Teachings: Fear Not (Part I)

By 11:59 AM


FEAR NOT—I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS. (Is 41:10) (Part I)


1Keep silence before me, O coastlands;

let the nations renew their strength.

Let them draw near and speak;

let us come together for judgment.

2Who has stirred up from the East the champion of justice,

and summoned him to be his attendant?

To him he delivers nations

and subdues kings;

With his sword he reduces them to dust,

with his bow, to driven straw.

3He pursues them, passing on without loss,

by a path his feet scarcely touch.

4Who has performed these deeds?

Who has called forth the generations from the beginning?

I, the LORD, am the first,

and at the last I am he.

8But you, Israel, my servant,           

Jacob, whom I have chosen,

offspring of Abraham my friend—

9You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth

and summoned from its far-off places,

To whom I have said, You are my servant;

I chose you, I have not rejected you—

10Do not fear: I am with you;

do not be anxious: I am your God.

I will strengthen you, I will help you,

I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.

11Yes, all shall be put to shame and disgrace

who vent their anger against you;

Those shall be as nothing and perish

who offer resistance.

12You shall seek but not find

those who strive against you;

They shall be as nothing at all

who do battle with you.

13For I am the LORD, your God,

who grasp your right hand;

It is I who say to you, Do not fear,

I will help you.

I will help you—;

the Holy One of Israel is your redeemer.

 

There are three kinds of fears. One is natural; one is unnatural; both are human.  The third is a result of faith and grace. If I come across a bear, there is a natural fear or instinct which arises within me. This natural fear speaks of imminent danger and the need to remove myself or protect myself from this threat.

 

The second fear is unnatural because there is no objective reason for it to rise up in me. This may be called worldly fear, because it tends to prevent us from living a full, healthy natural life. It is psychological or taught and it debilitates and paralyzes me. There are many such fears that we may have allowed to control us, such as fear of stepping on a crack in the sidewalk, fear of heights, fear of the future, fear of enclosure, fear of the bully, fear of the unknown, etc.  I have a fear of eating fish that is not deboned. This comes from my father who, when I was young, would say when we would eat fish, “Watch out for the bones.” It is hard for me to enjoy a good fish, unless it is filet and even then I am concerned about the bones.

 

The third fear is Fear of the Lord. Unfortunately, the English word Fear does not adequately translate the Hebrew words in the Scriptures, which are several with different meaning. We should fear the judgment of God or falling into the hands of God if we are among the wicked and not the just. However, we are to Fear the Lord not because he will hurt or punish us but because, knowing who he is and who we are in relationship, we have a reverential awe of the Lord. This comes from faith and grace.  God, who is all in all, chooses to be part of our lives and for us to be part of his. Even though this spiritual fear may begin in the fear of God’s punishment for our wrong doings, its end is to delight in love for and of God which is eternal union with him.

 

Some of you may remember the Baltimore Catechism version of the Act of Contrition. “O my God, I am heartily sorry for my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell, but most of all because I have offended you, O my God, who is all good and deserving of all my love.”  This is known as an imperfect Act of Contrition. A perfect Act would be: “O my God, I am heartily sorry for my sins, because I have offended you, O my God, who is all good and deserving of all of my love.” The focus is not fear of punishment, even though I deserve it, but the love and mercy of God which is pure gift. The focus is God and not us.

 

This is the intent of the prophetic word from Isaiah, with which we began.  God reveals again and again who he is (“I, the LORD, am the first, and at the last I am he.”) He is the mighty Creator of the Universe. There is no other God.  At the same time, he reveals that he has chosen Israel to be in relationship with him as Servant. Therefore, because of this choice and this relationship there is no need of human fear but of awe and wonder. Then he gives them once more the assurance of his presence with them and providential care for them. Listen to his words again: “Do not fear: I am with you; do not be anxious: I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand….For I am the LORD, your God, who grasp your right hand; It is I who say to you, Do not fear, I will help you. I will help you—; the Holy One of Israel is your redeemer.”

 

If we do fear, we are not to fear God, who is love, but we are to fear his just punishments as a result of our non-love which we call sin.  Instead of fear, we are called to fall in love with God.  In fact, what we should fear, because of God’s grace and our relationship with him, is sin and its consequence in our life. We should not even fear Satan the bully who wants us to think he has power to control us.  His is only pseudo power. It is the power of the bully. The bully though stronger than us has only the power of making us afraid of him. Once we are afraid of the bully then we are under his power. If the bully sees that we are not afraid, then he realizes that even if he hurts us, we will not yield to his power.

 

Satan is real and spiritual warfare is real. He is the spiritual bully “who roars like a lion, roaming about the world seeking whom he may devour.” But the Scriptures reminds us of the One who has the greater power. “Fear not, I am with you.”  I John attests to this: “He who is within you is greater than he who is outside.”

 

When Adam and Eve were innocent and in right relationship with God, they were in awe and wonder of the Creator. They had a holy Fear of the Lord. There was no other focus. This was because they shared in his own divine life.  But they were tempted to take their eyes off God and seek what is good for them outside of God. Thus, came sin into the world. But when they sinned, they became afraid of God and hid themselves. They knew they had done wrong, they had violated his command and they became afraid of his punishment, which they deserved. 

We should not fear Satan nor his many temptations.  As I have said, what we should fear is falling into sin.  Wasn’t this what Moses told the Israelites on their journey? “Do not be afraid. For God came in order to test you, and so that the dread of him might be with you, and you would not sin.” (Ex 20:22)

Like Jesus, when tempted, we should keep our eyes on the One whom we are in awe with, God, for he is with us at that moment. It is at those times we need to recall the words of Deuteronomy 31:6 : “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread…, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Throughout the Scriptures there is this constant word from the Lord. Fear not, I am with you.  Probably next to the command of God for us to love, this is the next most frequent statement from God, occurring nearly 150 times. This was his message to Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Gideon, Elijah, King Jehoshaphat, Jeremiah, Mary, Joseph, Peter, Jairus, etc.

 

We are cautioned about allowing the ordinary human fears, whether natural or psychological and emotional to overwhelm us.  For these fears make us the center of our life, rather than the Lord. We become afraid because we can’t do anything humanly about a situation. The Word of God tells us to trust in him at those moments. That is why he reminds us: “Fear not, I am with you.”

According to Isaiah, Fear of the Lord is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. We read in Isaiah 11:2 “The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.” These are known as Sanctifying Gifts of the Holy Spirit in contrast to the Charismatic Gifts of the Spirit spoken of in the New Testament.

Even though Fear of the Lord is the last mentioned, it is actually the key to wisdom and the other gifts, as we read in Ps 111:10 and other places.  ”The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” It is the Holy Spirit that empowers and enables us to be in reverential awe and humble wonder of God so that we may be able to see a situation as God sees  it, which is Wisdom. 

 

Fear of the Lord enables us to obey the commands of the Lord and to love the things the Lord loves, which is the Gift of Piety.  As a consequence, we are told: “Behold, thus is the man blessed who fears the LORD. ... See how the Lord blesses those who fear him.” 

You Might Also Like

0 comments