Summary: A look at good fear and bad fear as well as the reasons that we don't fear God anymore.
“FEAR NOT?”: Does the Bible contradict itself on whether we are to fear?
- There are places in the Bible where believers are instructed to “fear not.” There are also places in the Bible where it’s clear that the people should have had fear. So which is it? Are we to fear or to fear not? Is the Bible contradicting itself?
- Even within Matthew 10:28 we see both instructions: first we are told “do not be afraid” and then we are told to “fear.” Which is it?
MAKING SENSE OF IT: When I have the right fear, the wrong fears fade.
- The important thing to understand lies in that same Matthew 10:28 verse. We are not fear man but we are to fear God.
- We usually do the opposite: we spend our lives consumed with the fear of people and we hardly give a thought to the power that God has over our lives.
- Our story in Jeremiah 36 is a poignant picture of a man with no fear of God. Here Jehoiakim, king of Judah, burns the scroll from Jeremiah. This scroll was not “Bible” but was the words that God had told Jeremiah (v. 2), so they were words from God. The king is not impressed, cutting a little off as it’s read and feeding it to the fire. He has no fear of the Lord.
- Another detail adds an extra layer to this situation: this same king had declared a fast for all the people (v. 9). Interestingly, though, when the words of God are read to all the people, the king is not there (cf. v. 10 and v. 20). Apparently even though he’s signed off on the royal edict he can’t be bothered to be there himself. It’s an interesting picture of a society that gives some lip service to God’s place but doesn’t have any actual passion for it. Indeed, when you get over to the king cutting up the scroll from Jeremiah, it’s clear that the real words from God will receive a harsh response. Again, a picture of a king who wants to have some public religion but nothing that will actually rebuke or convict him.
- When we have the right fear, the wrong fears fade.
- The wrong fears are the ones that most of us feel regularly:
a. I’m scared of getting laid off.
b. I’m scare to die.
c. I’m uncertain of the road ahead.
- When we get the right fear first, though, things start to fall into place. Our right fear needs to be the fear of God. We need to understand His power, His justice, and His integrity.
- What would this look like? Let’s look at those three examples:
a. A person is scared of getting laid off. They are consumed with fear. “How will I pay my bills?” “Will I lose my house?” If the person has their right fear in place, though, things look different. If I have arranged my life with the fear of the Lord in place, I am a follower of Jesus. Because of that, I have the promise from Matthew 6:33 to give me comfort that my financial needs will be taken care of.
b. A person facing a serious sickness is scared to die. After all, we don’t know what’s beyond this life and it’s saying goodbye to loved ones. It’s one of the most common fears there is. If the person has their right fear in place, though, things look different. Knowing that Jesus has conquered death and that there is eternal life for the follower of Christ, there is excitement at what is ahead. Certainly there will be sadness at saying goodbye to those I’ve loved in this life, but that is eased by the confidence that I will get to see those in Christ again when they pass over to the other side.
c. A person has big decisions to make and is unsure of the path to choose. They want to make the right choice but there is so much they don’t know about the future. They don’t know what to do. If the person has their right fear in place, though, things look different. While they don’t know the future, they have a promise from God in James 1:5 to guide and direct if they will only ask Him.
In all three, having the fear of the Lord puts them in a position where the other problems don’t look so big by comparison.
WHY DON'T PEOPLE FEAR GOD?
1. People presume that a lack of immediate consequences means they’re getting away with it.
- It’s an age-old problem: the person who does what is wrong and yet seems to be getting away with it. The Psalms have many references to just that issue.