Is that really what the psalmist wanted to say? He opened the psalm with, Halleluyah! CJB which is the same as, Praise the Lord! ESV The whole psalm praises the good things he does for us. And then verse 11, the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love. NIV
The key to understanding this verse is in knowing the meaning of the Hebrew word translated as fear. The word has two main meanings, really combined meanings—fear and reverence. He takes pleasure in those who honor him. GNT That is closer. This nails it. His joy is in those who reverence him. TLB
And yet, that leaves out the fear factor. My personal opinion (I do not read Hebrew) is that the verse should read something like this: the Lord delights in those who fear and reverence him. The old Wycliffe Bible reads, the Lord is well pleased with those who fear him/with those who revere him. (The Wycliffe Bible first appeared in 1382, nearly a century before the birth of Martin Luther. This quote came from Biblegateway.com.)
To get an idea of how we should think of God, consider King David. Whenever he gave an order, it was carried out. Even when he ordered Uriah to certain death, the faithful servant obeyed. The king is always feared and often revered.
Or look at Henry VIII of England. When Catherine of Aragon failed to give him a son—having provided Mary who became queen upon his death—Henry divorced her and in the process, broke away from the Roman church. They were married for 24 years.
Over the next ten years, Henry married five more women, beheaded two, divorced one, had one die after giving him his son (who died a few years later), and left the last one a widow. He also executed two of his First Ministers for failing to do what he wanted.
People revered Henry early on but only feared in his last decade.
God is more powerful than any earthly king. He deserves to be feared. He allows us to live even though we do not deserve it. He lavishes his grace upon us, often when we are at our worst. God deserves our devotion, reverence, adoration, allegiance, and veneration. But also, our respect. He made the universe. He made us from the dust of the universe. Respect is one side of fear.
Imagine being a parakeet flying freely in the house of your master. You receive food, water, and affection. Life is good as long as you don’t think about the fact that you are 4 inches tall and the master is 72 inches tall; that he can hold your entire body in his hand; that he can kill you in an instant; that he can allow the cat to eat you. But, you trust your master.
We show less reverence for God than we should, and probably less love and respect as well.
Read my earlier comments on this theme here.
Be righteous and do good.