Sunday, January 4, 2009

Fear - The Enemy Within

Joseph Herrin (01-04-09)

Genesis 3:10
And he said, I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.

One of the greatest themes in the Bible is mankind’s struggle against fear. The first mention of fear in Scripture comes in the third chapter of Genesis, immediately after the man and the woman had sinned. In the verse above we observe Adam’s words when God found him hiding in the Garden. It must have been a strange and terrible thing for Adam to experience fear for the first time. He must have wondered what was happening to him. What was this pounding in his chest? What was this pressing desire to flee? Why was his mind, which had formerly known an abiding calm, now so filled with raging waves of panic? Obeying the demands of this monster within, Adam’s body responded with flight, seeking somewhere to hide from the One whose presence had formerly elicited only feelings of peace, love and joy.

It was a hideous victory that Satan achieved that day. Man’s mind had been free from the ravages of fear. Adam had from the day of his creation been able to calmly survey his life, reasoning with a great peace of mind and placidness of spirit. No terror had ever gripped him. No fear had ever been found within his breast. No panic had ever before set him to flight. By inducing man to sin, Satan had loosed all of these evils upon man, and mankind would have to struggle against them for hundreds of generations to come.

We see a progression and a pattern revealed in Scripture as it relates to fear.

• Sin brings forth fear.
• When fear is allowed to reign, faith is absent.
• Without faith it is impossible to please God.

Perhaps you have never considered fear to be an enemy of righteousness. You may not have considered fear to be something every Christian must wage an unrelenting war against, refusing to be dominated by its tyranny. You may have not understood that God wants to free His children from all fear just as surely as He wants to free them from lust, or envy, or hatred. A Christian cannot lead a life that is pleasing to God if they do not rule over fear in their life.

Some may ask, “Why disparage fear? Is it not something common to all mankind, and am I not simply a victim of fear? Do my fears really have any impact upon others? Will allowing fear to go unconquered really keep me from living a life pleasing to God?” These are some of the questions that will be addressed here.

Mankind’s struggle with fear is revealed in the first book of the Bible. It continues all the way through to the last book where we read of God’s judgment upon those who do not rule over fear.

Revelation 21:7-8
He that overcomes shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and immoral persons, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

John had just described seeing a new heaven and a new earth. He had seen the holy city, the new Jerusalem coming down from heaven, let down as a bride adorned for her husband. He then states, “he who overcomes will inherit these things.” What is it that the saints must overcome? The list of character types that follows provides the answer. The first type of people identified are the fearful, therefore fear must be overcome. Being the first in this list indicates the importance God places upon overcoming this evil. The fearful are mentioned before the unbelieving, before murderers, before immoral persons, before idolaters and liars.

Few Christians would have arranged these transgressions in the order in which they appear. In truth, if most Christians were asked to draw up a list of those who would be cast into the lake of fire, ranking the list in order of priority, they would have put homosexuals, or child abusers, or murderers at the top of the list, and the fearful would not have made the list at all. Yet the Holy Spirit inspired John to record this list of transgressors in the exact order in which they occur. Why is being fearful (some translations say “cowardly”) considered such a great evil that the fearful would be mentioned first in the list of those cast into the Lake of Fire? We can begin to answer this question as we examine the things revealed in Adam’s actions and words after he sinned.

After sinning Adam heard God calling Him in the Garden of Eden. Adam then confessed that he was afraid and he hid himself. Sin immediately produced fear, and this fear began influencing, even dictating, Adam’s actions and words, leading to further transgressions and wickedness.

Genesis 3:10-12
And [Adam] said, "I heard the sound of Thee in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself." And He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" And the man said, "The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate."

There is much that is devilish in these words of Adam. Satan is called “the accuser of the brethren” and here we see him using Adam as his instrument of accusation. Adam accuses both God and Eve. He lays the blame at their feet in a desperate attempt to avoid the consequences of his sin. A normal response (one not influenced by fear) to being asked “Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” would have been, “Yes. I willfully transgressed against your command and did eat of the fruit.” If fear were not present, this is how Adam would have responded. However, Adam gave a much different response, for he was under the influence of fear, and his fear prompted him to respond in a diabolical manner.

By seeking to shift the blame for his actions onto his wife, Adam was demonstrating how far he had fallen in such a short space of time. God had created Eve as a helper for Adam, and she was perfectly suited for him. Eve was formed from a remnant portion of Adam’s own body. Upon seeing Eve for the first time Adam had declared, “This is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” There was no other created being upon the earth who was a better companion and mate for this man. They were truly one flesh and Eve was a delight unto her husband. The apostle Paul tells us:

Ephesians 5:28-29
He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it...

Nourishing and cherishing are acts of love. Blame shifting and accusation are acts of the Devil. The Scriptures declare that woman is a weaker vessel than man, yet Adam hid behind his wife, exposing her to punishment that he might be spared. Adam thought to protect himself by sacrificing Eve. This was a treacherous thing, and that which drove him to such an act was the new found fear that had appeared in his being. As we see how wickedly Adam acted in turning against his wife, exposing her to judgment to save his own skin, we begin to see the great hideousness of fear. When fear is allowed to rule, man’s relationship with God and with other people always suffers.

We can readily observe the influence of sin by comparing/contrasting the lives of Israel’s first two kings. King Saul was a fearful man whose words and actions were often dictated by the cowardly impulses within. David, however, was bold and courageous and he found great favor with Yahweh. We read the following concerning Saul:

I Samuel 9:2
[Kish] had a son whose name was Saul, a choice and handsome man, and there was not a more handsome person than he among the sons of Israel; from his shoulders and up he was taller than any of the people.

Physically, Saul was a powerful man of great stature. Yet his physical attributes did not translate over to his soul, for he was a fearful man. When the prophet Samuel called all Israel together to choose a king for them, Saul was chosen by lot. Saul, however, could not be found. As all of Israel was desiring to look upon this man whom God had chosen to be their first king, Saul was frightened and had hid himself. Samuel had to inquire further of the Lord to determine Saul’s whereabouts.

I Samuel 10:22
Therefore they inquired further of Yahweh, "Has the man come here yet?" So Yahweh said, "Behold, he is hiding himself by the baggage."

The root word for “hiding” is the same Hebrew word “chaba” that was used to describe Adam when he hid from the presence of God after he had sinned. This was not a very auspicious beginning for one who was chosen to rule over God’s people. Saul’s fear was tremendous, and he had not learned to rule over it.

A profound thing is revealed as we look at the very next occurrence of this word “chaba” in Scripture. The man who chose to hide himself found that those under his leadership exhibited the same behavior when they were frightened. When Saul later led the armies of Israel to fight against the Philistines we read:

I Samuel 13:6-7
When the men of Israel saw that they were in a strait (for the people were hard-pressed), then the people hid themselves in caves, in thickets, in cliffs, in cellars, and in pits. Also some of the Hebrews crossed the Jordan into the land of Gad and Gilead. But as for Saul, he was still in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling.

Trembling leaders will have trembling followers. Some time later, Saul had his first encounter with David, the son of Jesse, and we see a great contrast between these two. Saul was a full-grown man who had daughters old enough to be given in marriage, while David was a mere youth. Saul was from the shoulders up taller than any man in Israel, yet at this time David was described as “but a youth.” The greatest contrast, however, was within, and not without. Saul was fearful while David was courageous.

In the seventeenth chapter of first Samuel we read of the armies of Israel once more being confronted by the armies of the Philistines. For forty days the armies had faced one another across a valley, and for each of these forty days the Philistines sent out their champion, the giant Goliath, to challenge any Israelite warrior to face him in single combat, promising that the loser’s people would become the slaves of the winner. David arrived on the fortieth day to witness this spectacle, and he observed the following:

I Samuel 17:24
When all the men of Israel saw the man [Goliath], they fled from him and were greatly afraid.

King Saul was a seasoned warrior. He was in the prime of his adult life. He was from the shoulders up taller than any other man in Israel, and he was their leader. He should have been the one to take up the challenge of Goliath. He should have stepped forward in boldness knowing that he was Yahweh’s anointed, and he should have slain this pagan who was defying the armies of the living God. Saul, did none of these things, however, for he was afraid. Following his example, his men were also afraid and fled from the presence of Goliath. What a contrast to the fearfulness of Saul we see in David.

I Samuel 17:32-37
David said to Saul, "Let no man's heart fail on account of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine." Then Saul said to David, "You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are but a youth while he has been a warrior from his youth." But David said to Saul, "Your servant was tending his father's sheep. When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock, I went out after him and attacked him, and rescued it from his mouth; and when he rose up against me, I seized him by his beard and struck him and killed him. "Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, since he has taunted the armies of the living God." And David said, Yahweh who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." And Saul said to David, "Go, and may Yahweh be with you."

I can sense the confidence of David as he stood before Saul and declared that he would fight Goliath. There was no double mindedness in David. There was no hesitation. He knew that Yahweh would give him the victory, and he was not afraid to rise to the challenge. There was a fearlessness about this ruddy and handsome youth that stood before Israel’s king. Those with eyes to see could understand why a day would come when this youth would be king in place of the fearful man who occupied that position.

What shame was Saul’s that day. Here was a mere youth who declared a willingness to face the giant that Saul’s own heart feared. Saul, called to be the hero and protector of Israel, willingly allowed a boy to be sent out to do a man’s work. Saul should have responded by saying, “I am ashamed at my hesitation. I will go and not allow a mere youth to fight the battle I have been called to fight. Yahweh forgive me for my unbelief. Strengthen my heart and fill me with boldness.” Instead, he remained incapacitated, unable to rise to the battle, for fear had robbed him of his strength. Saul sent a youth to face the warrior who brought terror to his own soul.

There was neither faith nor love in Saul’s conduct that day, yet David excelled in these qualities. He loved Yahweh and the people of Israel. His compassion was revealed in his words to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail on behalf of [Goliath], I will go and fight him.” His faith was also apparent. As David stood before the giant he boldly proclaimed:

I Samuel 17:45-47
"You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of Yahweh of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. This day Yahweh will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that Yahweh does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is Yahweh’s and He will give you into our hands."

It is obvious in examining this event that when fear rules in the hearts of men, faith is absent. When fear is conquered, then faith arises and great exploits are done to the glory of God. This is one of the reasons all saints must conquer fear in their lives. Without faith it is impossible to please God. Fear and faith are contrary to one another. Fear also leads men and women to despicable behavior, even being willing to sacrifice those they should be protecting.

We are told of others who acted in fear on this day when David slew Goliath. David had been sent by his father Jesse to check on the welfare of his brothers, and to deliver a gift to them. David’s brothers did not share his faith, and they had been influenced by the fear of Saul. When David showed no fear of Goliath, his oldest brother began to treat him rudely, for his fear was exposed.

I Samuel 17:28
Now Eliab his oldest brother heard when he spoke to the men; and Eliab's anger burned against David and he said, “Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your insolence and the wickedness of your heart; for you have come down in order to see the battle.”

We are not told what David’s relationship with Eliab was like prior to this time, but as an elder brother Eliab should have demonstrated love toward David, seeking to lift him up in front of the other men. Instead, we observe Eliab falsely charging David with irresponsibility, insolence and wickedness in a very open manner.

We have no evidence that Eliab was a morally impure man, nor that he was an idolater, nor a man given over to abominations. What is evident is that he had much fear. Eliab had never come to a place of ruling over this fear. His fearful nature gave rise to the very rude reception he gave to his young brother. When fear is not overcome in our lives, it leads to hateful behavior, false accusations and slander. Fear can drive men and women to treat their closest loved ones in a manner devoid of love.

As we compare/contrast the lives of David and Saul further we observe that fear can even lead to murder. Saul observed the popularity of David, and he began to fear that David would take the kingdom from him. David had been Saul’s most loyal subject, and had done the kingdom great good, yet because of fear Saul sought to put David to death.

I Samuel 18:11-12
Saul hurled the spear for he thought, "I will pin David to the wall." But David escaped from his presence twice. Now Saul was afraid of David...

A man who walks in the integrity of his heart before Yahweh need not fear. If Saul had been an honest man and had faith in God, he would not have feared losing his kingdom. He could have trusted Yahweh to do what was right. He would not have allowed fear to drive him to attempt murder. David, when faced with a similar circumstance exhibited faith and turned away from murder. Twice while David was living in wilderness places due to Saul’s endless pursuit of his life, Yahweh placed David’s enemy in his hands to do with according to what was in his heart. On both occasions the men with David urged him to strike Saul and kill him, but David would not do so. David would not allow fear to drive him to commit murder, or to lift his hand against God’s anointed. David had such faith in Yahweh that he let his pursuer go free, trusting that God would continue to be his protector and vindicate him at the proper time.

In these things we observe that a great test came to both Saul and David. The test revealed whether they would be ruled by fear, or would rule over fear. Saul failed the test, while David came forth as an overcomer. The same test is being given to the children of God today. Many have sold out loved ones because of unconquered fear in their heart. Such experiences are unpleasant to be on the receiving end of, yet, when we entrust our lives to Yahweh’s care, He will deliver us and fight for us. When we are on the receiving end of someone else’s fear, we must always meet their fear with faith. To meet fear with more fear will only lead to disaster.

Before I leave this examination of Saul and David, I would like to observe one more event from their lives that is highly revelatory. Both men experienced a time when they were confronted by a prophet because of a grievous sin they had committed. Both men once more responded in very opposite ways.

Samuel Confronts Saul with His Sin

I Samuel 15:19-21
"Why then did you not obey the voice of Yahweh, but rushed upon the spoil and did what was evil in the sight of Yahweh?" Then Saul said to Samuel, "I did obey the voice of Yahweh, and went on the mission on which Yahweh sent me, and have brought back Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took some of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the choicest of the things devoted to destruction...."

Nathan Confronts David with His Sin

II Samuel 12:9, 13
"Why have you despised the word of Yahweh by doing evil in His sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the sons of Ammon... Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against Yahweh."

These events form a perfect parallel to one another, and to Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden. In Adam we saw that fear led to blame shifting as he answered God’s question by hiding behind his wife, exposing her to God’s judgment that he might be spared. Saul, whom we observed hiding among the baggage as Adam hid among the trees of the Garden, is also ruled by fear and he seeks to shift the blame of his sin onto others, hiding behind the very ones he was appointed to protect. In contrast to these men we see David, courageous even when facing the judgment of God, accepting the blame, and not seeking to hide behind another.

Consider the opportunity that David had to cast blame on another. David was innocently standing on the roof of his palace when he saw Bathsheba bathing herself. She was naked and bathing in the open where she could be viewed plainly from the palace roof. Neither did Bathsheba resist David when he sought to have sexual relations with her. She willingly submitted to his overtures. David could have sought to shift the blame to her. He could have said that she tempted him, even as Adam sought to lay the blame at Eve’s feet. Yet David did not do so.

Though David had acted wickedly in committing both adultery and murder, he refused to compound his guilt by failing in honesty and love when confronted with his sin. He had taken Bathsheba as his wife, and a husband nourishes and cherishes his wife. He does not throw her to the wolves. When God’s judgment demanded that the child born to them die, David was grieved for his wife. He did not act with bitterness toward Bathsheba, blaming her for his judgment, but he accepted the blame and sought to comfort his wife and restore her joy by giving her more children.

II Samuel 12:24
Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and went in to her and lay with her; and she gave birth to a son, and he named him Solomon.

What a contrast there is between those who walk in fear and those who rule over fear. The former will turn against the ones they are closest to as they are driven by fear, while the latter will seek to protect, and shelter from harm, those they love. The former will sacrifice others to save themselves, while the latter will sacrifice self to save others.

Christ revealed in His own life which of these behaviors reflects the character of God, for He bore our punishment that we might be saved. The second Adam (Yahshua the Messiah) did that which the first Adam failed to do. Christ died to secure a bride for Himself, while the first Adam sought to protect his own life even if it meant abandoning his bride. David also sought to protect his bride by bearing the blame for both of them, never mentioning Bathsheba’s transgression to God or to man. He would not present himself to Satan to be used as an accuser. Only by ruling over the fear in his life was he able to escape from the enemy and respond in a manner pleasing to God.

As we look at the consequences of Adam’s, Saul’s and David’s actions, we see another stark contrast. Because Adam and Saul responded in fear, not acknowledging their guilt, their judgment remained. David, however, ruled over fear, confessing his guilt, and his sin was forgiven. Look at that which is revealed in the following words:

Genesis 2:17, 3:19
"From the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die... By the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

II Samuel 12:13
Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against Yahweh." And Nathan said to David, "Yahweh also has taken away your sin; you shall not die."

Consider now a verse from the New Testament that bears upon what is spoken here.

I John 1:9
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Because of fear Adam did not confess his sin, and death resulted. Because of fear Saul did not confess his sin, and he lost a kingdom. By ruling over fear David gained a kingdom, and, when he confessed his sin, his sin was taken away and he was spared the judgment of death. In light of these things, does any Christian want to proclaim that fear is an innocent thing, or dare they conclude that it need not be ruled over?

Though fear itself may not appear to be sin, it leads men, women and children to commit actions and to speak words that are detestable to God. Fear drives out faith. Fear leads to gross failures of love. Fear can drive a person to cover over their sin, or to shift the blame to another, resulting in a forfeiture of the grace and forgiveness that could have been theirs. For these reasons, and more to be enumerated, the fearful will have first place in the Lake of Fire, which is the second death.

Heart4God Website: http://www.heart4god.ws
Parables Blog: http://www.parablesblog.blogspot.com

Mailing Address:
Joseph Herrin
P.O. Box 804
Montezuma, GA 31063

1 comment:

Lawrence said...

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