Meditations on “Fear Not”: 1. Fear or Afraid
Ex 20:20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”
As I have been reading the Bible just recently this thought about “fear not” or “don’t be afraid” has been crossing my mind. I remember hearing one Bible teacher saying there are 366 ‘fear not’s in the Bible, one for every day of the year and an extra one for leap year! I assume he is right, I’ve never counted. It depends a little what version of the Bible you use. For instance, the NKJV usually has “do not fear” whereas the NIV has “do not be afraid”. So let’s have a couple of weeks pondering this area of God’s word.
The two words are very similar; when you ‘fear’ or are ‘afraid’, you are scared, fearful, frightened, anxious. However, when we come to ‘the fear of the Lord’, which we’ll look at in the second study, the Message version points out well the sense behind fear in that context in our verse above: “Moses spoke to the people: “Don’t be afraid. God has come to test you and instil a deep and reverent awe within you so that you won’t sin.”
Now what is interesting in that verse is that on one hand they were told to not be afraid because they were to have this deep fear of God within them. No fear because you have fear? Well yes, as we will see when you have this deep awesome respect for God, you will realise you don’t have to fear or be afraid of anyone or anything else. Really that sums up what this series is all about, I suspect, but we’ll need to see it again and again before we really take it in. This is the thing about ‘meditating’, it means to chew over so that you can digest and absorb the words so that they become part of you.
So in this series we’re going to look at both the ‘fear of the Lord’, and a number of places, times and instances, where we are told not to be afraid. I am going to try and keep the length of each one down so that they are just slightly longer than what we often refer to as our ‘short meditations’ but considerably shorter than what have tended to become our usual longer ones.
It is worth briefly noting in this opening consideration, the fact that the word ‘fear’ comes up over 450 times in the NKJV, over 330 times in the NIV, whereas ‘afraid’ comes up 205 times in the NIV and 214 in the NKJV. i.e. approaching 800 times this meaning is used in some situation or other in the NKJV suggesting a somewhat important subject to consider, although we will restrict ourselves to considering just some of the ‘fear not’ references.
Fear occurs in a number of varying contexts, for example, “Abraham replied, “I said to myself, ‘There is surely no fear of God in this place.” (Gen 20:11) i.e. no respect for God there in Gerah, a situation that was to be changed. There is also the command through Moses to his people: “Fear the Lord your God, serve him only.” (Deut 6:13) However when we come to the Christian life in the New Testament we find, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 Jn 4:18) The awesome respect for God has been tempered by the love of a Father who sent His Son to die for us. However much there is this ‘fear of the Lord’, we will see, He encourages a life that is otherwise absent of fear. Hallelujah!