Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.” (Exodus 20:20).
At first glance, the title suggests a paradox in the counsel Moses gave to the people. “Do not be afraid” and “fear of Him” almost seems to be at odds with one another. The people are called upon to not be afraid, yet fear… These two admonitions are not contradictory, but complementary.
“Fears” in the Bible: The Bible describes different types of fear.
- Sometimes fear is cowardice. It is the unwillingness to act because one is afraid of the consequences.
- At other times it means to be terrified. It is the emotional reaction to sudden trouble.
- At other times it means to have a reverent respect.
- Most often in the Bible, the word fear is connected with God as a sense of reverential respect. It means to stand in awe of God and recognize His superiority and authority. This is often referred to as the “fear of the Lord”
- Psalm 111:10 – The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever.
A. God’s People were always called upon to have a fear or respect for God and His words. In fact, this demanded fear was often used as a synonym for obedience.
- Israel before entering the Land of Canaan– Moses’ admonition – Deut 6:2 – that you may fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged.
- At the eminent death the Joshua. – Josh 24:14 – “Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord!
B. Fear in the face of the judgment of God. Fear is deemed a necessary and obvious result of facing God’s judgment unprepared. In this sense, fear is terror or dread at what is coming:
- Hebrews 10:26-31 – 26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
- This fear, or terror, is that which the children of God seek to avoid. They have the opportunity to live without fear, in this sense. 1 John 4:17-19 – 17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. 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. 19 We love Him because He first loved us. We do not have to live in terror before God because we know He loves us, and in that love has made a way for us to be forgiven and saved. Many who live in uncertainty or fear fail to understand the love of God. 2 Peter 3:9 – 9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
Facing Our Fears:
A. Practical Fear – Fear, as an emotion, can be a practical response. It is understanding the consequences of certain actions and therefore avoiding them. As an old song says, “That’s why you don’t tug on Superman’s cape” and “You don’t pull the mask off the ole’ Lone Ranger”. A lack of this kind of fear can cause people to behave recklessly. This practical fear may be missing in the younger set, especially boys. (Ken – no fear of slipping and falling in the rushing water.)
1. In this sense, practical fear is not a negative thing. The fool is fearless, because this fear is based on knowledge. A baby has to be watched because he or she has not learned the consequences of dangerous behavior. On the spiritual side concerning our relationship with God, one who has fear understands the consequences of disobeying God and is not willing to, so to speak, test God with sinful behavior. Instead, one who has practical fear seeks to avoid sin and neglect, and walk the path that God has appointed.
B. Fear of the Future (Anxiety ) – Anxiety is also a type of fear. Anxiety is stress which comes from a lack of trust in God. Many times, it expresses itself in terms of hopeless despair and is often self incriminating. Jesus treats worry as an illegitimate fear of the future, that contradicts our faith.
- Matthew 6:25-34 – 25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
1. This type of fear may be difficult to identify. We may view this attitude as natural, or as simple concern for necessary things. But Jesus condemns it as a lack of faith. It can paralyze a person and make him inactive of negligent. The rich young ruler of Matt. 19 was afraid to give it all away, and this fear kept him from being a disciple.
C. Fear of Rejection: We all want others to think well of us, so when we face doing things others may not like, we hesitate (Proverbs 29:25 – 25 The fear of man brings a snare,But whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe. )
1. So many people are lead into the paths of sin because others around them were leading the way. Peter denied knowing Jesus because of those around him (Matthew 26:69-75). Several followed Jesus while he was on earth, but they did so secretly for fear of others (John 19:38). However, our salvation comes through our willingness to take a public stand for our Lord (Romans 10:9-10). It is unfortunate that some people value their position with men more than their position with God. Jesus was maligned and we will be as well, but we should not fear man because God is watching over us.
D. Fear of Pain and Discomfort – Most of us want to be comfortable. Many will put off seeing a dentist solely to avoid the discomfort of having their teeth examined and repaired. Similarly, many Christians will do just about anything to avoid a confrontation. Yet, when Paul was thrown out of a city and stoned, he reentered the city (Acts 14:19-20). God expects us to remain faithful, even to the point of death (Revelation 2:10). With God on our side, there are only limited things men can do to us ( Psalms 118:6 – 6 The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? )
E. Fear of Failure: Jesus’ parable of the talents is a story about the negative impact of fear. – Matt 25:24-30 “Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’ 26 “But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. 27 So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. 29 ‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
1. The fear of failing is a powerful immobilizer. We would rather stay where we are than to risk the unknown and fail. This is why God told Gideon to send away all those who were afraid of battle (Judges 7:2-3). An army of the fearful is no army at all. Fear spreads rapidly from one person to another as each begins to realize what failure could bring (Deuteronomy 20:8). Because of fear, many will not become a child of God. Because of fear, many will not grow as a Christian and apply themselves to new service for their King. Because of fear, many will lose their souls
F. Fear of Death: The writer of Hebrews says that Jesus died to release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage (Heb. 2:15) We are afraid of the unknown, and who knows what lies beyond thej grave? The Christian knows. The child of God should not fear death. But the death of are loved ones becomes a real test of our faith in God.
1. The world is consumed with the pursuit of long life. We want to live forever, because we fear death. But Jesus is the only answer to that fear.
G. “No Fear” – you see this slogan on t shirts everywhere. Fearlessness is often thought of as a very positive trait. Bunt some fear is good, in fact necessary. The false bravado of the humanist is a sham. They are simply treasuring up for themselves the wrath of God. Men live in fear everyday. Revelation 21:8 – 8 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
1. But the Christian can live without fear, by living in the fear of God. One of the first occurrences of the word fear in the Bible is in Gen. 22:12, when God says to Abraham after his willing sacrifice of Isaac, “now I know you fear Me” – fear is equivalent to faith in this sense. When we put our trust in God, and do what God says, we have nothing to fear. Psalms 33:18-22 – 18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, On those who hope in His mercy, 19 To deliver their soul from death, And to keep them alive in famine. 20 Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. 21 For our heart shall rejoice in Him, Because we have trusted in His holy name. 22 Let Your mercy, O Lord, be upon us, Just as we hope in You.
- The fear of the Lord is central to our salvation. Opening his mouth, Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him. (Acts 10:34,35).
- Ecclesiastes 12:13 – 13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all.
Conclusion: Do you fear God or man?