**this is an ongoing series here at Carry on my heart, you can read the first part here.
“There’s a place where fear has to face the God you know” – ‘Oh my soul’, Casting Crowns
At some point, what we put above God must come down and meet with Him face-to-face. I had always assumed that fear was an uninvited guest at the table of my life. When in reality, I had unwittingly given it the head seat.
I would eventually come to find that every knee will bow to Jesus—even my fear.
Do not rebel and Do not Fear
In Numbers, chapter 14, we arrive on the scene in time to witness the Israelite people as they catch a glimpse of their new land. If you are unfamiliar with this story, a quick synopsis goes like this:
God delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt through Moses and several astounding miracles to bring them to a new promised land and freedom.
Twelve men were sent to spy out the land and report their findings back to Moses. The spies return and disclose what a delightful land it is —aside from one little problem—enormous, mountains of men lived in the land. The majority of the spies deduced they’d be better off cutting their losses and heading back to Egypt with their tails between their legs.
The only people out of thousands that believed God’s promise were Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and Caleb. They were convinced He had already given them the land and began to beseech the people on Gods behalf;
“Only do not rebel against the LORD; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them.” Numbers 14:9 NASB
In short, these four men were warning the people, actually, begging them. Verses five through eight show these men falling on their faces and tearing their clothes before the people to convince them to not give up on God.
Can you guess how the people responded?
“But all the congregation said to stone them with stones…” Numbers 14:10
Not exactly the response you were expecting?
Yeah… me neither.
None the less, here we are, hundreds of thousands of voices threatening mutiny;
All because of fear.
The Israelites didn’t enter the promised land at that point, instead, God sent them out to wander the desert for 40 long years. Subsequently, most would die and never enter the promised land at all.
All because of fear.
For much of my Christian life, I read the aforementioned story about the Israelites with a superiority complex, “Wow, really? Didn’t they remember what God just did for them?”
Until I saw my own reflection within this story.
Whom Do You Fear?
“Only do not rebel against the LORD; and do not fear the people of the land,”
You’ll notice that rebel and fear are all snuggled up, working together in unison here. Fearing these people of the land equaled rebelling against God. They obeyed the fear they felt rather than God.
The word fear in the scripture listed above is yare = to fear, stand in awe of. It also means reverence, honor, and respect. This particular word is used in roughly 300 different verses within the scriptures.
I’m a bit of a word nerd. They have the uncanny capability of giving you an entirely new perspective when you dig deeper into them.
I used to foster a belief that a large chasm between fear and reverence existed. I reverence God and fear everything else, right?
If I am willing to do whatever it takes to escape something, I am giving it a place of prominence, I revere the very thing that frightens me.
Plain and simple – we reverence what we fear.
“Do not be afraid of them; I have given them into your hand…” Joshua 10:8
This, of course, isn’t the only place in the Word of God where people are told not to fear. These words are all over the Bible, and for good reason, for at the core of fear, you find unbelief.
The Israelites reacted out of fear. They were so controlled by it that they were willing to kill men and go back into slavery.
Fear causes us to do bizarre things
Fear, in general, causes people to react in peculiar ways. I know that when I obey what fear whispers, I end up looking very little like the person God made me to be.
I’m not alone in this, there are several ugly behaviors mentioned in the scriptures that transpired out of fear:
Adam and Eve hid from God out of fear.
Abraham gave his wife away out of fear.
Elijah ran and hid because of fear.
Peter denied Jesus out of fear.
As with any other emotion, fear is a normal human feeling. I believe fear in and of itself is not sinful, but when put above God, it can produce terrible effects.
I think when God is saying “don’t fear”—He’s not saying don’t feel fear—He’s telling us to not obey the fear we feel.
I can not emphasize the aforementioned enough in the fight against anxiety. It was a key that unlocked a door of understanding for me, it was solid truth to stand on in this battle for my mind.
I find that I behave in the most erratic of ways when fear is in control. It says jump, I say how high. In contrast, when I obey what God says, I act in a way that exhibits self-control and strength even in the midst of the most troubling of times.
I no longer believe there is a great divide between fear and reverence, in fact, they are closer than we care to admit.
What I found in the story of the Israelites paralleled my own life in the fact that I was allowing fear to dictate my choices. I was giving a disproportionate amount of attention to my fears.
Every decision I made for a very long time was run through the governing management of my fear-based belief system, rather than through God.
I have found fear falls in line under the authority of the almighty God when I submit my emotions to Him. Where one time there was chaos, now there is peace and self-control.
God didn’t give us a spirit of fear, he gave us power and self-control. (condensed from 2 Timothy 1:7) He tells us not to fear because He knows when we are truly afraid, it rules us.
And friend, nothing should rule us when we are new in Jesus Christ.
If you’ve never heard this song, give it a listen, it’s amazing!
Melanie Redd says
Very encouraging words, Susan!
I look forward to sharing this post~
Calvonia Radford says
I have known the biblical definition of fear for years, but for some reason I never transferred that knowledge to my fear of other things, people, situations as reverence. Ouch! I am guilty. I fear the unknown, which often prevents me from walking into my destiny. Lord forgive me.