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?
Judy, thanks to a chihuahua biting me before I could even remember, I used to climb up my parents clothing when a dog approached. It took me until I was 8 to get over it when an old collie dog next door converted me into a dog-lover. I used to resent “fear the LORD” when I was into false teachings. I thought: why would anyone who loves me want me to fear them? But then I realized it really meant fear the only One can create and destroy this world or me if He so wants, and quit wasting my fear on silly things that which distract me from the Truth, such as “what people think.” I used to be like Pilate saying “what is Truth?” to smirk with the “Romans” in my life. Now I live to seek and find! The smirkers never turned out to be loyal friends in the end.
I think we all have deep-seated almost unshakable fears about some things or aspects in our lives. the problem with clutching those fears is that it leaves no room for hope or faith or love. When we watch His eyes instead of obsessing about our fears, we let Him into that afraid part of our hearts. We are called to step forth boldly at times, and timidly too. For if we step forward, even when we are afraid, and try to believe He is present, His presence can then be felt. When we feel that presence, fear goes down. I really liked this post, Judy!
Great truth here, Judy, thanks. Fear God and get his love. And i would add that if you love the world you will actually end up getting what you fear most.
I like your addition, Tim. Thanks! Happy 4th:)
Brilliant post Judy! Great explanation of what it is to fear God.
I love the mama bear analogy (and have a feeling it will stick in my head..). I also love this statement: “The fearsome power of God and the extraordinary love of God always have been and always will be perfectly aligned.”
The Lord is my best friend and I absolutely love Him. Yet, I fear Him. I learned this one day when His holiness came upon me. It was fearful and yet totally loving at the same time. If I would not have had sin in my life at the time, I probably would have enjoyed it. It sure caused my mouth to utter words of repentance at warp speed.
What an excellent post, Judy! I’m with you on the canine fear–and I have zero grace for owners who don’t respect my fear, and just keep repeating, “he’s friendly, he won’t hurt you”…instead of taking physical control of their pets. But back to the topic–I had the misfortune of growing up with the Old Testament (FEARSOME) mindset about God; there was no Jesus love (or Christianity) in my family. And I take serious issue with Christians who promote Salvation by Fear–I think it’s the wrong approach; it doesn’t work well, as most people are not motivated by fear, for the long run–it’s very difficult to love and serve Someone you fear. Added to this, it takes God a lot of time and effort to undo the damage of fear-teaching. I lived “saved”, but in the bondage of fear–including fear that God was never happy with me–most of my life. Only since Mar 2011 have I enjoyed the Truth–that I’m one of God’s kiddos, that He loves me with an unfailing, everlasting LOVE. He’s blessed me with good teachers who have clarified that “fear” in the scriptures, refers to Reverence for His Sovereignty and Power–not quaking, debilitating, obsessive fear that He’s a mad dog out to tear me to shreds. It’s a lot easier for me to want His will, His way, now–knowing how much He cares for me, and has my best (protective, loving) interests at heart and hand. God bless you BIG! (guess that’s way more than 2 cents worth today…oh well)
Oh, Judy, what a frightful experience! I had one similar, though I was much older and it was a Doberman. I own a dog now, and luckily I already knew plenty of kind-hearted animals, but still, frightening nonetheless.
Anyhow, I love how you drew something easily comprehended into something abstruse. Our minds tend to enjoy making connections, starting at a place we know and growing from there. I have learned that fearing God is the same as loving God. Without one the other cannot exist.
I think I’m still afraid of Dobermans:). My brother and sister-in-law have a gentle Pit Bull, Millie, who no doubt scares people until they meet her. Her name fits her better than her breed’s reputation. Thanks Cara!
Once years ago I was invited over to house to meet some people. Little did I know when you reached my hand out to pet their cocker spaniel the dog would growl and try to bite my hand off. The family was not bothered by the fact I was shaking in my shoes; they just told me not to do that again. I never went back there and now do not ever get close to a dog i am not familiar with.
Not the most understanding dog owners, were they? I have overcome most of my fear of dogs, but still keep my distance from large and unknown canines. We had a black standard poodle for years, and it was very clear by his behavior who was fearful of him and who wasn’t. Granted, he was a largeish dog with a serious bark, but he really was friendly. I’ve been on both sides of that particular fear, so I did my best to keep people from being too spooked by the big black dog:) Thanks Cathy!
The fearer in me is quick to read this and think: “oh no! This means my greatest fears are more likely to come true! My children will die horrid, painful early deaths! I will suffer tremendous personal violence! Etc…”
But your point is exactly right: we are His cubs, His beloved kiddos, the sheep of His pasture. Whom then shall I fear?
I had to work through a whole gamut of emotions as I read your post. Thanks for finishing up by leaving me encouraged 🙂
I know. I fight those same thoughts, and in fact have experienced some of the things that I feared (and a few that I hadn’t:). But I’ve learned that when God allowed me to face some fearful realities he did it so very gently and redemptively. He is teaching me to really trust Him and to reject fear of anything else. I’m glad you ended up feeling encouraged and secure as a “beloved kiddo”:) Thanks for your thoughts, Bronwyn.
Love this! Such deep truth made tangible. Thank you for sharing! 🙂