The old Civil War Cemetery in Fort Worth ran right by my paper route on Grand Avenue. It was always about 4:00 A.M. when I rode by there on my bike…and I always had a queasy feeling in my stomach. Nothing ever “reached out and grabbed” me, but I always hurried by and kept my eyes open.
Fear is not always an unhealthy emotion, for a wholesome fear can serve as a valuable tool of protection causing us to take proper precautions. It can also keep us from doing what needs to be done.
We can easily see why Israel was fearful as they approached the Red Sea, Exodus 14. Egypt and slavery were behind them and a deep body of water before them, and they had not learned to put their trust in Jehovah. Virgil, a first century Roman poet, wrote “Fear added wings to the soldier’s feet.” My “fears” may have been silly and unfounded, but I couldn’t pedal fast enough going by that cemetery.
Fear in the Old Testament
It was fear that prevented more than a million Israelites from living in God’s “promised land.” Only Joshua and Caleb trusted in God enough to enter that land promised to Abraham’s “seed”, Genesis 12.
“There we saw the giants, the sons of Anak…and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight,” Numbers 13:26-33.
Fear of his own people was at the root of Saul’s rebellion following his victory over the Amalekite enemies, 1 Samuel 15:24. Fear can destroy a person – it can cause one to flee needlessly from imagined danger.
The account of Joseph’s brothers’ fear reveals that they sold him to Midianite traders because they were jealous, and fearful of him having power over them, Genesis 37.
Daniel’s defeat of fear helped him to maintain his faith in God’s commandments, Daniel 1:8-21. His friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego sustained their lives and gained respect in Babylon by their refusal to cave in to the fear of a “fiery furnace,” Daniel 3:17.
We can understand Esther’s fear when told she must approach her husband, the ruler of Persia, Esther 4:14. What she was called upon to do could have brought punishment upon her to the point of death, but she overcame fear and responded to her uncle Mordecai, saying:
“…so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish,” Esther 4:16.
Yes, fear can bring us to the brink of great danger, but when we trust in the Lord, that fear can be overcome by faith:
“In God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me,” Psalm 56:3-4.
What Should Christians Fear?
In Ecclesiastes 12:13 we are told that we must “Fear God, and keep His commandments.” Why should we do this? “For this is the whole duty of man.” And do you realize that when we “fear God” we begin to obtain wisdom and knowledge?
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” Proverbs 9:10, 1:7.
By studying this principle we discover that the term “fear” in the Bible is often from a word meaning to possess a “reverential fear as a controlling motive of life; a wholesome dread of displeasing God; a mingling of fear and love that constitutes the piety of man toward God” [W. E. Vine’s Expository Dictionary].
We need not be “scared” of God. Our relationship with Him should be one of love and respect, while dreading to displease Him. We respect Him to the extent that we obey Him, knowing that this is best for us and for those who know us and observe our lives. My father’s belt held a degree of fear for me, but I was not “scared” of my father. I knew what the results of disobeying him were, and I loved him because he was my father. Neither are we “scared” of God. The fear of God is not the fear of the lash in the hand of a tyrant, a deranged despot who will destroy wantonly. It is a fear that recognizes the justice and truth of God’s promises and His righteous judgment.
What If We Refuse to Fear God?
We would have little respect for God if He were not just. So, we realize that justice is part of God’s nature. The book of Hebrews spells out the consequences of one who refuses to have that “fear of God”:
“For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment and fiery indignation, which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy, who hath trampled the Son of God under foot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” Hebrews 10:26-31 NKJV
In 1 John 4:18 we read: “Perfect love casts out fear.” What is this “perfect love”? Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments,” John 14:15. We seldom fear the policeman if we abide by the law. But if we violate the law, we dread to see him. Thus, when by faith we “keep” His commandments, we no longer need to be troubled with the fear of the judgment of God.
Carl B Garner
Return to the General Articles page
Home / Bible studies / Bible Survey / Special Studies / General Articles / Non-Bible Articles / Sermons / Sermon Outlines / Links / Questions and Answers / What Saith The Scriptures /Daily Devotional / Correspondence Courses / What is the Church of Christ / Book: Christian Growth / Website Policy / E-mail / About Me /