Posts Tagged ‘fear’


When the Lord was finished giving instruction to Moses and rewriting the Ten Commandments on the second set of tablets, Moses came back down the mountain to the people.  Last time, Moses found them in deliberate, devastating sin.  This time, they are awaiting his arrival in faith.  When Moses shows up, though, they are afraid because his face is supernaturally shining with God’s glory.

Isn’t it funny how when we are in the most danger and disobedience, we fear not the God against whom we are sinning, but when we are in a repentant and expectant posture we recognize our great need of mercy?  It seems just the opposite of what ought to be, but, no.  The more we know God and his holiness, the more we know ourselves and our unholiness.  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Moses’ face was gleaming with God’s glory when he came down the mountain.  Likewise, perhaps not physically visible as Moses’s radiance, yet still recognizable, there is a certain countenance God puts on us when we have spent considerable time with Him in earnest.  Matthew Henry says, “Serious godliness puts a lustre upon a man’s countenance such as commands esteem and affection.” There is a noticeable difference between the face of man and the face of a man who knows God intimately.

Interestingly, Moses did not know his face was shining.  The most humble men are often the most used of God.  Sometimes, those who are least apt to think God is pleased with them are most recognized by others as great instruments of grace.  Conversely, those most confident in their own abilities and talents are often dismissed by their own pride and most unfit for use in the kingdom.  We ought not know our own excellence, or if we know it, cover it with a humble and gentle spirit of modesty.

Even though the people have been waiting patiently upon Moses’ return down from the mountain – the very thing that grieved them and was the source of their complaints and idolatry last time he went up – they are not excited and jubilant when Moses returns.  They are afraid because of his radiant face.  They are afraid to even come close to Moses.  Remember, last time Moses came down, he found them in their sin.  Seeing Moses’ face shine supernaturally insites guilt and fear of judgement for the guilty.  In the same way, many people today are anything but excited to hear about what God said in His Word or what we experience while in His presence because seeing someone who is the real deal makes them overwhelmingly conscious of their own guilt and quite fearful.  Henry says, “Holiness will command reverence; but the sense of sin makes men afraid of their friends, and even of that which really is a favor to them…for the most sensible proofs will not of themselves conquer an obstinate infidelity.”

After giving the people God’s laws and commands, Moses covers his shining face with a veil.  Apparently this was not to ease their fear, since he waits until after he calls them near and explains all God’s orders to them.  This was to keep the people from seeing the glory fade away.  Until Christ came and the gospel was revealed, God’s people saw but shadows of the fullness of Christ; the gospel was, as it was, veiled and concealed in the Old Covenant, fading and coming to an end, making way for the Living Word, that is, Jesus Christ.

Everytime Moses went back to speak with God outside the camp after this event, he took the veil off.  When he came out, his face shone bright again and slowly faded.  He kept the veil on among the people, but never with God.  All is laid bare in the presence of God and there is no hiding our face.  We who see God’s glory through our belief in the gospel have what the apostle Paul calls, “unveiled faces.”  Just as Moses saw God and knew him intimately, so do we who are in Christ.  Amen!


Read Full Post »

Looking at Exodus 20:18-21 which are the words spoken immediately after the 10 commandments are given.

 If we look back to just prior in chapter 19, we see that strict rules are given by God about being purified and not going too close to the mountain.  The mountain is then enveloped in smoke and people see thunder, lightning, and hear trumpets.  It is then that the Lord comes down and Moses is first called up.  Moses goes up the mountain and God sends him right back down to tell the people to stay back and warn them again.

 The Lord came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain. And the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.

21 And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to the Lord to look and many of them perish. 22 Also let the priests who come near to the Lord consecrate themselves, lest the Lord break out against them.” 23 And Moses said to the Lord, “The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai, for you yourself warned us, saying, ‘Set limits around the mountain and consecrate it.’” 24 And the Lord said to him, “Go down, and come up bringing Aaron with you. But do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to the Lord, lest he break out against them.” ~Exodus 19:20-24

At this point, Moses is probably like dude, I just climbed up here and you’re sending me back down to tell my guys what I just told them.  We have been preparing for this for three days.  They are consecrated already, God. I warned them already.  You made me draw lines around the mountain, remember?

So that’s where we are when God begins to speak the ten commandments.  The people have been warned twice and consecrated and Moses is somewhere at the foot of the mountain with them because it does not appear that he has had time to go back up the mountain with Aaron yet.  The ten commandments are given and immediately afterward is where we pick up today.

18 Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.”21 The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was. ~Exodus 20:18-21

These supernatural events – thunder, lightning, smoke, the trumpets alongside the voice of God Himself produced absolute terror in the people – as they would any and all of us.  The text says they stood “far off.”  They elected Moses their mediator.  “You talk to God Moses.  Don’t let him talk to us! We will die for sure!” 

Moses answers them and says, essentially, “Fear not; fear God.”  This is so cool.  Exodus 20:20.  Here is our clear vision.  Here’s 20/20 guys.  Don’t fear death and the judgement of sin.  Fear the God who command you not to sin!  If you do the latter, you will no longer have to fear the former.  If you refuse to do the latter, you better fear the former.  Therefore, fear not; fear God.

What was happening right before the eyes of these people was fearful.  Just close your eyes and consider it.  Consider standing in the wilderness and witnessing these events.  It was indeed terrifying and meant to be so.  But what were they ultimately afraid of?  That the fire and fury of God would consume and destroy them.  Moses says, “No.  Don’t fear that.  Fear God and you will live.”

The truth is, our sin and guilt will destroy us and his judgment will consume us if we fail to fear God, believe the promises of the Savior, and trust in his mercy.  So fear not; fear God is what Moses says to them and then, this is amazing, Moses walks towards the darkness.  Everyone else is getting as far away from God’s presence as humanly possibly and Moses is drawing near.  The first question that came to my mind when reading this passage was, “Why wasn’t Moses afraid?”  He’s just a man like the rest of them, right?  And the answer is, Moses was not afraid because Moses knew his calling.  Moses heard God’s call and nothing was going to stop him from doing that which God had purposed for his life.  He wasn’t afraid to draw near to the most powerful being in the universe because Moses had heard directly from God himself on numerous occasions and God had graciously instructed him.  Moses knew his call.  He knew the voice of His Master and it gave him great confidence and assurance to do all that which God expected of him – fearful or not.  Moses was courageous because he knew and understood his call.

In all of this we see how the law was given.  This was quite an epic event – one not soon forgotten.  This was God’s way of making absolutely clear to us that His law is of utmost importance.  He wants us to learn to fear Him first, above all else, that we might not sin, lest, as we deserve, we die without mercy.  The law was given in such a way that it might startle, wake, and humble sinners in preparation for Christ and the gospel.  Without understanding the wrath and judgement we all deserve for transgressing this law, we cannot understand and desire the mercy and forgiveness of the gospel.

If you are sharing a gospel that only includes love, mercy, and forgiveness while leaving out the law, you are not sharing the true gospel.  Without the law, sinners do not have a need for a Savior.  The law, the Bible teaches, is the schoolmaster meant to bring us to Christ.  We must realize the seriousness of God’s holy law, understand how thoroughly we have broken it, and feel the weight of God’s coming judgement before we feel any read need for a Savior or commit to Him as Lord.

So share the gospel.  Don’t forget to talk about the law, first, though.  Amen.

Read Full Post »

Read Full Post »


Rubin “Hurricane” Carter knockout

The Lord delivered his people out of slavery and evil oppression by many signs, wonders, and miracles.  He delivered them out of Egypt, gave them the spoils of war, led them by supernatural means, and walked them straight through a would-be raging sea.  Their enemies are lying dead on the seashore in full view.  God’s people fear and believe God more than they ever have before.  That’s a hard act to follow.  What do the people of God do after an unmitigated display of God’s power?

There is only one thing they can do – praise God.  Moses and Miriam lead the people in  singing a song of praise.  It goes something like this:

Wow, God!  You won!  You threw our enemies and the high horses they rode in on into the sea!  You are my strength!  You are my salvation!  You are my God!  Be praised!  Be exalted!  You are a divine warrior!  You literally threw the most powerful guy in the world into the sea!  You sunk him like a heavy rock!  You sunk his entire army like stones!  What power!  What wrath!  What majesty!  What victory!  They are like nothing to you!  So proud!  So confident they would capture us again!  But you destroyed them with one single blow and they sank to the depths of the sea!  Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods?  Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?  Your wrath consumed our enemies.  Your love led us as your redeemed.  People everywhere fear you now!  They fear us!  Everyone is afraid!  None of our enemies can even move when we walk by because they have seen your power and they know you fight for us!  You bought us.  We belong to you.  We know you are giving us a home and a holy place where you will rule for all eternity.  Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.

This song was intended to convey the greatness of God in three ways.  1. It was to magnify the obliteration of all the fierce enemies of God’s people.  2.  It was to magnify the protection and tender leading of his own.  3.  It was to serve as a tangible reminder for every generation to come of those two realities.

Remember, Christian, we serve a God who smites the proud.  Matthew Henry notes, “This destruction of the Egyptians was made the more remarkable by their pride and insolence, and their strange assurance of success: The enemy said, I will pursue, Here is, first, great confidence.  When they pursue, they do not question but they shall overtake; and, when they overtake, they do not question but they shall overcome, and obtain so decisive a victory as to divide the spoil.  Note, it is common for men to be most elevated with the hope of success when they are upon the brink of ruin, which makes their ruin so much the sorer.”  

Remember, Christian, we serve a God who delivers the purchased.  The Lord is a divine warrior who fights valiantly for those whom he will.  Henry states, “The Lord is a man of war, that is, well able to deal with all those that strive with their Maker, and will certainly be too hard for them.”

Remember, Christian, He is worthy of our praise!  Both Moses, the prophet, and Miriam, the prophetess, led God’s people in praise after their victory.  Henry says, “Those that are active in public services should not be neuters in public praises.”

Sing, Christian.  Your enemy has been defeated.  Your God has bought and delivered you.  Sing praise to the Man of War who fought, died, purchased, and delivered you before you were even born.

Read Full Post »


God is leading.  God is leading his people very specifically.  He has delivered them from the the heavy hand of an unjust master and he has taken them into the wilderness.  With a cloud by day and a fire by night, God has been ever so faithful to get them where they need to be.  He further cares for them by speaking very clearly the way in which they must go to his prophet, Moses.  Now, they have come to a place where the wilderness is behind them, rocky treachery is beside them, and the Red Sea is in front of them.  Apart from God’s direct orders on where to go, the cloud, the fire, there would have been little reason to believe this could possibly be the right way.  It was long, it was foreign, and it did not make logical sense.

So, here Moses is instructed to encamp in front of the Red Sea.  God does not just tell Moses where to go.  He tells him why to go there.

For Pharaoh will say of the people of Israel, ‘They are wandering in the land; the wilderness has shut them in.’ And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.” And they did so. ~Exodus 14:3-4

God is about to take his people through the Red Sea.  He is about to show his power and sovereignty through both mercy and wrath.  As his people walk through the sea, their enemies will be destroyed, both at the very same time by the mighty hand of God.

So God says, “Hey, Moses!  Guess what?  Once I get you guys to a place where you have no where else to go, your enemies are coming for you.  I’m gonna make them as hardened and foolish in their pursuit as they have ever been.  Even more so!  Then, I’m gonna show them who I am.  But don’t worry!  I’m gonna get glory and they’re gonna know I am God once and for all .  Now, go this crazy, unexpected, entrapping way and stay there until they come for you.  Trust me.  This is for you and me and my glory.”

Talk about being used!  These people were about to be the very means by which their numerous, strong, relentless enemies were proven wrong once and for all.  They were the means by which God chose to get his glory.  That is so awesome!!! Still, when you’re up against a wall…well, a sea, with the most powerful army of the known world in pursuit,  it is hard not to freak out in fear.

It really shouldn’t have been that hard to trust God.  I mean, these punks had just watched a deliverer come for them.  They’d just seen ten disastrous plagues strike Egypt.  They just exited their homes freely and had just been handed all the gold and silver of Egypt.  They had been given their own personal cloud.  They’d been given their own personal fire.  They had a prophet telling them exactly where to go and what to do.  They were told beforehand that they would be pursued because God was hardening the hearts of their enemies.  So, seeing that army approach should not have been the least bit surprising.  Nor should it have been disheartening or terrifying in any way.  But, these are sheep and sheep are not that smart.

Still, God did exactly as he said he would do.  How gracious of him to tell Moses first so he might understand the purpose of this very peculiar path they were being led on.  They go and they camp out by the water…and…wait.

In the meantime, just like God said he would, Pharaoh got a hankering to follow.  His reason?  After all those painful plagues and even after losing his very own son, his reason is this:

When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, the mind of Pharaoh and his servants was changed toward the people, and they said, “What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?” ~Exodus 14:5

The enemy loses his best slaves when God’s people become free.  All Pharaoh cares about is himself.  Serve me!  Be a slave to me!  Fear me!  Obey me! Sound familiar?  All Satan cares about is our slavery to him.  The enemy loses his best slaves when God’s people become free. Matthew Henry says this: “Pharaoh’s pursuit of Israel, in which, while he gratifies his own malice and revenge, he is furthering the accomplishment of God’s counsels concerning him…thus what may be easily justified is easily condemned, by putting false colors upon it…it vexed him that Israel had their liberty, that he had lost the profit of their labors, and the pleasure of chastising them. It is meat and drink to proud persecutors to trample upon the saints of the Most High, and say to their souls, bow down that we may go over; and therefore it vexes them to have their hands tied. Note, the liberty of God’s people is a heavy grievance to their enemies.”

  Free or not, God’s people feel a lot like sitting ducks.  When Pharaoh’s army approaches they see them coming and the text says, “they feared greatly.”  They cried out to God.  They mock their own deliverance.  They question their personal, prepared his entire life for this very thing prophet, Moses.  They even wish to go back and be slaves.  This is all quite absurd, really.  These dudes had it all!  God could have done nothing more miraculous, nothing more tender, nothing more amazing than that which he was already doing for them.  Yet, they cower in blinding fear and disbelief.  Again, Henry notes, “As the Egyptians were angry with themselves for the best deed they ever did, so the Israelites were angry with God for the greatest kindness that was ever done them; so gross are the absurdities of unbelief.” 

What must Moses have been thinking?  Like how dense are you people, right?  Can you not see God working here?  Do you not see that cloud?  The fire? Hello.  Anybody in there?   But Moses knows just what to say.  Here is peace in the storm of irrational fear, blasphemous anxiety, and ungodly unbelief:

And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” ~Exodus 14:13-14

Be silent.  Be silent!!!  Irrational fear, be silent!  Blasphemous anxiety, be silent!   Ungodly unbelief, be silent!  Those things do not come from God.  They come from Satan.  We must command them silent if we expect God’s deliverance.

When God is leading our lives, we will doubtless go to places we never could have imagined and take detours we never would have expected.  All the while, God faithfully gives us all the information we truly need.  Usually it is simply this: This is for my glory.  You are the very means I am using to make myself known.  Be it in mercy or in wrath, I will be known as the One, True God.  So, Go.  Wait.  Trust.  I am fighting for you.  Silence your fear, stand firm, and watch as I walk you through the impossible.

Read Full Post »


Consider a man with great religious knowledge.  Consider a man who is influential, intelligent, and intimidating.  Imagine he has twenty close friends exactly like him.  Now imagine that man coming to your house and threatening you and your three close friends.  Imagine him watching as his buddies kill your buddies and put them in prison…because he can and because he sincerely thinks he is doing the right thing.

Meet Saul of Tarsus, the Bible’s favorite miracle.

“But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him…Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.” Acts 9:1-3, 8-9

When the Lord came to Saul, he went blind.  I think I know why.

Saul was a guy who saw everything.  This is a very detail-oriented guy.  Think boss, leader, foreman.  Paul saw everything everyone did and did not do.  All. The. Time. He knew everyone.  He thought he knew everything, and, truth be told, he did know a lot about that which he was talking.  He had credentials, experience, and position to prove it.  So, needless to say, people turned into cockroaches when the lights come on when Saul stomped into their town.  No one wanted to be the target he chose.  Saul was feared because he had a keen eye to see anything and everything everyone did, as he saw it, wrong.

Furthermore, he had friends – a group of people who did the same, encouraged, and approved of him doing so.  The Pharisees saw everything, knew everyone, and, in their extreme self-righteousness, felt genuinely justified in every critical assessment they made about others.  They made their own laws.  They obeyed their own laws.  You better obey their laws, too…or else.

Interestingly, God chose to make Saul blind when he saved him.  Such a man would have more trouble than most with blindness. When you see everything all your life and feel it is your responsibility to say exactly what you see, blindness is death.  Daily death, perhaps?

…Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing…

Saul saw nothing.  Oh, but in that nothing was something very important.  For the first time in Saul’s self-governed life, he saw himself.  When Saul could see nothing, he began to see everything.  When he could not see anyone else or their issues, his own issue became crystal clear to him.  A wise man once said we ought to pray that, “our sin becomes the only thing we see.”  When Saul saw the heavenly light, he went blind, but when Saul went blind, he saw the heavenly light.  The light of Christ showed him his sin and he had but one need: mercy.

Once upon a time, another light shone from heaven.

 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. ~Luke 2:8-11

In our first instance, God brought man’s sin to light.  In the second, God brought his unmitigated mercy to all men.  Thank God!

The Lord was extraordinarily merciful to Saul.  He changed him into, quite possibly, the most influential man in the Bible, save Jesus.  The means by which that happened was quite interesting, too.  He called upon a specific Christian named Ananias and told him to go to blind Saul and lay hands and pray over him.  Do you know what Ananias said?

No way, God.  Don’t you know who he is?? He is a monster.  He will kill me.  He even has the authority to kill me.  Really?

I chose him, Ananias.  Go.

Ananias went and prayed for Saul.  The Lord restored his sight.  Next, the disciples hung out with him.  He began to preach.  The Christians could not believe it and the Jews were confused.  The Jews sought to kill him and the Christians were terrified of him.  God knew it would take another miracle to change Saul’s bad reputation into Paul’s new identity in the eyes of everyone else.

The miracle God chose to use to accomplish Saul’s conversion was a heavenly light and an audible voice heard only by Saul.  The miracle God chose to establish Saul’s new identity and character was an earthly man’s (Ananias) laying on of hands and praying and another earthly man’s (Barnabas) friendship and reference.

To that end Paul spends the rest of his life in great effort and defense of the gospel.  No longer preoccupied with taking others to task, Paul had a new task: taking his own sin to task and sharing his own struggles as a springboard for the gospel message.  Saul’s shouting had turned into a song about his own sin and Christ’s great mercy toward him.  That song steered the rest of his life and God saved (and continues to save!) more men than stars in the sky though Paul’s salvation and subsequent suffering.

His song is my song, everyday forever. I heard it yesterday upon entering the Doctor’s office.  Kyrie eleison. Lord, have mercy.

Kyrie eleison – a short, repeated invocation used in many Christian litergies, especially at the beginning of the Eucharist or as a response in a litany.  Literally, “Lord, have mercy.” Let it not be Greek to me any longer. 

 Kyrie eleison
Kyrie eleison

The wind blows hard against this mountain side
Across the sea into my soul
It reaches into where I cannot hide
Setting my feet upon the road

My heart is old, it holds my memories
My body burns a gemlike flame
Somewhere between the soul and soft machine
Is where I find myself again

Kyrie eleison, down the road that I must travel
Kyrie eleison, through the darkness of the night
Kyrie eleison, where I’m going, will you follow?
Kyrie eleison, on a highway in the light

When I was young I thought of growing old
Of what my life would mean to me
Would I have followed down my chosen road
Or only wished what I could be

Kyrie eleison, down the road that I must travel
Kyrie eleison, through the darkness of the night
Kyrie eleison, where I’m going, will you follow?
Kyrie eleison, on a highway in the light

Read Full Post »


How could David decide and declare in his darkest days that he would fear no evil?  Surely his valleys were just as deep or even much deeper than our own.  Surely the valley of the shadow of death that he referred to was a terrifying place.  Surely David “felt” afraid when he fought the giant; when his life was so repeatedly threatened by those much stronger than he; when he sinned so grievously; when his darling child died.  Surely David has much to be fearful and worried over.  Yet, David says, “I will fear no evil.

Feeling fear is not wrong.  Letting fear dictate our actions, reactions, and lack of action is what is wrong.  The difference is where David felt afraid, he simultaneously turned his eyes to God, trusted in Him fully, and submitted his own will to faith rather than giving in to his feelings.  In the midst of great fear, discouragement, suffering, and even personal failure, David refused to be led by anything other than the goodness of his great and all-powerful God.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 

I will not.

I shall not.

I must not.

I need not.

I ought not.

I should not.

I have not.

These, too, are often just what I do.

Still, God does something different.  He leads me somewhere different.

 He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul.  He leads me in paths of righteousness…

He cares for me in every way I could possibly need or imagine.  His leading brings me to a place far too few ever find – peace.  When I am faithful to follow his lead, I find myself in abundance, stillness, restoration, and righteousness.  When I choose to put away want and look to Him, I find His peace; the peace that passes all understanding; the peace David was speaking of.

Nothing can take that kind of peace.  I fear nothing when I know that I know that He is with me, fighting for me.  I am comforted in Him despite any and all evil that might surround.  Fear is swallowed up by courage and confidence and it is all done for his name’s sake.  It is not just for me, it is for him, too.  Therefore, I am all the more sure He will bring it to perfect completion.

I know my future.  He awaits me in glory.  Therefore, I know my that neither my past nor the present can cause any want or fear to overcome me.  I know that goodness and mercy are what He intends for each and every day of my life, regardless of what valleys it may bring before me.

Therefore, I shall not want.  

Therefore, I will not fear.

Therefore, I am safe.

I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

“Put fear behind you out of sight and mind, rebuke it as you do other sins –  it is one of the worst of them.  ‘The enemy’ may be a human foe, a bad habit, a false belief, or any peace destroyer.” ~Nora Holm, “The Runner’s Bible”

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »