7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, (2 Timothy 1:7–8, NKJV)
Fear and shame are companions. The fear of isolation (from family and friends), the fear of retribution (from influential people), and the fear of rejection (from those we love), and the fear of reprimand are mere samplings of the fears that cause the silence of shame and the retreat of fearing men rather than following the Lord (Matt. 10:28; Jno. 9:22; 12:42-43). Paul called Timothy to the courage provoked by faith. Paul experienced abandonment from brethren due to the gospel and his imprisonment for it (2 Tim. 1:15; 4:10, 16). But, the Lord stood by him, strengthened him, and delivered him from evil for salvation in His heavenly kingdom (2 Tim. 4:17-18). We are urged not to be ashamed of the gospel that saves us or those suffering for it (Rom. 1:16). Anchored by faith in His unshakable word, we can resist the temptations of fear and shame with power, love, and soundness of mind. May we boldly face every foe of faith, confident that “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37-39).
3 Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. 4 In God (I will praise His word), in God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me? (Psalm 56:3–4, NKJV)
David’s life was in jeopardy from the enemies of Israel as well as Saul, Israel’s king. David faced his fear with trust in the Lord. This did not mean David recklessly put himself in the way of danger (1 Sam. 22:1; 23:14). His faith directed him to live with humble trust in God. God’s word shaped David’s faith. Thus, David celebrated (praised) God’s word. It gave him confident assurance amid danger. With trust formed by God’s word, David would not be drawn away from God by being afraid of men. David repeats his confidence in God in verse 11 of Psalm 56: “In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:5-6 draws Christians’ attention to this passage, where it is linked to contentment. Our faith in God is to be so resolute that external forces will not shake us from its moorings. Our faith is in God, who said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (v. 5; Deut. 31:6). Faith overcomes the world with its threats (1 Jno. 5:4-5). Faith fashions fear into contentment as we trust God and obey His word (Matt. 10:28; Rom. 8:31-39). Do not live in fear. Trust the Lord, celebrate His word with thanksgiving, and be content in Him.
12 I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge and discretion. 13 The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate. (Proverbs 8:12–13, NKJV)
Wisdom is the insight and discernment that applies knowledge sensibly and carefully. Solomon will go on to say that wisdom begins by fearing the Lord: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10). “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever” (Psa. 111:10). We cannot miss the point that wisdom hates evil because it fears the Lord. Wisdom does not love, endorse, or promote evil. Instead, wisdom knows and despises the evil of pride, arrogance, the path of sin, and the profane, perverse mouth. The contrast is vivid: Should we make life choices out of pride and arrogance, we are not fearing God, we are not doing His commandments – we are not wise. The gospel says, “See then that you walk circumspectly (carefully, JRP), not as fools but as wise” (Eph. 5:15). Today, choose wisdom as your companion. Live carefully by fearing God and doing His commands, and it will be so (Matt. 7:24-25).
And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; (1 Peter 1:17, NKJV)
Christians sing the old spiritual song, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through…,” reminding us our stay on earth is transitory. Life is temporary, and when we live as if it is permanent we forget key components of a life well-lived in preparation for eternity. First, we forget we are immortal beings. Created in the image of God, we are not defined by the physical realm, but by the spirit, the inner spiritual person. We call on our Father in heaven, not on lifeless gods craved by the art and design of men. We live before God, and therefore we must live with an immortal perspective. Second, we forget what we do on earth will be judged by God, fairly and impartially. God sees and knows everything about us. We will each give account of ourselves to God. That should persuade us to live in His favor right now (Rom. 14:11-12). It should cause us to dread sinning against Him. God’s judgment of our lives will be personal, fair, and impartial (2 Cor. 5:10). We are convinced by God’s goodness and severity to do His will faithfully each day (Rom. 11:22). We are choosing what our judgment will be by the way we live. Remember, this world is not our home. So, live for heaven (Matt. 6:19-21).
31 The ear that hears the rebukes of life will abide among the wise. 32 He who disdains instruction despises his own soul, but he who heeds rebuke gets understanding. 33 The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom, and before honor is humility. (Proverbs 15:31–33, NKJV)
When these proverbs are combined they give us good insight into developing and living in wisdom. First, we must accept the rebukes of life (v. 31). There are lessons to be learned from the school of hard knocks. Life’s ups and downs will teach us wisdom – if we will hear them. Otherwise, we foolishly continue to repeat the same mistakes. Secondly, redirecting our lives through instructive rebukes means we care our about our own soul (v. 32). Understanding comes from accepting wise instruction. Unfortunately, pride and selfishness will prevent us from learning and heeding the rebukes of life, as well as the rebukes contained in God’s inspired word (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Matt. 16:26). Thirdly, when we couple fear (reverence) of God with humility we will gain wisdom and its honor (v. 33). Jesus repeatedly said only by humbling ourselves will we be exalted (Lk. 14:11; 18:14; Matt. 23:12). God gives grace to the humble, but He resists the proud (Jas. 4:6). Let us humble ourselves to hear the rebukes of life (v. 31). Let us reverence God and properly value the life He gives us (v. 32). And let us fear God, receive His wise teaching, and humbly do His will (v. 33). God will come in due time if we will hear, heed and humble ourselves before Him (1 Pet. 5:6).
In mercy and truth atonement is provided for iniquity; And by the fear of the Lord one departs from evil. (Proverbs 16:6, NKJV)
Most right-thinking people desire mercy. People go to traffic court looking for mercy to get traffic tickets expunged from their driving record. Typically, with no other extenuating circumstances, after a period of time with no additional infractions, one’s record is cleared. Thus, mercy and truth provide the cleansing of one’s record. But, unless one respects the legal system, the driver will not go to court to seek this release, and often will continue to drive recklessly. This helps illustrate today’s passage. Fear of the Lord (reverential regard) prompts a person to seek God’s mercy to escape the punishment for sins. When the sinner’s plea for atonement (cleansing and reconciliation) is coupled with following God’s truth concerning forgiveness, divine mercy is applied, and the sins are forgiven. The truth revealed in the gospel reveals how to receive mercy from God for atonement. Truth teaches sinners to hear the gospel, believe in Jesus Christ, confess their faith, repent of their sins, and be baptized for the remission of sins (Jno. 6:44-45; Mk. 16:15-16; Rom. 10:9-10; Acts 2:37-38). When we fear God we turn away from evil and turn to Him, obey His truth, and receive merciful atonement through His Son Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:6-10).
“submitting to one another in the fear of God.” (Ephesians 5:21, NKJV)
Submitting to one another in the church grows out of our fear of God. Submission means to “subordinate” or “subject oneself” to another. This requires yielding up our will to the will of the other person. Sometimes that is easy (when our wills agree). The challenge comes when we are called on to subordinate our will and our preferences to another person’s will and preferences. (Of course, we are discussing non-sinful things here. The Scriptures do not teach us to submit to sin and error, Gal. 2:4-5.) To successfully submit to one another requires that we fear God. Honoring and yielding to His desire and will must be paramount to us. When we fear God we are equipped to “be submissive to one another” and to “be clothed with humility” (1 Pet. 5:5). If we think of ourselves as better than others we are being driven by “selfish ambition or conceit” instead of humble love and the fear of God (Phil. 2:3-4). In today’s verse, “fear” is translated from phobos (“to be put in fear, alarm or fright,” Strong’s). As we revere and respect God, we dread displeasing Him because of its terrible result (Matt. 10:28). The fear of God compels us to respect one another and submit ourselves to each other in genuine efforts to seek each other’s salvation and spiritual blessings (cf. 1 Cor. 10:31-33).
19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. (John 20:19–20, NKJV)
May disciples of Jesus Christ protect themselves from outside harm when they assemble together? The doors where these disciples assembled were “shut” – closed, secured, made inaccessible – “for fear of the Jews.” This word is used of prison doors (Acts 5:23), of the temple doors (Acts 21:30), and of the door shut by “He who has the keys of David” that no one opens (Rev. 3:7). The appearance of Jesus brought them peace and gladness. Yet, when they assembled eight days later, the doors were again “shut” when Jesus appeared to them. The fact that Christ is with His people when they worship does not prevent a church from securing its safety when it assembles for worship. The prayers made for Peter by many disciples at the house of Mary were offered behind a closed gate that had to be opened from the inside (Acts 12:12-16). Their careful security was not due to a lack of faith, it was a prudent course of action given the present danger of persecution (Acts 12:1-5). Certainly, churches may secure their safety when they assemble to worship God. The principle to “be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” surely finds application here.
5 They shall fear You as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations. 6 He shall come down like rain upon the grass before mowing, like showers that water the earth. 7 In His days the righteous shall flourish, and abundance of peace, until the moon is no more. (Psalm 72:5–7, NKJV)
The government of God’s appointed king and his blessings upon God’s people are in view in this psalm of Solomon (Psa. 72:1). As he ruled with God’s judgments, peace, justice, liberty, and righteousness flourish (Psa. 72:2-4). Under such rule, the enduring reverence for God is compared to the temporary presence of the sun and moon. This typifies the Messiah’s rule, who now reigns at the right hand of God (Acts 2:33-36). Through Him, the Father blesses His people with enduring spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3, 20-23; 2:13-19). As in Solomon’s day, Christ’s righteous rule prompts us to fear of God. July 20, 2019 marked the 50th anniversary of man walking on the moon. We respect and honor those who accomplished this amazing feat. Yet, the wondrous blessings of redemption and eternal life are infinitely greater. The moon, and all of humanity’s achievements in space, will one day be “no more” (v. 5, 7). But, when the dead are raised and eternity dawns, Christ will deliver His kingdom to the Father, where righteousness will dwell forever (1 Cor. 15:24-28; 2 Pet. 3:10-13). Our task to fear God and keep His commandments (Eccl. 12:13). That is our purpose, our heritage, our legacy.