Who Do We Fear?
Perhaps we should identify what men fear most. The list is endless. It is also a list, which varies from person to person. Each individual will be plagued differently by different fears. Men will differ from women and children will differ from adults. The weak will vary in their fears from the strong as will the ignorant from the intelligent. The same holds true for the rich as opposed to the poor. Of all these types, the one common denominator is that there will be something that they fear. The specifics of fear also differ between Christian and non-Christian. Those of the Christian world vary in their fears in comparison to the secular humanists.
Yet the commandment to fear not, is only applicable to the Christian. Nowhere in Scripture does God comfort the humanistic pagan to be courageous in the face of fear. The reality of the situation is that those who are not of the Covenant have everything to fear whereas those in the Covenant have nothing to fear. But what is it that the Christians stumble over when it comes to courage? What frightens the saint to the point of stupidity and panic? According to John Calvin, many fear poverty, or the loss of treasured possessions. Some fear sickness or death. Ultimately all these fears stem from unbelief and a failure to internalize the Covenantal promises of God.
The Initial Promise
God does not deny that His people will fall to dread and terror. Anticipating this, He commands a defense against dreadful fear. After the flood in Noah’s day, God pronounced a fundamental principle concerning the believer’s position in the world.
And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered. (Genesis 9:1-2 AV)
Noah (lit. rest Heb. No’- akh) here is a typification of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is essentially His fear that is upon the earth whereby men shall either fear God in adoration or dread. God however is crystal clear as to the extent of this promise when He includes the sons of Noah. The sons are a typification of the Church of Jesus Christ, the true saints of God. Therefore, we may conclude that this particular commission is for the Church as it exists, in Christ, and in History. In light of this promise, we would be hard pressed not to understand it to mean exactly what is says. Simply, those who are “beasts” will be fearful of those who are the ambassadors and dispensers of Truth. “Beasts” typically, in the Scriptures, refer to those who are unregenerate and who behave rebelliously against the Law of God. In Genesis 15 God again promises dominion and victory in behalf of His people when He blesses Abraham.
After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. (Genesis 15:1 AV)
Consider the phrase, Fear not. This is a specific commandment attached to the promise, reflective of the promise given to Moses in Deuteronomy 1:30 and to Joshua in Joshua 1:9. The phrase, fear not, appears some 144 times in the Scriptures. Each time it appears as an admonition for the people of God to look back to the initial promises in Genesis 9 and Genesis 15, and to consider who God is, and what He has promised in light of a fearful situation.
Fear and Speculation
Fear is a part of our lives. Fundamentally we fear men and circumstances so much, because we fear God so little. Whether it is the fear of death, the fear of physical hurt, poverty, affliction, the loss of children, the loss of possessions or any such thing, we all have experienced fear in the face of certain situations. The reality however, is that most often fear comes as a response to a possible situation rather than a real situation. We play the “what if game”. “What if this happens, or that happens?” “What if I get sick, or what if I die, or what if I am injured or loose my employment?” These speculations only produce anxiety and fear. Moreover, this kind of speculation is in direct violation of Matthew 6:34.
Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. (Matthew 6:34 AV)
The word used here in Matthew 6 for “no thought” is the Greek word, merimnao. It is the word which means anxiety. Literally, a more precise translation would be, a division of mind. Therefore, we learn that worries and cares are actually a division of the mind. Anxious worry is a distraction from God and the Word of His Promise. Thus, when we are distracted with worry, which is nothing more than mild fear, we lose our moorings and fall prey to panic. Once fear progresses to panic all sobriety and applicable Theology falls by the wayside. This is exactly what God warns against. Since fear and doubt go hand in hand we can identify these as sins of unbelief. The Lord cautions,
“Be not faithless, but believing.” John 20:27b
Fear is the uncertainty of the unknown. Generally, what we are afraid of is what we do not know. Assurance that all will be well is not enough. If that were the case then we have all the assurance we need from the Scriptures. What we actually want is to see with our eyes all is well and we are safe. When the outward circumstances seem to point to our affliction, discomfort or even destruction we break down and are frightened. What we actually are fearing is what awaits us in the unknown future. Psalm 73:22 Eccl 3:19
Rather than embracing the many heavenly promises declaring the protection and deliverance of the children of God from all evil, the Christian crumbles at the slightest hint of danger. What the Christian fails to remember is that God is not only in the unknown future, He has ordained that future unto the praise of the Glory of His Grace. The unknown does not unfold without the Sovereign ordination and control of the Almighty. Furthermore, all things of providence work together beneficially, and for the good to those that love God and who are the called according to His purpose. Events in history are not exercised outside of the Divine will. Once these fundamental Christian truths are embraced in the realm of life, the saint is enabled to face fear with courage and faith.
Fear and Natural Wisdom
When the children of Israel assessed the possibility of destruction before their enemies, terror filled their hearts. Rather than assessing the situation in light of providence and God’s promise, (the LORD thy God is with thee withersoever thou goest), they assessed the circumstances according to their natural wisdom. Assessment by the fleshly wisdom of man, according to the obvious and potentially dangerous situations of life, will always produce fear. What God’s people failed to incorporate into their assessment of the danger around them was the truth of GOD and His Word. Today the church functions in much the same fashion as the nation of Israel before their enemies. They forget that God is with them withersoever they go. If the Church is engaged in a godly work, God is with them. There can only be deliverance and blessing from obedience. Furthermore, it again must be asserted that, it is God who has set up each dangerous situation with all manner of terrors to specifically prove that He is their Rock and Defense and that He will perform the Word which He has spoken.
Who are the Enemies we ought not to fear?
In order to battle fear on a practical level we first must identify the enemy. In Moses’ day it was Pharaoh. For Joshua it was the inhabitants of Jericho and the people of Ai among others. During the grooming of David, it was initially Goliath and the philistines, and then Saul from his own camp. If we reflect upon other instances, we find that at times the enemy existed outside of Israel whereas at other times they existed among the people of Israel. There is one essential element in battling fear, identifying the enemy that stirs it. Today the enemy of the Church is natural wisdom. We call it Secular Humanism. Secular Humanism exists both without as well as within the church.
Directives in Battling
Fear Like all other sins and maladies, ungodly fear must be mortified. This mortification can only be brought about by the work of God as He applies His Word to the hearts of His saints. Abraham, Moses, and Joshua along with all God’s Prophets and Apostles were given the admonition not to fear the enemy. Essential to the giving of that commandment was the giving of the promise that God would be there to fight alongside the saints. It was upon that promise that the people of God should have acted, and not upon the temporal situation before them.
When Israel stood in the valley of Eshcol, Moses commanded the rebellious people not to fear nor dread the Amorites. In the face of their terror he gives the commission to be courageous and valiant, for the land was to be given them of the Lord. Today God gives us a similar commission. Yet we murmur and fearfully dread the face of Secular Humanism and laws that defy God.
Today’s Christian lives in theological fantasyland. Doctrine replaces practice and practice is reduced to a vague notion of responsibility. There is little application of the precepts of Scriptures in the real world. It is almost as if Christianity exists in a vacuum apart from daily life. Yet, the reality of life engages each and every one of God’s people daily.
There can be no denying that God’s Word must be thoroughly applied to daily living in order to truly be a Christian. His Law of Truth must be obeyed from the regenerate heart, by the power of effectual Grace and Divine intervention. If the Church is ever going to fulfill their Divine commission in time and history, it must embrace the promises of God as real and effectual in the face of circumstantial dangers. In this way, and in this way only, will the Lord bless His people, and in so doing, bless the nation.
Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. (Isaiah 8:13 AV)