Vol. 12 No. 6 June 2010
Fear is one of the greatest enemies of our faith. Some of the definitions of fear are (1) terror (2) dread (3) horror (4) fright, (5) panic and (6) alarm. This type of paralyzing fear is a tool of Satan, intended to divert our focus away from God and Christ.
In the beginning, the emotion of fear was foreign to the first couple. The first time we see the word “afraid” in Scripture is in Adam’s reply to God when asked where he was. Adam answered God by saying, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself” (Genesis 3:10).
When Adam ate of the forbidden fruit, this act of disobedience was the pivotal turning point in his relationship with the Creator! The ramifications were beyond his calculation! It was time for Adam to be afraid because at that point he knew he had disobeyed God’s one and only commandment to him and Eve!
Since the Garden, God has repeatedly commanded His people not to fear and not to be afraid. God told Abram to leave his family and all that he had and go to a land that He would show him (Genesis 12:1). Abram did exactly as God commanded him. The word of the LORD came to him in a vision saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your exceedingly great reward” (Genesis 15:1).
When God spoke to the people on Mt. Sinai, they cried out to Moses as they trembled and said for him to listen to God’s voice and tell them what they were to do because they were so afraid. They were commanded in Exodus 20:20, “And Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you so that you may not sin.’’’
When Moses rehearsed God’s law to His people, he commanded them in Deuteronomy 31:8, “And the LORD, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.”
Judges Chapter 7 is one of the most vivid accounts in the Old Testament that demonstrates terror and dread on the part of God’s people. Because of their rebellion and disobedience, God’s people were being horribly oppressed by the Midianites. Gideon is God’s chosen vessel to end that oppression.
The LORD had said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into your hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me’” (Judges 7:2). God told him to tell the people, “Whoever is fearful and afraid, let him turn and depart at once from Mount Gilead.” Gideon had 32,000 men – 22,000 cowards went home (Judges 7:3)!
God then told Gideon he still had too many men, so God instructed him to give the remaining 10,000 men a test by the manner in which they drank water. Of that number 9,700 failed God’s test, and Gideon was instructed to take the remaining 300 men into battle. God told him by those 300 men He would save him and deliver the Midianites into his hand. Every man stood in his place all around the camp, and God delivered the Midianites into their hands. The LORD set every man’s sword against his companion throughout the whole camp (Judges 7:21-22). “For nothing restrains the LORD from saving by many or by few” (1 Samuel 14:6).
Second Chronicles 20 is the narrative of one of God’s leaders, King Jehoshaphat, and the people experiencing severe panic and alarm over the ensuing enemy. Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon a Levite in the midst of the assembly. God’s command is stated in verse 15, “And he said, ‘Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, King Jehoshaphat! Thus says the LORD to you: Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.’” God’s command not to be afraid is repeated in verse 17. “You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the LORD … Do not fear nor be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the LORD is with you.” At these words, their fear was turned to active, obedient and trusting faith, and all of their enemies were defeated!
During His ministry, Jesus was constantly saying to His apostles and disciples not to fear and not to be afraid. Matthew 14:22-32 is the account of Peter walking on the water to Jesus. “And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid’” (Matthew 14:26-27). Their fear was turned to faith as they witnessed Peter walking on the water, his faith becoming fear, and Jesus saving him.
Shortly before His death, Jesus said to the apostles, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). We are reminded in 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” Fear and faith cannot dwell in the same heart at the same time.
When John had been exiled to the Island called Patmos, he wrote speaking of Jesus Christ in Revelation 1:17, “And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, ‘Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.”
The only type of fear that God demands of us is a healthy, reverential fear of Him. Psalm 89:7 declares, “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be held in reverence by all those around Him.” Jesus said in Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
When Israel demanded a king to rule over them, they wanted to be like the nations around them. This greatly distressed Samuel. However, God told him not to despair; they had not rejected him, but they had rejected God and to give them what they wanted. In 1 Samuel 12:14-25, Samuel tells the people God’s expectations in having an earthly king ruling over them.
Samuel warns them in 1 Samuel 12:14, “If you fear the Lord and serve Him and obey His voice, and do not rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then both you and the king who reigns over you will continue following the LORD your God.” Samuel further warns them in verses 24 and 25, “Only fear the LORD, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king.” Reverential fear and obedience to God is absolutely essential if we are to have a healthy relationship with Him!
Reverential fear and obedience ensures that God will hear and answer our prayers. The priest Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth had no children because she was barren, and they were both well advanced in years. An angel of the Lord appeared to Zacharias, and when he saw him he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. Luke 1:13 says, “But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.’”
Reverential fear and obedience keeps us in God’s favor. The angel Gabriel was sent by God to Mary. He said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women! But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God’” (Luke 1:28-30).
Reverential fear and obedience directs and controls our conduct. Peter states, “And if you call on the Father, who without partiality, judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:17-19).
From Genesis to Revelation, God has solemnly commanded for all ages that we are not to live in a state of fearing the unknown and what we do not understand. David declared in Psalm 56:3, “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.” When we embrace that truth by faith, we will give all of our fears to the all knowing, all-powerful, ever present, infallible God of the universe!