The words translated "fear" and "stand in awe" in this verse do not mean that we should be afraid of God. To fear God is to have great love and respect for God. "Stand in awe" as it is used today is a good translation. God is awesome! He is great and is to be exalted and reverenced as the creator of all the heavens and the earth.
God can be known and understood by the words He speaks just as you or I can be known to others by the words we speak. In the context of psalm 33:8 we stand in awe of God because of the great power and integrity of His Word.
By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.
He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap: he layeth up the depth in storehouses.
Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.
For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.
When God speaks things happen! What God says was - WAS. What God says is - IS. What God says will be - WILL BE. It is by the word of the Lord that all the heavens and earth were made. That is why we stand in awe of our awesome God!
Standing in awe of God is demonstrated by acting upon His Word. It is having respect for God by responding to His Word. If God says to do something and you do not do it then you do not respect the integrity of God's Word and you are not standing in awe of God. We stand in awe of God by doing His Word.
When God gave His Word to Israel in the law of Moses, they were to show their awe, love, and respect for Him by keeping His Word:
Deuteronomy 6:2 That thou
mightest fear the Lord thy God,
to keep all his statutes
. . .
Deuteronomy 6:13 Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name.
Deuteronomy 6:24 And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God . . .
Deuteronomy 10:12 . . .what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul,
Deuteronomy 13:4 Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.
Deuteronomy 17:19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes to do them:
Deuteronomy 28:58 . . . observe to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that thou mayest fear this glorious and fearful name, The Lord Thy God;
Deuteronomy 31:12 Gather the people together, men and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the Lord your God, and observe to do all the words of this law:
In our day and time the Word of God written to us starts with salvation by acting on the Word of God written in Romans 10:9-10 and continues with our walk in the grace of God proclaimed in the seven epistles written to the Church. Throughout God's Word knowledge and wisdom begin with standing in awe of God.
The fear [awe] of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.
The fear [awe] of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
The fear [awe] of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.
The fear [awe] of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom;
When we stand in awe of God and keep His Word we receive great benefits from God.
Deuteronomy 6:24b . . . to fear the
Lord our God, for our good always, that he
might preserve us alive, as it is at
Psalm 25:14 The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him;
Psalm 33:18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him,
Psalm 34:7 The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.
Psalm 34:9 O fear the Lord, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him.
Psalm 103:13 Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.
Psalm 103:17 But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him,
Psalm 115:11 Ye that fear the Lord, trust in the Lord: he is their help and their shield.
Psalm 115:13 He will bless them that fear the Lord, both small and great.
Psalm 147:11 The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.
Proverbs 3:7-8 . . . fear the Lord, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.
Proverbs 10:27 The fear of the Lord prolongeth days:
Proverbs 14:26 In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge.
Proverbs 14:27 The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.
Proverbs 19:23 The fear of the Lord tendeth to life: and he that hath it shall abide satisfied; he shall not be visited with evil.
Proverbs 22:4 By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, and honour, and life.
The great benefits of standing in awe of God proclaimed in the Old Testament included His pleasure, care and attention; His protection and help; His blessings, love and mercy; riches, honor, satisfaction, health and life. In this grace administration in which we live the benefits of standing in awe of God are even greater and include eternal life, holy spirit, sonship, an identification with the risen Christ seated at the right hand of God and hope for his return.
In the book of Ecclesiates, Solomon considers all of the works of man and concludes that all man does is vanity. All that happens to man - birth and death, planting and harvest, killing and healing, building and tearing down, riches and poverty, getting and losing, love and hate, war and peace - all of the work of man is vain. In the end, at the conclusion of it all, the only thing that matters is that which is done as we stand in awe of God and keep His Word.
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.