What did David mean when he wrote that he was “fearfully” made in Psalm 139:14?
Psalm 139 describes some of God’s attributes. He knows everything (v.1-6), His Spirit is present throughout the universe (v.7-12) and each person is created by Him (v.13-16). The verse before and after Psalm 139:14 describe the development of a baby from conception. This caused David to praise God for His power and skill and exclaim that “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14NIV). The Hebrew word that is translated “fearfully” is yare. In Vine’s Dictionary it means “to be afraid, stand in awe, fear”. When used of an exalted person it means “standing in awe”. This implies honor, reverence and respect for the person. To be “fearfully” made means to be “awesomely” made.
Other Psalms of David that mention yare as a response to God are: “fear(s) the Lord”, “those who fear You (God)”, “those who fear Him”, “see and fear (God)”, “have no fear of God”, “all mankind will fear (God)”, “fear Your name” (Ps. 15:4; 22:23,25; 25:12,14; 31:19; 34:7,9; 40:3; 52:6; 55:19; 60:4; 61:5; 64:9; 86:11; 103:11,13,17; 145:19). So David had a strong reverence for God.
What about Christians today? The New Testament says Christians should worship God “with reverence and awe” (Heb. 12:28). He is the ultimate authority over humanity; He observes us and will judge us (1 Pt. 1:17; 2:17). We will all give an account of ourselves at the judgement seat of Christ (Rom. 14:10-12; 2 Cor. 5:10). Those who reverence God will desire to honor Him with holy living and by submitting to one another (2 Cor. 7:1; Eph. 5:21). Living in the fear of the Lord was associated with numerical growth in the early church (Acts 9:31).
So, like David we should stand in awe of and God respect His great power and position. This is expressed in the song by Rich Mullins:
“Our God is an awesome God;
He reigns in heaven above
With wisdom power and love:
Our God is an awesome God”.
Published, July 2005