I developed a fear of dogs as a toddler after going eyeball to eyeball with an aggressive dachshund in a dark hallway. (Even a small dog, when its paws are on your two-year-old shoulders, is terrifying.) Thereafter, unfamiliar dogs would routinely respond to and thereby reinforce my fear. Like the time I panicked and ran in circles around a friend’s living room with her German Shepherd in pursuit…I digress.
Fear seems to attract the very thing that we fear.
Such fearful attraction was documented in the Bible as far back as the days of ancient Israel. God wanted his people to fear and follow Him. They often didn’t get it.
After their Red Sea rescue, the Israelites doubted God in fear of surrounding nations. Ten of twelve spies were spooked after their Canaanite reconnaissance mission, and they stirred up fear among the people. “Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder.”
In response, God explicitly gave them what they had feared. “…I will do to you the very things I heard you say: In this desert your bodies will fall…As for your children that you said would be taken as plunder, I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected.” That’s exactly what happened.
Many years later, during Israel’s prolonged spiritual slide into idolatry, oppression, and general wickedness, God said through his prophet Ezekiel, “You fear war, but war is what you’re going to get. I’m bringing war against you.”
They got exactly what they had feared. Again.
Maybe if they had feared God they would have gotten Him.
Israel was never vulnerable to other nations when she was loyal to God. The frequent Old Testament admonition to “fear the Lord” was God’s desire for the people to recognize that they were safe in His hands. He was their protector. He was their provider. To “fear” him was to live in that truth.
Interestingly, the command to “fear the Lord” is rarely stated in the New Testament It’s simply assumed and advised in only two places. Furthermore, John wrote that it is antithetical to love. “There is no fear in love.” (1 John 4:18)
It’s odd that such an important Old Testament exhortation is so conspicuously absent in the New. What changed?
As I pondered that question I thought of a mama bear.
Nobody messes with a mama bear. She’s fearsome.
Unless you’re her cub.
God did not change. The fearsome power of God and the extraordinary love of God always have been and always will be perfectly aligned. The difference in the New Testament is our perspective from an understanding that we are God’s children.
‘Perfect love drives out fear…” I John 4:18
How has God’s perfect love driven out your fear?