“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14 (NIV)
What does it mean to be fearfully and wonderfully made? When we glide over the surface of Psalm 139 and hear the phrase “fearfully and wonderfully made” we might mistakenly take it to mean that God has made us first scared, and then somehow awesome. That’s kind of confusing, isn’t it?
In Biblical context however, there are only subtle differences between the definitions of the two words, wonderful and fearful. Thus, they are used here as layers that emphatically describe what make us wonderful. So, let’s go deeper, peeling back the layers to reveal the richness of this passage.
Being Wonderfully Made
The incredible intricacies of each human body and how God as Creator has woven them together to function in such perfect harmony is nothing less than amazing, awe-inspiring, and wonderful. The more science comes to understand the human body, the more amazing it becomes. While not to be overlooked, focusing on our wonderful physical nature limits our appreciation of how wonderful we are made, and more importantly, how wonderful God, who made us, is.
Next layer… Made in His Wonderful Image
As human creations, we are created in the God’s image. This opens up a whole different realm of wonderful that should not be missed! The blueprint for being made wonderful by God, includes the blueprint for God Himself. Included are the capacities for unconditional love, forgiveness, compassion, moral consciousness, and grace. Without these wonderful qualities we are simply impressive physical specimens with a place in the Earth’s ecosystem. But with these qualities, we emerge as eternal beings capable of displaying God’s character and revealing His loving nature to the world. Now this is wonderful at a much higher level! It is also a great responsibility. If we are made to be His character representative here on Earth, we’ve got to get to work! We have to love as He loves, forgive as He forgives, and carry the banner of his moral law, compassion, and grace. In His making of us, He has equipped us for this work.
Next layer… Being Full of Wonder
Deconstructing the word “wonderful” gives us “full of wonder.” In this context, the perspective changes and becomes an outward sense of wonder. As God’s image bearers, we have qualities of mind and heart that allow us to deeply appreciate all that He has done in Creation. Gazing upon majestic, snow-capped mountains fills us with wonder. Craning our necks at the base of a giant sequoia fills us with wonder. Witnessing someone reaching out their hand to a person in need fills us with wonder. It is our image-bearing nature that allows us to see the beauty in these things and in the Creator responsible for them. It is our image-bearing nature that causes us to yearn for the beauty in these things in our lives. This is equipping and empowering wonder. And we are full of it!
Next layer… Being Full of Fear
Being fearfully made in the Christian context, is to be capable of worship, amazement, and awe for God and all that He has done. We are encouraged by our image-bearing nature to fear God, which is different from being afraid of Him (though we can be sometimes). Thus, being full of fear is to be full of reverence, to be awestruck, to be humbled by His presence.
Next layer… Being Fearfully Made
The Bible tells us that fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). This helps provide the capacity to understand the greatness of God and the goodness of His Will. We are drawn into a close, intimate relationship with God by this capacity. We need the spiritual, emotional, and intellectual yearning to grow continually closer to God, and, lo and behold, this passage tells us that God has provided it! Being created in any other way would leave us without the very ability to understand that we need a Savior, and the ability to recognize that Jesus was indeed the needed Savior.
Without this keen understanding, the relationship is not possible, all of the wonder of this world is meaningless, and the scary version of fear is very real indeed. That’s the truth. You can praise God because you are fearfully and wonderfully made; you are capable of awe, amazement, and reverence for His works. Being full of this kind of fear and wonder, you can know Him and His works full well. That’s the YouTruth—you are fearfully and wonderfully made.
©2009, 2012 Dan Buckhout. All rights reserved.