Words containing few letters often exert tremendous power over individuals, communities, and even nations. Such a word is fear, for Scripture states ... “The people shall hear, and be afraid: sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Palestina. Then the dukes of Edom shall be amazed; the mighty men of Moab, trembling shall take hold upon them; all the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away. Fear and dread shall fall upon them; by the greatness of thine arm they shall be as still as a stone; till thy people pass over, O LORD, till the people pass over, which thou hast purchased” (Ex 15:14-16 KJV).
Two groups of people are seen in this passage, a people opposed the Plan of God (Edom) and a people in God’s Plan, the Jews leaving Egypt, that Exodus generation who witnessed God’s deliverance time and again in their wilderness journey to a land promised them by God. The people of Edom were overcome with fear, but Moses feared, that is, he had respect for the power of God.
The psalmist prophetically looks down the corridors of human history and encourages believers of all ages … “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth” (Ps 46:10 KJV). How different is the natural man’s thinking, that individual who does not have a relationship with Christ, or the carnal believer who is not walking by faith in the Word, from that of the believer who understands the Scriptures.
Mentioned at least four hundred times in Scripture, the word “fear” is seen in two very opposite dimensions. Yes, there is fear in the sense that it is used in life. But in the spiritual life, fear has quite a different meaning. In fact, the word fear could be better translated reverential respect or awe. Immediately that should draw our attention to only One Person, the Lord Jesus Christ. A daily walk with the Lord defines fear not as something which brings terror, but rather that which is the source of wisdom. For the believer, fear is having a reverential respect for God, recognition of His awesome ways. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever” (Ps 111:10 KJV).
Wisdom, those principles and promises of the Word of God, learned, believed and acted upon by faith result in good understanding. Why, because the awesome God who has spoken in His Word, is not subject to change by our circumstances in life. The nation Israel spiritually failed to keep God’s Law vacillating between obedience and disobedience based on external circumstances. Yet God in grace did not destroy them. “For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed” (Mal 3:6 KJV).
How different from man’s actions which at times demonstrate fickleness is the faithfulness of God. To the Jews of the first century, soon to see their nation destroyed at the hands of the Romans, the Holy Spirit had the writer of Hebrews record these words… “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb 13:8 NIV). Those who had placed their faith in the Messiah, the Christ, would face horrendous adversity, yet they could rest in the knowledge that He is marvelous in all His works, in the past, at present, in the future and forever.
How wonderful that God’s ways are so different from those of men. Terror strikes at the heart of man, but God says “fear not.” Some sixty seven times that command is recorded as God’s answer to the adversity at hand. When trouble comes our way, there must be that understanding of the power and provision of God for His own, that assures the believer that God can carry him through the adversity with as much ease, as He could deliver him out from the calamity that presents itself.