Only in His fear is there freedom from fear.
Paradoxical as it may sound, all our fear came into man’s soul and into this world because man ceased to fear God in paradise and dared to try to exalt himself to be God’s equal. Satan’s lie had for its purpose the destruction of our fear of God. Adam believed in God and was thoroughly convinced that He is God and that there is no God beside Him. Adam knew his place under God and the consequences of sin against God. He knew that in the day he disobeyed God and was bold to defy God, he would die. But through Eve Satan succeeded in driving away his fear of such dike consequences of eating one little piece of fruit. All the trees, that is, all the other trees of the garden were good for food. Why should this tree have poisonous fruit? And that fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was not poisonous either. If it was, it surely was slow-acting poison. For Adam still lived for nine hundred and thirty years! No, the death that would come upon him would be punishment! It would not be the natural result of eating that fruit! It would be God’s wrath upon him that brought him death! But man was brave as fortified by the lie of Satan, and he ate. From that moment that he lost the fear of the Lord, he was overwhelmed with fear on every side. He knew that he was naked and tried to hide under fig leaves. Then he tried to hide under the trees of the garden trembling in terror before God!
Soon enough he feared the animals. He feared that he could not wrest enough food from the cursed ground. Death was in his body, and he feared death on every side. He was walking in the valley where the shadow of death was cast, and he knew that around the bend of the way he would meet it. Violence to mankind raised its wicked head in his own firstborn; and the human race began to fear violence and brutality, murder and injury. From that time on man’s fears have not been lessened, but rather increased. And as we begin the new year, fear is a monstrous beast that has grown to proportions not known before. There is fear in the individual life of every man, woman, and child. There is international fear of unprecedented proportions. Over all of us hangs the fear of dreadful war. This reflects itself in the stock market whenever a new crisis appears or seems to disappear. Race riots are expected, and sections of cities are avoided in fear of violence and evil. But why go on? Every man knows the fears that surround him. And they all are here ever since man ceased to fear the Lord.
Now in the Old Testament Scripture the fear of the Lord is faith in God. Get out your concordance and look up the wordsbelieve and faith. You will be amazed to find that these words appear far more often in the New Testament than in the Old, and that the word fear appears so often in the Old Testament. This is not due to the fact that men did not believe in God in the Old Testament times, or that they did not have faith in Him. They certainly did; and the eleventh chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews shows that these were men of faith and by faith wrought wonderful works. But this is due to the fact that Scripture uses the expression “the fear of the Lord” instead of the words “believe” or “faith.” And therefore we may say that there is freedom from fear only in the way of faith in God. With faith in our hearts there will still be all about us that which brings fear to the flesh. But that faith will conquer and bring peace of mind to our souls.
What is fear? Fear is a painful awareness of impending doom or danger. Whether the danger or doom is imaginary or not makes no difference. We fear because we see, or think that we see, some threat to our well-being, our joy, and life. The nearer the danger is, or seems, the greater the fear. It may be remote, so that we fear the icy road while we are still at home in safety. It may be in front of us as the blinding snow piles up and the road becomes more slippery every moment. It may be a remote fear when the child first becomes ill. It may be very near when the fever mounts and cannot be lowered, the breathing becomes difficult, the heart begins to show signs of failure! But it is a painful awareness of impending disaster, of loss and harm.
All our fears fall into one of two categories. Either we fear what God will do to us, or we fear what man will do to us. Every time we read in Scripture that an angel appears to man, the man is filled with fear. Angels are God’s messengers, and the message that we can expect because of what we are can never be a good message. It is always a message of God’s wrath that we expect. And if we deceive ourselves into believing that there is no God, we always fear what man can and will do to us. Even then we still fear God’s lightning flash, His earthquake and tornado. We fear His disease germ and His power in the poison and fire.
But the fear of the Lord drives it all away.
Listen to David, as representative of all those who fear God, “Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise up against me, in this will I be confident.” Psalm 27:3. And that confidence or freedom from fear all those who fear God will and do have., It is all expressed by David in the first verse of this Psalm, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?”
Well, say it then! If by faith we take hold of that truth that Jehovah is our light and salvation, of whom shall we and can we possibly be afraid? As Paul declares it to the Romans, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31b. The question is not: Who is against us? Rather does Paul ask, who can be against us?” If He is our strength, there is no strength that can possibly do us harm, even though they come up against us as an host. We are safe, so very, very safe.
In Christ Jehovah is our fortress, our place of safety. He is the high and thick-walled city which no enemy can enter, and which no enemy can overthrow. Before the enemy in David’s day could lay a finger upon those inside a walled city, he had to climb over those walls, break down those walls, or force his way through the gates of those walls. Who shall do that when Jehovah is this fortress, this fenced city of His people? How shall the finite creature climb up over the infinite God? All the finite creatures together cannot reach up one millionth of the way to the endless height of the infinite God! All his efforts are futile and utter folly. And his efforts to break down that unbreakable wall are much less successful than a summer’s breeze would ever succeed to move the Rock of Gibraltar even a fraction of an inch. Jehovah is the Almighty One. His is not most of the might. His is all the might. And the enemy that seeks to break down that wall receives its life and strength from this mighty God Who is our fortress. No fear that He will give that enemy the strength to overthrow Himself and touch those who are precious in His sight.
Our life is in that fortress. Our bodies men may touch. Our bodies they may even burn at the stake. Our earthly life they may take from us. But the everlasting life of regeneration is in that fortress. We do not even need to run into that fortress when the enemy comes. David says, “Of whom shall I be afraid?” And the idea is, “From whom shall I flee?” We need not flee, because our life is in that fortress. We are perfectly safe and do not simply have a place of safety into which to run. We need not even fear that the enemy might overtake us before we got behind those walls. We are there! Jehovah IS our salvation and light. He does not simply promise us to be such. Certainly He does not plead with us to let Him be that fortress. Jehovah is our light and our salvation. And nothing in the year ahead can possibly change that. Nothing is able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:38, 39. Though with heart and mind we can and often do climb out over those walls and lose our confidence and are filled with fear by the presence and approach of the enemy, yet our life is hid with God in Christ. Jehovah IS the fortress of our life. Our life is always there behind those mighty walls from the moment of that life in regeneration. For regeneration means that we are born again. It means that we are born behind those walls and never leave the safety of that fortress. We are reborn with the life which is from above. And with that life we are always born behind the walls of God’s protecting love and grace.
No enemy shall enter. Jehovah, Who is our light as well as our salvation, will destroy him by the brilliance of that light. Our God is a consuming fire! But to us He is the light of our life. No enemy shall creep up in the darkness and bring grief to us. We dwell in the light which melts the workers of darkness and drives them all away. We are safe, so very, very safe, today, tomorrow, and forever. The enemy shall not have the victory this year. But he will not have it next year either. Dark days are ahead. The forces of the Antichrist are assembling and merging to marshal all their strength against God’s church. Persecution and tribulation are not too far away. Soon we will not be able to buy or to sell. The beginning of sorrows are here already. There are wars and rumors of new wars every day. There are earthquakes in diverse places. Apostasy is so plain to be seen. The gospel has been, or surely today can be, preached to every nation by radio. The missionary can be flown by helicopter to any place you may mention and where men live: We can only wonder how soon the man of sin shall make his appearance and sit in the temple of God saying that he is God.
But that enemy shall not have the victory even for a few brief moments. God is our salvation. In His Son He has blotted out all our guilt. He has taken from us all reason to fear His holy wrath, and made us to be His adopted children. He has made known to us that precious in His sight is the death of His saints, and that He will raise our bodies and bring them also where nothing can ever harm them again. The enemy is going to be wiped off from the face of this earth and cast into the lake of fire. Jehovah is our everlasting salvation, and He is our complete salvation.
And because He has given us faith, we; have this peace with God in heart and mind. Because we now again have the fear of the Lord, we are free from all fear of His wrath and what man might do to us. Because we believe that He is our light and our salvation and the strength of our life, we cannot have fear anymore of our guilt and man’s brutality and cruelty. Death hath no sting, and the grave has no victory over us!
Before us is stretched a whole year.
What will that year hold? Nothing of which to be afraid. If we walk through that year in His fear, we will be wondrously free from fear. If we do not walk in His fear, there will be reason for nothing but fear. Stand before the cross of Christ and see it by faith in all your earthly way, and you will see reasons for confidence of safety no matter what may be your lot. Either we will fear God in reverence and awe before His face, acknowledge Him as our God, trust in Him for all our good, or we will live in the terror of His holy wrath and continue in that fear to try to hide under every tree and call for the hills and mountains to cover us. Then we will look forward in reasonable terror for the day of days when His Son shall come upon the clouds of heaven to judge the quick and the dead. If today we deny Him as God and are bold enough to lift ourselves in our thinking to be His equal, we had better fear what He will do to us in that day. But if the Spirit of His Son humbles us in the dust and gives us the faith to believe that He has become our salvation, we can look forward to that day of Christ with eager expectation.
If we work out our own salvation with; fear and trembling, we will have the confidence of that salvation and be freed from the fear of our guilt and condemnation. Man must fear God, for He is God. And it makes all the difference in the world whether it is the fear of faith which realizes reverence and awe before God, or whether it is the fear of unbelief that continues in thought, word, and deed to exalt man to be God’s equal. The fear of reverence gives peace. The fear of unbelief brings torment.
The fear of faith is practiced inside those mighty walls. The fear of unbelief is practiced outside those walls. Inside the walls is freedom from fear. Outside is the slavery of fear and the terror of this holy God.
This year walk in His fear and take your sins to the cross. You will leave with a heart wondrously free from fear.