jealous for his Son. “You shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous,
is a jealous God” (Exodus 34:14). His anger is kindled when the affection designed for him is
given to another. Of course there is a Judas kiss. That is not what he has in mind here. The kiss
here is the kiss of adoration and submission—perhaps a kiss on the feet as we bow before him.
There is no playing games with God. If we love another more, we will perish. He will be our
highest treasure, or he will be our enemy. The safest place in the universe is at the feet of our
God and Savior, Jesus Christ. If we choose to turn from him for another treasure, his wrath will be
against us.
. . . for his wrath is quickly kindled.
The word quickly may not be the best here. The word can mean quickly in the sense of suddenly.
Repeatedly in the Bible God is said to be “merciful and gracious, slow to anger , and abounding
in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6). Not “quick to anger” but “slow to anger”.
Therefore I am inclined to think Psalm 2:12 means “His wrath can break out suddenly.” In other
words don’t trifle with him in his patience because suddenly it may run out and you be overtaken
in wrath. If you go on kissing his creation and not his Son, suddenly you will find the fangs of a
serpent in your lip. Don’t presume upon the patience of God.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
The only safe place from the wrath of God is in God. Everywhere outside of his care is
dangerous. He is the only hiding place from his own wrath. If you see him as frightening and try to
run away and hide, you will not find a place to hide. There is none. Outside of God’s care there is
only wrath. But there is a refuge from the wrath of God, namely, God. The safest place from the
wrath of God—the only safe place—is God. Come to God. Take refuge in God. Hide in the
shadow of his wings. This is where we live and serve with joyful trembling. It is terrible and it is
wonderful. It is like the eye of a hurricane—terror all around, and totally beautiful and calm. Here
there is sweet fellowship. Here is quiet, loving communion. Here we speak to him as to a friend.
Here he ministers to our deepest needs. I invite you to come.
Safe in Christ with you,
Pastor John
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