Summary: God heals fear through faith in his promises.
Bill Watterson, the creator of the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, describes well the feelings of guilt and fear which overtake Calvin after he breaks his dad’s very expensive binoculars. His dad does not yet know about the incident, but Calvin’s anxiety causes him to sweat with panic. Then, when dad asks him to pass the napkins, Calvin dissolves in a puddle of guilt and confession.
That cartoon reminds me of Genesis 3. Sin intrudes into the idyllic paradise, and for the first time, we hear of, “fear,” as our first parents must face up to what they have done. Our text is Genesis 2.25 – 3.13, as we consider the Beginning of…Fear.”
[Read Genesis 2.25-3.13. Pray.]
The development of psychology as the primary religion of our modern world has led to a proliferation of names for every fear that affects people. I read about these fears:
• Peladophobia: fear of baldness
• Decidophobia – fear of making decisions
• Porphyrophobia: fear of the color purple
• Dextrophobia: fear of objects on the right side of the body
• Catoptrophobia - fear of mirrors
• Thalassophobia: fear of being seated
• Anthophobia – fear of flowers.
• Triskaidekaphobia – fear of the number 13.
• Agyrophobia (what the chicken had) – fear of crossing roads
• Phobophobia: fear of having a phobia.
On March 4, 1933, in his Inaugural Address, Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself….”
As usual in political speech, Roosevelt surely did not intend the populace to take his words literally. I think he knew of things to fear in addition to fear. He simply observed, poetically, that many of our fears are irrational, or misplaced. We easily exaggerate problems in our minds, and inflate fears to the point where we become incapacitated.
But how does that relate to God? How are we to think, and feel, and act toward the judge of all the earth? Adam and Eve feared and hid. Did they have something to fear other than fear itself? Is hiding the correct response? Is there some type of psychological problem, “godophobia,” that makes people fear the Lord irrationally?
Some Bible texts encourage fear.
• Joshua 24.14: Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness.
• Proverbs 1.7: The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge….
• Acts 9.31: So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.
• Ecclesiastes 12.13: The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.
But the Bible also speaks of the end of fear when we come to faith.
• Isaiah 41.13: For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”
• Hebrews 13.5-6: He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”
• 1John 4.18: There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
• Luke 12.32: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
How do we understand fear in relation to God? Notice, please, four things from our text.
1. Fear Results Directly From Sin
Prior to eating the fruit, Adam and Eve delighted to hear the Lord walking in the garden. He was their friend and Father, the giver of life and the source of all good. But they refuse his warning and take evil into themselves.
Then, suddenly, they see the folly of their choice, the fall from happiness, the misery of their position. They rejected God’s love, forfeited his favor, defaced his image, and lost their right to rule. Now their own hearts are corrupt; they feel regret; they sense the war within, between flesh and soul. They are disrobed of honor, disgraced, and degraded – and they are afraid.
Their fear makes perfect sense. Sin is the worst filth ever to defile a creature. Sin calls down God’s wrath and turns away his face; it repulses God’s favor and grieves his person. Sin stains the beauty of holiness, and drives our souls, without mercy, to Hell. Their fear is not irrational – it rightly rises from the knowledge that they have taken evil into their souls.