Friday, October 27, 2017

Commands of God: Fear Not

My last essay was on being still, which is very hard for most of us. Moreover, not fearing is even harder. I once heard a very popular pastor say that he fears nothing. I believe that’s dangerous. There is plenty to fear in this crazy world, yet I think the pastor’s point might have been that with the fear and faith in God we should not fear anything else. So why does the Bible say, “fear not” some 365 times in the New Testament alone?

Fear is a primal instinct that I believe God put in all of us to be able to know when to run from saber tooth tigers and terrorists.  You will remember the fight or flight syndrome. Wikipedia says the following:
The fight-or-flight response (also called the fight, flight, freeze, or fawn response [in PTSD], hyperarousal, or the acute stress response) is a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival. It was first described by Walter Bradford Cannon.

We are wired for this. Yet Scripture is telling us to “fear not.”  However, it first tells us numerous times to fear the Lord and that this is the beginning of wisdom and the way to put away fear. Starting in Deuteronomy 6:13 “Fear the Lord your God, serve Him only and take your oaths in His name.”  The Lord asks us to “fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good” (Deuteronomy 10:12).

Joshua 4:24 tells us that after the Lord dried up the Jordan so the Israelites could cross know “the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.” By the end of this book Joshua told the people, ‘Now fear the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:14,15).  This fear is one of awesome respect and worship. This fear is repeated often in Scripture. Job knew of it bringing Satan to say, “Does Job fear God for nothing” (Job 1:9). God says to Job, “You will be protected from the lash of the tongue, and need not fear when destruction comes” (Job 5:21).

The Psalms are full of expressions of fear starting with Psalm 2:11 "Serve the Lord with fear.”  And “The fear of the Lord is pure.” (Psalm 19:9) and Psalm 111:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” David gained his strength through his faith and fear of God. Perhaps my favorite is Psalm 27:1 saying The Lord is my light and my salvation- whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life-of whom shall I be afraid?” Many know Psalm 46:2, “The Lord is my refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way…” Psalm 91 is the song of “911” or disaster. After speaking of finding shelter with the Lord, verse 5 says, “You will not fear the terror by night, nor the arrow by day.”  Psalm 118 is one of thanksgiving as are many because God is in the praises of His people. Verse 6 says, The Lord is with me, I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”  This verse is repeated in Hebrews 13:6 giving fortitude to the Hebrew believers.  One final psalm speaks of God catching and saving all our tears in a bottle. Psalm 56:3-4 tells us, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in god I trust, I will not be afraid.”

The Prophet Isaiah also gives us strong assurance in times of trouble. Isaiah 35:4-5 says, “say to those with fearful hearts, ‘be strong, do not fear, your God will come.’” Chapter 41 strengthens us after speaking of troubles, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand…do not be afraid…for I myself will help you” (Isaiah 41:10, 13, 14).

The Prophet Jeremiah also fortifies us in his Lamentations saying, “You came near when I called you, and you said, ‘Do not fear” (Lamentations 3:57). We are told in James 4:8 to come near to God and He will come near to you.

I will end my references to the Old Testament with the Prophet Haggai stating of the promised glory of the new house referencing the coming Messiah, “For I am with you, declares the Lord Almighty…and my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear” (Haggai 2:4,5).

In the New Testament Jesus Christ replaces our fear with a living faith. “But perfect love drives (castes) out fear” (1 John 4:18). That perfect love is Christ Himself in us. Revelation 14:7 ends the Bible with Jesus telling us not to fear any of the trials and tribulations but instead saying “Fear God and give Him glory.”  I think we easily get afraid before we seek God and His provision. We like control and when we fear, we feel out of control. God says, give your control to me.

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