Wisdom Wednesday : Wisdom of Fearing Properly

Wisdom Wednesday : Wisdom of Fearing Properly

     Submitted by Debbie’s Dad

‘Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

 (Isaiah 41:10 NASB)

In this passage, Isaiah is quoting the word of the Lord, assuring the Jews in Judah and the capital, Jerusalem, to not be fearful. It was reasonable to be anxious because the emerging Persian emperor, Cyrus, was building a world power to the East. Years before, Jerusalem watched the northern part of the divided kingdom fall to Assyria, and now their remaining southern kingdom was in jeopardy.

In the prior verses of this chapter, Isiah showed how God challenges the nations of the earth and that their strategic alliances and military power would not Undue God’s sovereignty over the earth (vv. 1-7). Yet, God will protect His chosen nation, the Jews; they will endure while the nations will dissolve in the long term. (vv. 8-20) It is within this section that God provides reassurance in verse 10.

Do Not Fear

The emphasis here is to not fear what mere humans can do, when the sovereign God sustains you in His right hand. Isaiah reiterates this “fear not” message throughout his book in many passages: 40:9; 41:10; 51:7; 54:14. Exhorting the Jewish people earlier, when the Assyrians threatened Jerusalem, he said: ‘Say to those with anxious heart, “Take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance; The recompense of God will come, But He will save you.” (Isaiah 35:4 NASB).

Isaiah was aware of God’s sovereign rule over the nations and history, caring for individuals who looked to God, yet using leaders of nations (both good and bad) to move the course of history and struggles for brute political power, most often in terrible wars of brutality and terror. Amid the political power struggles for domination, between Assyria, Egypt and Babylon, Isaiah proclaimed to wary people, “Fear Not”.

Fear Appropriately

Jesus addressed the fear of the people of His time. While under Roman oppression of the state, and Jewish oppression of the religious hierarchy, Jesus also said “Fear Not”,

“I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!  Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. (Luke 12: 4-7 NASB)

The context of this passage was at the point in Jesus’ ministry is where the opposition and attacks from the religious authorities grew to a peak (Luke 11). The authorities accused him of demonic powers (11:14-26), demanded a sign (11: 29-32), accused of being insulting (11:45), and began actively plotting against him (11: 53) The people, in the thousands, watched these attacks against Him and Jesus’ responses. Jesus told his disciples to beware of these religious plotters (12:1-3) but not to be afraid! In the verses above, he points out:

  • Do not Fear men who can only kill your body because after death, they can do no more. Jesus taught that those who trust Him will enter the eternal kingdom of God upon death—and they can no longer be influenced by the wicked.
  • You must Fear the God who can exercise the power, after death, to send you to eternal death (or hell the word translated for the Greek γέεννα transliterated geenna). This is the place, Jesus taught, that those who reject God are sent; Jesus once explained that in this place there is torment because of the awareness they rejected God’s kingdom (Luke 13:28).

In these verses, the Greek word for fear means to terrify or frighten, and in the context, this refers to an ultimate kind of fear.

The Wisdom in Fearing Properly

Fear can motivate us to think, and to make wise choices. Fear is the beginning of wisdom—the kind of fear that realizes the awesome power and glory of God to move us to reverence for Him and trust in Him. And wisdom, Jesus taught, includes not fearing what wicked men can do to us, for even killing our body does not affect our assured place in His eternal kingdom!

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