a contradiction in fears

A Christian home is a dangerous place in which to grow up. The Bible becomes so normal that you read things like this and don’t even notice.

Do not fear, for I am with you. Is 41:10

Problem: in dozens of other places, the Bible says, “Fear God.”

Imagine someone handing you a spider, saying, “Do not fear, for there is a spider with you.” Poor analogy, but you get the idea. {Or maybe you don’t. Give me a sec.}

The Bible doesn’t contradict itself. Bible-believing Christians don’t even give that a second thought. That’s not the struggle.

The struggle here is to understand what fearing God looks like.

How are we to fear God and yet not fear in his presence . . . and because of his presence?

fear

Some would say . . . when it’s a fear of thunderstorms, spiders, murderers, and disease, it’s one thing, but it’s another thing when it’s a fear of God. I’m not sure where that idea comes from. I’ve heard time and again . . . “Fear God” doesn’t mean “be afraid of him.”

Then what does it possibly mean?

Do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Luke 12:4-5

Afraid of murderers? Be more afraid of God.

Think about it this way . . .

Why do we fear thunderstorms, spiders, murderers, and disease? Because we feel weak and powerless in their presence.

In the presence of God, it is the same. We are weak and powerless. But a weak and powerless position in the presence of a perfectly strong and powerful God is the proper and safe place in which we should long to find ourselves.

We wrongly fear other things because of their supposed strength and power. We should rightly fear our God because he is stronger and more powerful than them all.

When God says, “Do not fear, because I am with you,” it’s like he’s saying, “If I am your greatest fear, I am also the greatest solace to dispel all other fear.”

Or to put it another way . . .

Only in the presence of our greatest fear can we have no other fear.

[image credit: pixabay.com, journeyoftheword.com]


9 thoughts on “a contradiction in fears

  1. I have thought about this and here is the conclusion I came to.

    If you are living in sin and disobedience then you should fear God with fright. If you are doing what He says and living in obedience, then when we have nothing to fear with fright but are still said to fear God which I believe it means to respect or honor God more so than be afraid of Him.

    God is our heavenly Father. We aren’t afraid our godly, earthly parents as children even though they are bigger, stronger, and wiser unless… unless we disobey them. In that case we may then be very afraid of punishment! Otherwise, we are not afraid of them but respect and honor them.

    Yes, there is still Luke 12:4-5, and yes, the Pharisees and those who were afraid of them to the point of not following God had good reason to be afraid of God because they were living in opposition to God!

    All that being said, we know we are imperfect in the sight of the perfect and righteous God. We can never truly be in total obedience in the flesh, but still, we can rest in the promise of God that when God looks at us, He does not see our imperfections but instead sees the righteous blood of His dear Son Jesus covering us and cleansing us. Again, we have nothing to fear but instead have peace, protection, and comfort.

    Consider this:

    Matthew 22:37
    Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

    1 John 4:18
    There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

    Romans 15:33
    Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.

    Isaiah 41:10
    Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

    2 Corinthians 1:3
    Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;

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    1. Good thoughts. I’m not sure I see how fear changes meanings in this instance. We are afraid of spiders because they have a kind of power over us. And so, in a sense, we “respect” and “revere” them. The same is true of God. We are afraid of him because he was power over us. He judges rightly and could squash us in an instant. But because he has power over every other fear, his presence also brings comfort and peace to those who have, because they are his, been graced to see him as their highest fear.

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  2. I’m about to lead a Bible study that discusses this. I think you’re pretty well spot on. I don’t like that we sort of just change the meaning of the word. I don’t see the text as indicating that when it says “fear” it really means something else.

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  3. The fear of God and the grace of God go hand and hand. My fear of Him because of His power makes me grateful for the grace He exercises daily in my life when I fail Him. It more of a respectful fear, a fear that does not want to disappoint the one who shed His blood for me and gives out grace abundantly. Great post.

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  4. For my kids I came up with this metaphor. Let’s say that you are a little kid who is being beat up right outside your house. Your dad is a big strong guy. You know that those bullies are in BIG trouble. You are afraid of your dad. He loves you but he’s a strict guy. You walk the line. But those bullies hold no terror for you. DAD is coming and when he gets there he will put those bullies to rights. You are afraid of Dad, yes, afraid of the bullies no, but 100 percent comforted in the presence of Dad because he loves you!

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