When I am afraid, I put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. … In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord whose word I praise—in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? (Psalm 56:3-4, 10-11).
Have you ever been afraid of someone? Have you ever experienced the fear of God?
Interestingly, it’s the same Hebrew word (yaré) for both. This word can mean either something that causes me to fight or flight, or it can mean reverential respect. David is saying, “When I begin to feel the fear of man, I instead turn to the fear of God, and I am no longer afraid.”
Or to put it another way: “When I think I have to fight or flight on my own, I instead choose to reverence God and He takes care of my fear.”
In both verses 4 and 10, the word “praise” is the Hebrew word for “Hallelujah!” When David feels fear of man creeping in, he looks to God’s Word, finds a promise on which to stand, and reverentially begins to worship God: “Hallelujah! With this promise, I no longer need to fear man!” The Amplified Bible says, “On God I lean, rely, and confidently put my trust; I will not fear.”
There is one other difference in the Hebrew language that is not readily apparent in the English translation. In verse 4, David uses the name Elohiym for God. This means the Mighty God who is Supreme over all. In verse 10, he uses God’s covenant name Yahweh or Jehovah. To me, this sounds like David knew that the fear of God could combat everything from general fears of human philosophies to a specific fear of a specific mortal. His conclusion is a good one: What can man—a mere mortal—or any of his worldly philosophies do to rattle me? Absolutely nothing because I am secure in God!”
We all become fearful at times. If we choose to fight or flight the fear, we do it in our own strength. This may result in temporary relief, but the fear will come back around again. However, if we decide to fear God—to say “Hallelujah!” to His promises—He is able to completely remove our fear.
The choice is ours: fear man or fear God.
To paraphrase the declaration of Joshua: “Choose this day whom you will fear. As for me, I choose to fear God!”
I recently shared my book review on the heroic story of the ten Boom family during the Nazi occupation of Holland, as told in the story The Hiding Place. This story is a must-read! Please check out my full book review by clicking here.
These are some quotes from these godly sisters.
“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.” —Corrie ten Boom
“Any concern too small to be turned into prayer is too small to be made into a burden.” —Corrie ten Boom
“When Jesus Christ tells us to forgive our enemies, He gives us the power He demands of us.” —Corrie ten Boom
“We must tell people how good God is. After the war, we must go around telling people. No one will be able to say that they have suffered worse than us. We can tell them how wonderful God is, and how His love will fill our lives, if only we will give up our hatred and bitterness.” —Betsie ten Boom
“At that moment when I was able to forgive, my hatred disappeared. … Forgiveness is the key which unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hatred. It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness. What a liberation it is when you can forgive.” —Corrie ten Boom
“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” —Corrie ten Boom
“When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.” —Corrie ten Boom
“If they can be taught to hate, they can be taught to love.” —Betsie ten Boom, speaking to Corrie about the Nazi prison guards
“We never know how God will answer our prayers, but we can expect that He will get us involved in His plan for the answer. If we are true intercessors, we must be ready to take part in God’s work on behalf of the people for whom we pray.” —Corrie ten Boom
“Holiness is the Holy Spirit, a holy God in my heart, which makes me similar to Jesus.” —Betsie ten Boom
By the way, another great book of recollections from Corrie is I Stand At The Door And Knock.
The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)
How many of my daily choices are affected by fear?
David begins this psalm with the same kinds of questions, as he battles enemies surrounding him, the possibility of his family rejecting him, false witnesses speaking lies against him, and foes closing in from every side.
In the middle of all of these swirling issues, David exhibits a confidence that starkly stands out:
How can David respond this way? He kept turning his thoughts from the temporal to the eternal—
It may seem dark now, but God is light.
People may be fickle, but God is unchanging.
Foes may be strong, but God is the strongest.
People are mean, but God is good.
Both David’s opening and closing thoughts in this psalm are really a conversation with himself: The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? … I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. (vv. 1, 13, 14)
My friends, don’t let fear drive your decisions. Let confidence in God drive your decisions. Talk back to your fearful thoughts like David did and remind them of the great and loving God that cares for you. Don’t take matters into your own hand, but wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
I used Psalm 27 as a teaching example of how to turn passages from the Bible into our own personalized prayers. Check out this 5-minute video here:
When Gabriel told Mary that she would be the mother of Jesus, he said that “the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.” Just before the angel showed up Luke noted that Mary was “pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David” (Luke 1:27, 32).
At this time in history marriages were often arranged to preserve and strengthen family lines. Both Joseph and Mary could trace their family lineage through the royal line of Israel’s King David.
Mary is betrothed to Joseph. Betrothal was considered as strong as a marriage with the only exception being that the couple didn’t yet live together nor sleep together. Betrothal usually lasted a year and would require a divorce to cancel it.
Mary tells Joseph what Gabriel said to her and then she leaves to visit Elizabeth for the next three months! Joseph is left alone to consider his options.
The word Luke uses for “consider” is not even close to what’s happening in Joseph’s mind. The word means to revolve around and around in your mind, like trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube.
Consider Joseph’s options. If he divorces Mary—which was apparently his first reaction—Mary would be publicly embarrassed. Not to mention that Joseph knew that God hated divorce.
If Joseph decided to proceed with the marriage, he would either have to confess he was the father of her child—which could result in both of them being stoned—or admit that she was pregnant by another man—which would be a permanent disgrace for Mary’s family.
In either case, both families would be shamed!
While Joseph was still considering all these unsavory options an angel says to him, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid.” By calling him by that title he is really saying, “I know how important your family heritage is to you. I know how important Mary’s family heritage is to her. But do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife because this all fits into God’s plan.
Would it have been easier on Joseph and Mary and their families if God could have waited until after they were married? Of course! But then it wouldn’t fit into God’s miraculous plan, because 700 years earlier God promised that Jesus would be born of an unmarried virgin.
God knows YOUR future too! It’s a future He already saw as good and fruitful, if you will put your trust in Him (Psalm 139:16; Jeremiah 29:11; John 15:16).
If you seem paralyzed by a no-win dilemma like Joseph was, first DON’T do what Joseph did: pray! Then DO what Joseph did after hearing the angel: obey.
Remember Who knows you and Who knows your future, and then take each step on your journey as God directs you.
If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our series called Do Not Be Afraid, you can access the full list by clicking here.
When it comes right down to it, faith and fear both hinge on our beliefs: Fear believes something bad; faith believes something good. Fear is an invitation for us to evaluate in who or in what we have placed our trust.
According to the dictionary, fear is a distressing emotion we feel whether the threat is real or imagined. Five hundred years ago, Michel de Montaigne said, “My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened.” Even more recently, an extensive study found that 85 percent of things people feared never happened!
According to the dictionary, faith is trust in something even without proof or evidence. That sounds tremendously close to the biblical definition of faith: Now faith is the assurance—the confirmation, the title deed—of the things we hope for, being the proof of things we do not see and the conviction of their reality—faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses. (Hebrews 11:1 AMP)
Mary is the second person to whom an angel says “Do not be afraid” in the First Advent story. Consider her story alongside Zechariah’s story and especially notice when these words were spoken. The angel Gabriel first tells Mary, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Mary’s initial response is being “greatly troubled.” This Greek word means an internal agitation that today psychologists would call “cognitive dissonance.” In other words, what Mary believed about herself didn’t line up with what God believed about her. Her next response is wondering how she could ever measure up to God’s high standard of her.
It’s at this point that Gabriel says those key words, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have already found favor with God.” She didn’t have to make herself worthy of God’s favor because she already had it! Now Mary just had to believe it.
Mary did indeed choose this. Her song (in vv. 46-55) is loaded with Old Testament references, and she concludes by singing to God, “You have helped Your servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as You said to our fathers.”
Here’s the truth—
Clinging to God’s words lets us realize God’s grace toward us.
If you know Jesus as your Savior, you can insert your name in the same place where Gabriel said to Mary: “Do not be afraid, ____________, you have found favor with God!”
If you have missed any of the messages in our Advent series Do Not Be Afraid, you can access the full list by clicking here.
Have you ever had a really good scare? Maybe in the dark or when you were young? Then in the light or as you got older you thought, “Why was I afraid of that?” Our relief came from the fact that we think we know more. But here’s the problem: there is a difference between a healthy fear and an unhealthy fear, so not every fear is something we should try to alleviate.
Sometimes we treat too lightly the things that are really quite powerful. Consider the arrival of Jesus in Bethlehem. There are more angels sent by God surrounding this one event than anywhere else in all the Bible. Yet all four angelic appearances have the same message: “Do not be afraid.”
Why would people fear what we now celebrate as such a joyous event? I think it’s because God Himself—the All-Holy Creator of the Universe—is coming near to sinful man (see John 1:9; 1 Timothy 6:15-16).
God is holy, and His holiness is unapproachable by sin. At the exact same moment, God is love, and His love desires for us to approach Him. We cannot make this happen on our own, which leads to more fear.
Thankfully for us, God Himself has provided the way for sinful man to approach His awesome, unapproachable holiness!
In the Greek language of the New Testament phobeō is the main word for “fear.” This word can be defined as either fleeing from a terrible thing or clinging in obedience to an awesomely reverent thing. Jesus said the same things when He told us, “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him” (Luke 12:4-5).
In the Advent story, the first appearance of “Do not be afraid” is when an angel appears to Zechariah. Why would Zechariah be so afraid at the approach of God? I think there may have been three reasons:
All of this added up to Zechariah feeling like God was displeased with them and that He was only coming close to bring fiery judgment.
The angel told Zechariah not to fear because “your prayer has been heard.” In other words, “I am inviting you to trust in what God HAS already done versus trusting in what you might or might not be able to do on your own.” Phobeō was an invitation to choose reverential obedience (holy fear) of the eternal over the terror of the temporal.
Sadly, Zechariah initially clung to the negative phobeō. Yet after Elizabeth did conceive and John was born, this was transformed into holy, reverential fear, as heard in the Spirit-inspired song he sang. Notice in Luke 1:67-75 Zechariah’s emphasis on all that God has done: He has come, He has redeemed, He has raised, He said, He has kept His covenant, He has rescued, He has enabled.
Have you put yourself in the category of “unworthy of God’s favor”? Has fear crippled you—like it had done with Zechariah—from continuing to pray, believe, and try?
I invite you to accept the invitation to take your eyes off the temporary and put them on the Eternal One. “…The time is coming quickly, and what I show you will come true. It may seem slow in coming, but wait for it; it will certainly take place, and it will not be delayed.” (Habakkuk 2:3 GNT)
Check out the other messages in this Do Not Be Afraid series by clicking here.
You would think this would be an occasion for great joy. But all four of the angelic appearances around the birth of Jesus have the same message: Do not be afraid.
Why are people so afraid? It’s because fear invites us to make a decision to trust God completely. People remain crippled by fear when they try to deal with fear by themselves. But when they learn to fear God instead, there is an almost inexpressible joy and freedom that explodes in our hearts!
Join us for this Advent series where we will explore why this “Do not fear” message is still relevant for us today. Please join us either in-person or on Facebook.
If you have missed any of the messages in this series, check them out here:
On this episode of “The Craig And Greg Show” we talk about:
I shared last week that the judgment of God should be a cause for both fear and rejoicing—both regret and comfort—for those who have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. But for those who have no relationship with God, the judgment of God is a cause for only fear and regret.
How did Nahum respond to this word of judgment God spoke through him? His opening words say, “The burden against Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite” (NKJV). The Hebrew word for “burden” is almost always associated with a word God has spoken. It’s a realization of God’s weighty glory; it’s never, ever something we should trivialize!
Prophets don’t just prophesy future events, they also announce in the present tense where people have departed from a lifestyle that robs God of His glory and how they can be forgiven of sins.
“The prophets foretell (speak to what will happen in the future) and forth-tell (speak to what we should be doing in the present), both in the light of God’s heart for His own glory among all peoples of the world.” —Dick Brogden
The world may rejoice at God’s justice on evil (3:19), but how does God feel about carrying out His judgment? Ezekiel records God saying, “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Sovereign Lord. “Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?” (Ezekiel 18:23)
And Jesus declared, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” (John 3:16-17)
The Bible shows that when I sin, God’s first response is not anger toward me but broken-hearted grief. This is the message that must be both foretold and forth-told by Christians.
“But what can I do,” you might ask. “I’m just one person. I’m not a big-time evangelist.” That sounds a lot like Nahum. He was just a guy from Elkosh—no special family lineage, no large city to claim as his home.
God is looking for just one that will speak out His words (Ezekiel 3:17-21). Just one who will be humble enough to search their own heart first and then both boldly and lovingly deliver a message of both judgment and escape (Matthew 7:1-5; James 5:20).
Foretelling God’s judgment is a burden. Forth-telling God’s forgiveness is a joy. All Christians have been given the joyful burden of this both-and ministry!
If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our series called Major Lessons From Minor Prophets, you can find the full list by clicking here.