Isaiah 12:2 Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.
Yesterday, while I was thinking about the jailer’s response, I couldn’t help thinking about the things that we fear. The word afraid is used about 54 times in Scripture. Most of those are about not being afraid. The phrase “fear not” or the word “fear” is used in 144 verses in Scripture. So why do You, Lord, have to keep reminding us not to be afraid? And what is it that we are so afraid of?
Do you know what the very first thing in Scripture that man was ever afraid of was? It was You, God. And the first thing that Adam and Eve ever feared, because of the entrance of sin into their lives and into the world was You. “Yare” means to dread. Because of sin, Adam and Eve ran from You and hid and trembled at the thought of You in whom is no sin. Isaiah felt the same way when he stood before You in a vision. “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” “This is a scary thing! This is my death! Now I will perish! Your holiness is too much for me! Even my goodness is nothing but sin before the One who is absolute Good and absolutely sinless!” But instead of allowing Adam and Eve and Isaiah to perish in the light of Your holiness, You covered them with Your grace. You covered Adam and Eve’s “nakedness” with the gift of the sacrifice of the promised shed blood of Your Son. You cleansed Isaiah’s unclean lips by covering them with the same promise symbolized by the coal taken from the altar. So what does all this mean?
Am I supposed to dread You, Lord? I mean there are so many things that vie for position in my life. There are so many things that want to draw my fear. But You say for me to not be afraid, to fear not. What does that mean for me? Because then again, You say the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. There’s that word, “yirah,” which is another form of “yare.”
But here’s the thing. I can dread You above all things or I can dread the circumstances in my life. The one that I feel is more fearful will be the one that controls me. Either You are to be feared or the circumstances in my life. Which will it be?
Men have always been having to make this choice. I suppose Adam and Eve were the only humans ever who didn’t know what fear was at first. They started out sinless. But once they chose to rebel against You God, (which actually happened before they ate the fruit, I mean first they had to determine that Your way was not best, right?) they had to choose between fearing You or fearing the serpent more. Jacob had to deal with the fear of what Laban might do. He was afraid that Laban would forcefully take his daughters back. So, who was Jacob fearing more? You, Lord, or Laban? So did his actions honor You or were they based on the fear of Laban instead? Jacob didn’t stop there with his fear. Later, his fear of what Esau would do caused him to arrange his family and servants according to what he was willing to lose first. How sad. Am I seeing maybe that the fear of man and circumstances twists my perspective on You, God, and twists my thinking altogether? I wonder how valued Leah felt? Granted, Jacob was learning to trust and after he decided to set things up like this, He prayed for Your blessing and acknowledged that it all meant nothing unless You protected them all. But what if He had feared You first and most and sought Your wisdom first? But thank You Lord that You cover us even when we don’t get it yet.
When Joseph’s brothers saw the money in their sacks, they were in dread. They probably thought, “Pharoah is going to kill us!” This same dread fell on the brothers when they realized who Joseph now was. Then after their father died they started to fear Joseph’s reactions to past sins again. So they lied. They said that “Before Dad died, he said you should forgive us. We’ll be your servants.” I wonder why Joseph wept?
Was Joseph weeping for gladness that his brothers were repenting? Or was he weeping because of the grief and pain and humiliation of fearing things other than You, God? What if he had come to learn some truths about You that his brothers weren’t seeing yet and he could see his old self in them? And what if that caused him to cry in pain for them? But this word “baka” is also the “word for weeping out loud, not in secret. When people of the ancient Near East wanted to express inner emotional turmoil and tears, they did not use bakah. Bakah is a word for making noise. It is public outcry.” (Skip Moen)
Public outcry? Could Joseph be weeping loudly because he was crying out for them to see and fear the one who deserved their fear? Because what if we finally understood Your strength and power and might, would we then understand that You had it all under control? Would we then understand that every circumstance belongs to You? Would we then become Your servants instead of the servants of whatever we handed our fear over to, that had no true care for us? Was Joseph crying out that they might understand?
What if Joseph was trying to show his brothers and us and all around that all our rebellion and disobedience and trying to work things out our way for our best interests was absolutely unnecessary? What if he was crying out to all that You, God, are in control. You are always acting. You don’t need us to help You. We need to stop and seek and listen and obey. If I did that, think of all the trouble I would have avoided. Think of all the trouble the Biblical saints would have avoided. But then again, the Biblical saints were people like you and me. And everyone of us has to learn from You, Lord. Every one of us is learning to walk this journey with You or we are refusing to walk it with You. But without You, it’s all a waste.
A couple years ago I really prayed that You would teach me the fear of the Lord. I think that without that proper fear of You, Lord, without really understanding the enormity and severity of all that You are, I’ll tend to not put things into proper perspective. I really need to know what it experientially means to stand in awe of You. I need to understand more than just the theological definition.
“How blessed is the man who fears always.” (Proverbs 28:14) I don’t need to understand the fear of the Lord on scattered occassions. I need to fear You always. And that doesn’t make You a tyrant. It just reminds me of Who has my back…and my front…and my everything. It reminds me moment by moment Who has EVERYTHING under HIS control. It teaches me to truly understand where I stand before my Sovereign and Holy God.
God is to be feared. Skip Moen stated, “God is so frighteningly other than what we are that the entire nation of Israel fell into sheer panic as He descended on Mount Sinai.” I mean, check it out, it’s a constant Biblical theme. Why would You repeat it over and over unless it was so detrimental to our walk that we have a proper “fear of the Lord”?
Matt Redman shared in an article a quote from A. W. Tozer. “Left to ourselves we tend immediately to reduce God to manageable terms.” Matt continues “Time after time the book of Isaiah reminds us of the uniqueness of God: ‘I will not give my glory to another’ (42:8). ‘I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God’ (44:6). ‘To whom will you compare me or count me equal?”‘(46:5). ‘I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.'” (46:9) This is important stuff. This understanding will make or break the decisions I make in my life.
Maybe part of the problem is that we don’t understand that “Divine Otherness” that A.W. Tozer speaks about of You, Lord. You are above everyone and everything else. There truly is none like You. In Psalm 50 You say, “You thought I was altogether like you.” That’s our problem, isn’t it? We need a right perspective on You.
The fact of the matter is that I am in desperate need of You. You don’t need me. Not one iota. You make me complete. Yet, I don’t make You complete. Out of the beautiful and terrible otherness of who You are above all, You just desire a relationship with me, You just want to love me. It serves no purpose because You can do everything without me. But to love me and care for me and to have relationship with me brings You, this terrifying, almighty God, joy! And for the JOY set before You, Jesus suffered on the cross, suffered my punishment to bring me to You and give You joy. “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” (Acts 17:24-25)
God is not my buddy. He is not working out His plan according to me. He’s not my assistant, helping me as I see fit. You, Lord, are GOD. I want to treat You as GOD. I want to stop trying to manipulate the circumstances and people around me to make Your plans fit into my timetable and my ideas. I want to learn to live in the fear of GOD and really let You be GOD in my life. I want to hand over control of every situation, of every attitude, of every circumstance, of every thing to You. I want You not just to be Sovereign, because You ARE that. I want You to be truly Sovereign in my life and truly Sovereign over me. And in order to do that, I have to treat You as Sovereign. I have to honor You in my life and decisions and choices and responses and reactions as Sovereign.
This fear I’ve been talking about comes from the Hebrew “pachad” . It’s not just being afraid. It’s worse; it’s much stronger. “It’s trembling in front of an enemy who is about to strike you down. It is real, external terror. Hide under the table, the roof is about to fall in!” (Skip Moen) So there was this point in my life when I saw this in You, Lord. I came to You in fear and trembling. You had my life and my eternity in Your hands. I fell down before You in terror and shame. I deserved death and destruction. But You didn’t destroy me. You transformed me into a temple of Your Holy Spirit. You are where I am.
This God who is tremblingly to be feared, chose grace and love and mercy and more and in all that You are, You draw me in to You.
The One who is powerful enough to stop the earthquakes and the tsunamis and the typhoons and any army no matter the size, the One who can just create giant holes in the ground that swallow armies and rebels alive, the One who created all the cosmos, that Fearful One, isn’t my enemy any more. That Fearful One is my GOD! The fear that was working against me is now FOR ME! But it’s not about me. It’s all about You, Lord. You are for me in all Your power and glory so that in that power and glory I can be for You. It doesn’t matter what happens in life around me. I don’t have to tremble over it. You ARE in control. You are my source of strength. You are my freedom and my salvation always. You are my defense even when I can’t defend myself. No matter what it looks like, I am always safe at home with You because there is now never I time when You are not with me. No matter what is moving under my feet, You remain firm and fearful before my enemies.
Lord, who would have thought that all of a sudden I would see how precious it is to be saved by such a fearful God? I mean, to think that this God who could be my destruction, isn’t my destruction, but chooses to be my life source, and chooses to love and cherish and protect me. It’s really unfathomable. What I deserve and what You give don’t make sense. But it doesn’t have to. And I don’t even have to be able to understand or rationalize anything. I just have to know it’s true. And then I just live in the truth. That truth sets me free, absolutely free. Think, Lord, of how my life and my thinking and my faith would change if I just lived in the truth of the fear of the Lord. Lord, You alone are the only thing worthy of my fear and trembling. Teach me to live my life in this truth in You no matter what comes and rears it’s ugly face before that truth. Nothing, absolutely nothing compares to You. You’ve got me covered.