Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: I am the first and I am the last; besides Me there is no god. Who is like Me? Let them proclaim it, let them declare and set it forth before Me. Who has announced from of old the things to come? Let them tell us what is yet to be. Do not fear, or be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? You are My witnesses! Is there any god besides Me? There is no other rock; I know not one. Isaiah 44:6-8 (NRSV)
Fear is a word that can be taken in a few different ways in Scripture, but the only “fear” that we are told to hold onto is “fear of the Lord.” The phrase “fear of the Lord” appears 134 times in the NRSV translation of the Bible, so it is an important theme. However, the English translation, “fear of the Lord” can more accurately and completely be taken as meaning, “an obedient reverence and awe of the Lord.”
God doesn’t want us to be afraid of people or afraid of what people think they can do to us. As much power as some individuals may hold- even up to the power of physical life and death- all power ultimately comes from God.
Jesus tells us-
Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28 (NRSV)
The fear of hell never brought salvation to anyone, and that’s not what Jesus is emphasizing here. He is underscoring the point that there is a limit to what power other people and earthly circumstances actually have over us. Life in the physical body is only for a limited time. The worst thing any human or any condition can do to us is to extinguish the life of our bodies. That is eventually going to happen anyway. Bodies are temporary. But our souls live on, and they belong to God.
So God’s the one we need to be concerned with. Not with the fear of other people’s wrath, or the pursuit of stuff, or the fear of scarcity, or the fear of pain, or the fear of anything else.
God isn’t a big fan of people being bullies, or of people living to be trendy, or of people striving to “have it all.” God is a big fan of people living according to His love- bringing mercy and kindness to others, standing up to injustice, and being His hands and feet here on earth. It’s His opinion of us that matters, because it is life with Him that will last.
What are we afraid of? What (or who) is holding us back?