“Love Over Fear” – Deuteronomy 1:19-33

January 15th,  2017

Deuteronomy 1:19-33

“Love Over Fear”

Call to Worship: Psalm 106

Aux. text: Jeremiah 17:5-11

 

Service Orientation: The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.  The fear of anything else is the termination of knowledge, love, joy and peace.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  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 John 4:18

 

Background Information:

  • The events (cf. Nm 13-14) are recalled here in order to challenge the new generation to not fail again. One wasted generation was enough.  It is an interesting feature of Deuteronomy, however, that the succeeding generations of Israel are treated as if they were the actors in that earlier drama.  All of you came to me. . . (vv. 22ff.).  Conversely, the covenant relationship that had been established at Sinai is explicitly said to have been made also with this next generation (cf. 5:3; 11:2-7; 29:14f.).  All people of God have a solidarity and continuity in their actions and relationships, and this is the essence of the covenantal structure and ethos of Deuteronomy.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 29)
  • (v. 19) Throughout, the standard of operation was “as the LORD our God commanded us.” Yahweh had acted as Commander-in-Chief of this vast Israelite army on the march.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 70)
  • (v. 19) In 8:15 this wilderness is said to have had “serpents of fire and scorpions and thirsty ground in which there was no water.” Cf. wilderness portrayals in Dt 8:15; 32:10; Jer 2:6.  The terms “great and terrible” are used to describe Yahweh in 7:21; 10:17.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 176)
  • (v. 23) Under normal circumstances such a reconnaissance mission might have made good sense (Josh 2:1; 7:2; Jdg 18:2), but coming immediately after God’s command, the proposal itself seemed to betray a lack of faith (cf. 9:23). The outcome of the mission reinforced this conclusion.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 70-1)
  • (v. 23) It is worth noting that the Numbers account of this same episode points out that Moses sent the spies under God’s direction. (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 15)
  • (v. 23) Although the original idea may have been prompted by fear and uncertainty on the congregation’s part, its value was apparent to Moses and endorsed by the Lord. Military prudence would dictate that an army should know the route. . . to take and the obstacles that would lie in its path in the form of fortified towns.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 15)
  • (v. 24) The spies entered the Promised Land by way of “the valley of Eschol” (v. 24) which is located in the vicinity of Hebron. Even today there are vineyards in this region known for the excellent quality of their grapes.  Undoubtedly, the contrast between the barren wilderness and the fertile land that God had chosen for them impressed the twelve spies.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 39-40)
  • (v. 26) Note that to refuse to obey by launching out in faith is rebellion against God.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 69)
  • (v. 28) The Anakim were a remnant of the giants living among the Amorites in the southern hill country (9:2; Nm 13:28). Three are named in Nm 13:22; Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai.  They are said to have descended from the Nephilim (Nm 13:33), semi-divine beings who predated the flood (Gn 6:1-4).  The Anakim are likened to the Emim in Dt 2:10-11, another reputed giant race of antiquity known also as the Rephaim.  Og, king of Bashan, whom the Israelites defeated in Transjordan, was one of the last of the Rephaim (3:11).  His bedstead was reputed to be 9 cubits in length and 4 cubits in breadth (13.5 ft by 6 ft).  The Anakim were reported as living mainly in the vicinity of Hebron; Joshua and Caleb are said to have wiped them out in both the southern and northern hill country.  The few left in the Philistine cities of Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod (Josh 11:21-22; 14:12-15; 15:13-14) were eliminated by David and his men (2 Sm 21:15-22).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 178)
  • The whole section, 1:26-46, is a litany of disaster, punctuated by the sad refrain of the people’s attitudes and actions. The sequence of verbs is poignant, climactic, and sobering.  It stands as a warning to every generation of God’s people to avoid such a chain reaction:  you were unwilling. . . you rebelled. . . you grumbled. . . you were afraid. . . you saw but. . . you did not trust. . . you thought it easy. . . you would not listen. . . you rebelled. . . you came back. . . you wept. . . you stayed.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 32)

 

The question to be answered is . . . What is God teaching us through Moses in Deuteronomy 1:19-33?

 

Answer: We only have a right perspective of God, the world and ourselves when we properly fear the Lord.  When we fear anything else, our vision is distorted.

 

Fear is the natural reaction of humans to danger.  As such it is a helpful thing, for it prompts us to take note of and be prepared for the danger.  It becomes sin when it paralyzes us and prevents us from launching out in obedience to God.  The Christian response to fear is to address it with our belief in the sovereignty of God, because of which God will give us victory over what causes it if we are obedient to him.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 64)

 

The Word for the Day is . . .  Fear

 

What is God teaching us through Moses in Deuteronomy 1:19-33?

I-  Fear distorts our knowledge and prevents us from enjoying God’s best.  What do you fear?  (Dt 1:26; see also: Josh 1:6-9; 1 Chr 22:13; Ps 25:12; 31:19; 34:9; 81:12-14; 85:9; 103:11-17; 111:5, 10; 112:1, 7-8; 115:13; 128:1, 4; 145:19; Prv 1:7; 10:27; 14:2, 26-27; 15:33; 16:6; 19:23; 22:4; 28:14; 29:25; Isa 12:2; 54:4; 57:11; Lk 1:50; Acts 9:31; Rom 1:18-32)

 

Their eyes were sealed in unbelief.  With such eyes they would never see the promised land.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 31)

 

It is a major mistake when we focus on the problems instead of the possibilities!

This is what happened with the spies.  Ten saw the barriers; two saw the blessings.  Ten saw giants; two saw God.  Ten saw fortified cities and their faith crumbled; two possessed faith and saw the fortified cities crumble.  Two said, “The best is yet to come”’ ten said, “The best is not to come.”  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 41)

 

It is significant that in the detailed Numbers 13 account of the spies’ report, there is no mention of God.  They had allowed their problems to get between them and God.  He was no longer in their field of vision.  Facts without faith and goals without God can be very intimidating.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 44)

 

The bad report of the majority of spies (Nm 13:26-33) weakened the Israelites’ resolve; they felt inferior and panicked.  There were giants ahead!  The irony is that they felt inferior and in the kind of state of mind that God had promised to inflict on their enemies (cf. 2:25)–and later did (Josh 2:11; 5:1; cf. Ex 14:10).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 30)

 

There is a wonderful life attainable by every person–our “promised land.”  This life represents God’s best for us.  Whether or not we reach it depends totally on our obedience to the Lord.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 37)

 

This was Israel’s finest hour!  Their fathers had died dreaming of the Promised Land.  They had told the story of God’s covenant with Abraham thousands of times over.  They had prayed often for this hour.  Yet, when it came, Moses says, “Nevertheless you would not go up.”  Why?  They became discouraged over the report of the spies.”  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 44)

 

The conflict set up by the need to enter the promised land is the classic conflict between faith and “sight” (cf. Heb 11:1-3).  When the people rely on their own evaluation of circumstances, courage gives way.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 76)

 

Often the Christian community feels that the ability to see an obstacle is the mark of maturity and insight.  Usually, problems are the easiest things to see.  The sad truth is that many of us look for problems, then use them as an excuse to stay right where we are.  God wants men and women who see beyond the difficulties and who give encouragement to those facing challenges.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 38)

 

Fear of the right type can be beneficial to the people of God (see Prv 1:7), but the fear of man’s hostile intentions seldom fits that category.  Indeed, the fear of God was missing from the hearts of Israel at Kadesh Barnea.  Believers should be more concerned for God’s opinion of them than for what human opponents might do to their bodies.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 16)

 

Note how Moses says that this is the land “which the LORD our God is giving us.”  The conquest of the land is presented as a foregone conclusion.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 64)

 

God has given them the great privilege of being the instruments through whom he is going to fulfill a promise that was made and renewed for 500 years!  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 64)

 

Booker T. Washington said, “Success should be measured not so much by the position one has reached in life as by the obstacles which one has overcome while trying to succeed.”  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 37)

 

Wicked men obey from fear; good men, from love. —Aristotle

 

Fear not that your life shall come to an end, but rather that it shall never have a beginning.

 

II-  When your view of God is distorted, everything is distorted.  What do you choose to see?  (Dt 1:26-28; see also: Dt 32:5-30; 2 Chr 19:7; Job 28:28; Ps 19:9; 36:1; 111:10; Prv 1:7; 2:5; 9:10; 15:33; Eccl 8:12-13; Jer 7:24-25; Mal 3:5; Rom 8:15; Heb 2:15; 1 Pt 3:6)

 

The issue was simple:  would the people go into the promised land based on faith in the Lord’s goodness and power?  Or would they go by what their eyes and their ears and their fears told them?  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 26)

 

Those who look at a challenge to faith with the heart of unbelief see the problem in a much larger light than it deserves.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 69)

 

Worry is faith in the negative, trust in the unpleasant, assurance of disaster and belief in defeat…worry is wasting today’s time to clutter up tomorrow’s opportunities with yesterday’s troubles. A dense fog that covers a seven-city-block area one hundred feet deep is composed of less than one glass of water divided into sixty thousand million drops. Not much is there but it can cripple an entire city. When I don’t have anything to worry about, I begin to worry about that. — Walter Kelly

 

Francois Fenelon wrote, “the more we fear to suffer, the more we need to do so.”  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 128)

 

Faithlessness results from and is expressed in faulty vision.  Here Moses highlights the motif of “seeing” (vv. 19, 22-23, 25, 28, 30, 31, 33), but faithless “eyes” are selective in what they allow to register in the heart.  These people were blind to God’s gracious providences, and they saw only the obstacles in their road.  Because of their blindness to the greater One among them (1 Jn 4:4), they would not “see” the prize (vv. 35-36).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 76)

 

A further motif conveying the contrast between fear and faith at the heart of this story is the seeing motif.  The critical question of the unit is, What do you see?  The contrasting answers–and perspectives–are found when one compares verses 19, 30, and 31 with verse 28.  Moses points out to the people that they saw the great and terrible wilderness through which they safely passed (v. 19), that the Lord fought for them before their very eyes (v. 30), and that they saw the Lord care for them in the wilderness (v. 31).  Yet in spite of what happened before their eyes, they did not trust the Lord.  They saw the Anakim (v. 28).  In other words, they “saw” the might of the enemy and did not “see” all the demonstrations of the power of God.  Further, Moses says, they passed safely through the great and terrible wilderness, as they saw, but now they are fearful of the greater people and cities they see before them.  This seeing language parallels the belief language and is, in fact, a kind of faith language; the story really is dealing with the contrast between eyes of faith and eyes of disbelief.  (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 35)

 

If anything, the Anakites ought to have been afraid of Israel.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 27)

 

Worry affects the circulation, the heart, the glands, the whole nervous system.  I have never known a man who died from overwork, but many who died from doubt.” — Dr. Charles Mayo

 

All worry is caused by calculating without God. — Oswald Chambers

 

They were bad examples to others.  They became fearful; therefore the people became fearful.  They saw problems; therefore the people saw problems.  They were intimidated; therefore the people were intimidated.  As leaders rise or fall, so do their followers.  The congregation could not go any farther than its leaders were willing to go.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 48)

 

. . . truth is reality.  That which is false is unreal.  The more clearly we see the reality of the world, the better equipped we are to deal with the world.  The less clearly we see the reality of the world–the more our minds are befuddled by falsehood, misperceptions, and illusions–the less able we will be to determine correct courses of action and make wise decisions.  Our view of reality is like a map…If the map is true and accurate, we will generally know where we are, and if we have decided where we want to go, we will generally know how to get there.  If the map is false and inaccurate, we generally will be lost.  (Dr. Chris Thurman; The Lies We Believe, 167)

 

The man who fears death more than dishonor, more than failure to perform duty, is a poor citizen; and the nation that regards war as the worst of all evils and the avoidance of war as the highest good is a wretched and contemptible nation, and it is well that it should vanish from the face of the earth.  (Theodore Roosevelt, Fear God and Take Your Own Part, 199)

 

What a sad sample of the inborn stubbornness and unbelief of sinful human beings.  “It is easier,” wrote Albert Einstein, “to denature plutonium than to denature the evil spirit of man.”  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 26)

 

“Stiff-necked” had become Moses’ favorite term for them, echoing God’s own opinion (Ex 32:9; 33:3; 34:9; Dt 9:6).  But this time there is something of a climax.  Of all their rebellions this was surely the most serious and the most costly.  The bitterness of their disobedience is expressed in their words, in which they accuse God of quite absurd motives in what he had done for them.  The LORD hates us. . .(v. 27).  The very events that had been the greatest proof of God’s love for them and of God’s faithfulness to the promise to their ancestors are inverted into proof of God’s malevolence (cf. 7:6-8)!  Such a reaction, though certainly shocking in its context here, is not surprising as a symptom of depression and despair.  It is sadly typical that even the people of God turn on God in accusation and blame when things go wrong, when obstacles seem insuperable, or when prolonged frustration leads to exhaustion.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 30)

 

The Anakim are a paradigmatic symbol.  They embody the problem that is too great, that strikes fear into the hearts of the people.  They point to the power of the Lord as the one who is able to overcome such mighty heroes as the Anakim.  (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 35)

 

This lengthy narrative opens the Book of Deuteronomy with a history lesson whose focus is primarily on the persistent fearfulness and disobedience of a people in the face of an experience of the gracious love of God.  (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 36)

 

 

CONCLUSION/APPLICATION: In light of overwhelming evidence, remember to fear only God and trust in the LORD.  He is Emmanuel.  (Dt 1:30-33; see also: Dt 31:6-8, 23; Josh 1:5-9; 10:25; 23:10; 1 Sm 17:43-45; 1 Chr 28:20; 2 Chr 15:2; 32:7; Ps 27:1-5; Prv 3:5-7; Isa 7:14; 41:10, 13; 43:5; Jer 1:8; 46:27-28; Mt 1:23; Jn 12:15; Heb 13:5)

 

Do you know what Jesus’s most frequent or oft repeated prohibition in the Gospels was?  It wasn’t “Thou shalt not steal” or “Thou shalt not commit adultery”, or Thou shalt not kill”, it was “Do not be afraid!”  Why?  More than likely because we do not trust in the providence of God.

 

If you worry, why pray?  If you pray, why worry?

 

Jesus says that the root of anxiety is inadequate faith in our Father’s future grace.  As unbelief gets the upper hand in our hearts, one of the effects is anxiety.  The root cause of anxiety is a failure to trust all that God has promised to be for us in Jesus.  (John Piper, Future Grace, 54)

 

There’s nothing worse than insecurity.  So many people live in fear because they are uncertain about what comes next and their standing before God, if they even believe in God.  On the flip side, there’s nothing better than being absolutely sure that the most powerful Being in the universe adores you as His own child.  This is precisely the confidence the Holy Spirit offers us.  (Francis Chan, Forgotten God, 103)

 

One antidote to such fear is a good memory.  Moses urges them to be unafraid in view of what they had already seen in their own recent past–God’s victory over the Egyptians (v. 30) and God’s parental care for them in the wilderness (vv. 31, 33).  They had experienced Yahweh both as fighter and as father, as savior and as provider–a powerful combination of metaphors that echoes through the whole Bible.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 31)

 

Faith was no leap in the dark, but a perfectly reasonable step forward with eyes opened wide to what God had already done in the past and had promised to repeat in the future.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 31)

 

The thoughtful believer recalls God’s faithfulness in the past when confronted by any new threat.  Part of spiritual maturity is a strong sense of one’s own history.  Believers forget what God has done at their own peril.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 17)

 

Courage is fear that has said its prayers.

 

The remarkable thing about fearing God is that when you fear God you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God you fear everything else. — Oswald Chambers

 

God placed the land before Israel as both a blessing and a challenge.  As a blessing, he had already given them the land.  As a challenge, they still had to go up and take possession of it.  That meant engaging in battle and refusing to give in to their fears.  Like many of God’s gifts, the process was important as well as the end result.  Israel would emerge from their battles with a track record.  They would know that God could be trusted to protect them in the hardest circumstances.  Moses insisted that Israel not be afraid or discouraged, exhortations that he would use again and again throughout Deuteronomy (cp. 1:29; 3:22; 30:1, 3; 31:6, 8).  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 15)

 

Twice in this chapter Moses says, “the LORD your God who goes before you” (1:30, 32-33).  But they say, “Let us send men before us.”  They are looking to people to give them the security that only God can give.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 66)

 

Problems will come, but our trust in God, our experience of past providence, and the belief that he has asked us to move forward will help us go on without giving up.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 68)

 

According to verses 19-33 faithlessness suppresses the truth (v. 32) and is expressed in stubbornness and rebellion against the command of God (v. 26), grumbling behind the leader’s and God’s back, bitterness, misreading the heart of God, accusations against other members of the community (v. 28), fear and loss of nerve (v. 29), and perhaps most tragic of all, a loss of memory (vv. 30-33).  Within this book, Moses will return repeatedly to this “theology of remembrance,” emphasizing that many of Israel’s cultic and constitutional institutions were purposefully designed to keep alive the memory of God’s many interventions on their behalf (6:20-25, 26:5-11).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 76)

 

Is it not shamefully undervaluing the great God, and too much magnifying poor impotent man, to fear and tremble at creatures while God is in the midst of us?  (John Flavel, Keeping the Heart, 50)

 

Worship Point: Unless you fear the LORD alone, your worship could be tainted and meaningless.  (Ps 51:16-17; 96:4; 101:4; 135:20; 147:11; Isa 1:11-15; 29:13-16; 43:22-24; 66:1-2; Amos 5:21-24; Mal 3:3-4; Mt 15:8; Mk 7:6; Jn 4:23-24)

 

The thing you fear the most is probably the thing that you are counting on to earn your righteousness before God.  It is your idol, your work, your merit before God.  Give it up.  You can never be that righteous.  —Tim Keller

 

Some are natural grumblers who automatically panic when there is a crisis.  But God is eventually able to break into their lives with his peace.  These are not rebellious people.  They want to be obedient, but they are naturally timid or have a complaining personality.  God can work with such and use them despite their weakness.  Not so with the people who keep looking for things to complain about, people who do not want to obey.  You answer one problem they have, and they bring up a new problem.  And the sequence of problem-raising and problem-solving continues–on and on–so that they can go on having excuses for avoiding obedience.  God’s verdict on such people is that they have rebelled against God.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 70)

 

Gospel Application:  When we are “In Christ” His perfect love and righteousness allows us to fear nothing but God.  “In Christ” we have the Spirit of Christ Who fears nothing but disappointing His Father.  (Ps 56:3-4, 11; 118:6; Isa 11:2-3; 33:6; Mt 3:17; 10:17-38; 17:5; Mk 1:11; 6:50; Lk 3:22;  Jn 5:30; 2 Cor 5:21; Heb 4:15; 7:26-28; 9:14; 13:6; 1 Pt 1:19; 2 Pt 1:17; 1 Jn 4:18)

 

Fear knocked.  Faith answered.  No one was there.

 

How different is this attitude to that of David as he faced the challenge of Goliath.  There all the people, including the king, were terrified.  But this young man, who was not yet even a soldier, declared, “For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Sm 17:26b).  He carried his faith to its logical end.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 71)

 

Sadly, like Israel, the church as a collective and Christians as individuals have often proved faithless, being more impressed by the power of the enemy than the power of God and the resources he makes available to his people.  But the example of Caleb inspires us in our pursuit of God and provides the key to passing the tests we face:  possession of a different Spirit, that is, the Holy Spirit of God, and unqualified commitment to God and his mission.  To those who persevere the Lord promises not a plot of land but the eternal reward of an inheritance with him (Eph 1:3-14).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 78)

 

To be fearful is to lack confidence; to lack confidence is to show that a person is not made perfect in love.  Believers ought not be afraid of the future, eternity, or God’s judgment, because of God’s love.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: 1, 2, 3 John, 101)

 

When love comes, fear goes (1 Jn 4:17-18).  Fear is the characteristic emotion of someone who expects to be punished.  So long as we regard God as the Judge, the King, the Law-giver, there can be nothing in our heart but a dominant emotion of fear, for in face of such a God we could expect nothing but punishment, and even annihilation.  But once we know that God is love, fear is swallowed up in love.  It is true that in its place there is left a different kind of fear, the fear of grieving the love which so loved us.  (William Barclay, The Letters of John and Jude, 116)

 

He who fears is not perfected in love.  That is the trouble; that is the diagnosis.  Love may be in him, if the life of God is there, but it is not perfected; it is not taking the form of deeds and words, but is all inside.  That is the trouble.  Love, perfected, casts our fear.  (Ray C. Stedman, Expository Studies in 1 John, 331)

 

The believer who lives in close communion with God is free from the fear of punishment.  He knows that God punished Jesus Christ in his place on Calvary’s cross.  Therefore, God does not punish the believer; otherwise Christ’s work would be incomplete.  God corrects and disciplines but does not punish his children.  (Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: James, Epistles of John, Peter, and Jude, 341)

 

Show me a guy who’s afraid to look bad, and I’ll show you a guy you can beat every time.  — Lou Brock

 

The Lord challenges us to suffer persecutions and to confess him.  He wants those who belong to him to be brave and fearless.  He himself shows how weakness of the flesh is overcome by courage of the Spirit.  This is the testimony of the apostles and in particular of the representative, administrating Spirit.  A Christian is fearless. — Tertullian

 

A truly humble man does not fear being exposed.  (Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust, 121)

 

In effect we have here the primary gospel genre of the OT, the promise of salvation.  This word was given to people in distress and fear to say that they need be afraid no longer.  Such assurance is grounded in a reminder of the relationship between God and the troubled one(s) and a promise of God’s involvement to help and to save them out of their distress.  One hears such words echoing through the Scriptures from Abraham (Gn 15:1-5) and Isaac (Gn 26:24), to the prophet of good news to the exiles (Isa 41:8-13, 14-16; 43:1-4, 5-7; 44:1-5), to the angel’s message to frightened shepherds (Lk 2:8-14).  (Patrick D. Miller, Interpretation: Dt, 32)

 

In Nm 14:24 Yahweh recognizes a different spirit with Caleb, demonstrated in following Yahweh fully.  While this could mean simply that Caleb’s disposition differed from that of the rest of the population, it is more likely that “to be accompanied by a different Spirit” is equivalent to being circumcised of heart (Dt 30:6), to having experienced a divine heart transplant, or to having had Yahweh put his “spirit” within a person (Ezek 36:26-27).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 77)

 

Love and fear are diametrically opposite principles; and they imply opposite modes of treatment on the part of God towards us, and opposite relations on our part towards him.  If God deals with us in the way of strict law and righteous judgment, then the footing on which we are with him is one simply of fear.  His fear is with us; not his love.  And it is so with us that, however it may be lulled for a time, it will one day be perfected, or have its perfect work, in “a fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversary.”  If, again, God deals with us in the way of rich and free grace, then the footing on which we are with him is one of love.  He no longer holds over us the threat of punishment; the fear of it is not with us any more.  It cannot be, for this fear hath torment.

Mark the reason here assigned for fear being cast out; it hath torment; the torment of anticipated judgment; for that is exactly what is meant.  It echoes the voice of the demons:  –“Art thou come to torment us before the time?”  But we with whom “God’s love is perfected,” have boldness in reference to the day of judgment; not torment, but boldness. Therefore, “there is no fear in that love,” thus perfected; for fear introduces an element the reverse of what a state of loving fellowship implies.  Hence “he that feareth is not made perfect in that love,” he does not fully realize the standing or position which it gives him; he does not enter completely into the faith and fellowship of “God’s love with us,” as a love that “is made perfect.”  (Robert Candlish, The First Epistle of John, 417-8)

 

Pilate tries to intimidate Jesus.  He says to Him, “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”  Obviously the true answer to Pilate’s question was “No!”  Pilate had never met a prisoner who was less able to be intimidated than Jesus.  The fearlessness of Jesus was disconcerting.  Pilate assumed that such fearlessness must be rooted in the prisoner’s ignorance.  It must be, he thought, that Jesus simply did not realize who He was dealing with.  The reverse was the case.  Pilate did not realize whom he was dealing with. (R.C. Sproul; The Glory of Christ, 154)

 

John Witherspoon wisely said, “It is only the fear of God that can deliver us from the fear of man.”  (Patrick Morley ; The Man In The Mirror, 260)

 

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.  We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?  Actually, who are you not to be?  You are a child of God.  Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.  There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are born to make manifest to the Glory of God that is within us.  It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone, and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”— Nelson Mandela: President of South Africa

 

John is saying that fear has limitation, fear imprisons us.  Anxieties, tensions, worries, apathy–all these forms of fear literally imprison us, they limit us.  I have known people who were unable to go outside the door of their house because of fear.  I have seen Christian people who were unable to drive their cars, or who were afraid to meet people.  Fear limits our life, pushes us into corners and keeps us there, and we cannot love as God intended us to live.  (Ray C. Stedman, Expository Studies in 1 John, 331)

 

There are those who have the life of God and yet never let it out.  Their pride and self-pity bind them up, and they do not want to show love; they are afraid to.  They are afraid it will open them up to be hurt, or that it will give someone an advantage over them, and so they bottle it up, keep it in, and then they wonder why they are oppressed by anxieties, tensions, and problems of nervousness.  They are limited, unable to move and do as they ought to.  (Ray C. Stedman, Expository Studies in 1 John, 331)

 

The reason that fear and love are mutually exclusive is because fear relates to punishment.  In perfect love the idea of punishment is absent.  But when there is disobedience, there is fear.  And fear of impending punishment already is a penalty.  (Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: James, Epistles of John, Peter, and Jude, 341)

 

Spiritual Challenge: Ask yourself, “What do you see?  What do you fear?  Why?”  (Prv 3:5-7; Mt 8:26; Mk 4:40; Heb 12:2)

 

Fear like pain can be an indication of what is wrong in your life.

 

Since I have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, the thing I fear the most is myself. — Carole Jacobus

 

You can conquer almost any fear if you will only make up your mind to do so.  For remember, fear doesn’t exist anywhere except in the mind.

 

I’ve always understood that courage is about the management of fear, not the absence of fear.  —Rudy Giuliani

 

The function of fear is to warn us of danger, not to make us afraid to face it.

 

Christian men are but men.  They may have a bad liver, or an attack of bile, or some trial, and then they get depressed if they have ever so much grace.  But what then?  Well, then you can get joy and peace through believing.  I am the subject of depressions of spirit so fearful that I hope none of you ever gets to such extremes of wretchedness as I go to.  But I always get back again by this:  I know I trust Christ.  I have no reliance but in Him.  Because He lives, I shall live also, and I spring to my legs again and fight with my depressions of spirit and my downcast soul and get the victory through it.  So may you do, and so you must, for there is no other way of escaping from it.  In your most depressed seasons, you are to get joy and peace through believing.” — Charles Spurgeon

 

To the Philippians Paul writes:  “have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with Thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7). Evidently one sign of deficient prayer is anxiety.  (Richard F. Lovelace; Dynamics Of Spiritual Life — An Evangelical Theology of Renewal, 160)

 

“Undefined fear is a bear…Defined fear is a teddy bear.”  (Steve Brown, Living Free,  73)

 

Here is a superb bit of psychology, for what after all, is the main cause of this spirit of fear?  The answer is ‘self’–self-love, self-concern, self-protection.  Had you realized that the essence of this trouble is that these fearful people are really too absorbed in self–how can I do this, what if I fail?  ‘I’–they are constantly turning in upon themselves, looking at themselves and concerned about themselves.  And it is just here that the spirit of love comes in, for there is only one way to get rid of yourself.  There is only one cure for self.  You will never deal with self yourself.  That was the fatal fallacy of those poor men who became monks and anchorites.  They could get away from the world and from other people, but they could not get away from themselves.  Your self is inside you and you cannot get rid of him, the more you mortify yourself the more your self will torment you.

There is only one way to get rid of self, and that is that you should become so absorbed in someone or something else that you have no time to think about yourself.  Thank God, the Spirit of God makes that possible.  He is not only ‘the spirit of power,’ but He is also ‘the spirit of love’.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure, 103)

 

If you can define a problem you can deal with a problem.  The first step in overcoming any fear or crisis is to define it.  —Steve Brown

 

Fear is the darkroom where Satan takes you to develop all of your negatives.

 

You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.

 

So What?:  Guard your heart (Prv 4:23).  You can get a life when you fear God alone and know He is with you. (Ps 34:11; 86:11; 119:38, 120; 130:4; Prv 1:29; 2:1-5; 3:5-7; 8:13; 9:10; 23:17; Isa 50:10; 57:11; Jer 32:39-40; Zeph 3:13-16; Mk 5:36; Jn 14:27; 1 Pt 5:7)

 

If fear wins, you lose.

 

I am inwardly fashioned for faith, not for fear.  Fear is not my native land; faith is.  I am so made that worry and anxiety are sand in the machinery of life; faith is the oil.  I live better by faith and confidence than by fear, doubt and anxiety.  In anxiety and worry, my being is gasping for breath—these are not my native air.  But in faith and confidence, I breathe freely—these are my native air.  A John Hopkins University doctor says, “We do not know why it is that worriers die sooner than the non-worriers, but that is a fact.”  But I, who am simple of mind, think I know; We are inwardly constructed in nerve and tissue, brain cell and soul, for faith and not for fear.  God made us that way.  To live by worry is to live against reality.  (Dr. E. Stanley Jones, Transformed by Thorns, 95)

 

There’s nothing worse than insecurity.  So many people live in fear because they are uncertain about what comes next and their standing before God, if they even believe in God.  On the flip side, there’s nothing better than being absolutely sure that the most powerful Being in the universe adores you as His own child.  This is precisely the confidence the Holy Spirit offers us.  (Francis Chan, Forgotten God, 103)

 

This passage shows us that fear is a reality that we should combat with our belief in the sovereignty of God.  And to encourage us to believe, we have a whole history of God’s glorious dealings with his people.  Fear is a reality, but it does not need to overcome us and lead to defeat.  We can overcome it with our faith in God’s sovereignty.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 74)

 

“Fear can paralyze and even kill people.  Fear, like misery, loves company.  Faith and laughter are Fear’s most formidable foes.  Laughter cuts Fear down to size.  Fear takes itself so seriously; but it shrinks when we laugh in its face.  Poke fun at Fear and it goes into a frenzy.” — Peggy Goldtrap

 

The antidote to depression is to have a knowledge of Him, and you get that in His Word.  You must take the trouble to learn it.  It is difficult work, but you have to study it and give yourself to it.  The tragedy of the hour, it seems to me, is that people are far too dependent for their happiness upon meetings.  This has been the trouble for many years in the Christian Church, and that is why so many are miserable.  Their knowledge of the Truth is defective.  That, you remember, is what our Lord said to certain people who had suddenly believed on Him.  He said: ‘If ye continue in My word then are ye My disciples indeed.  And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free’ (John 8.31,32).  Free from doubts or fears, free from depression, free from things that get you down.  It is the truth that frees–the truth about Him, in His Person, in His work, in His offices, Christ as He is.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones; Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure:, 156-7)

 

The prayer that the disciples prayed, after the Great Commission was declared illegal by the authorities, gives us a good example of how Christians should face up to fear.  Most of the prayer is a reflection on the sovereignty of God (Acts 4:24-28).  Then there is a cursory glance at their problem–“And now, Lord, look upon their threats” (Acts 4:29a)–followed by a request to help them boldly obey the Great Commission–“and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness” (Acts 4:29b).  The prayer closes with a request to God to intervene with healing, signs, and wonders (Acts 4:30).  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 64-5)

 

JESUS:

FEARBUSTER

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