By JIm Dunham
Most words have meaning. There are a few, like supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, that do not. Unfortunately, sometimes a word has two or more meanings in the same language. “Bear” is an example. Compare the statement: “I can’t bear the burden” with “My dad pulled the tail of a mama bear.” (That is a true story. Ask my sister, she witnessed it also.) The problem is compounded when two or more words in one language are translated to another language using only one word. John 21:15-17 illustrates this when Jesus asked Peter three times if he (Peter) loved Him. He used two very different Greek words. Both are translated “love” into English. The problem is further magnified when one or more words from different languages (Hebrew and Greek) are translated into English with but one word which has a variety of meanings in the receiving language. Context, to my knowledge, is the only way to establish the meaning of what the original writer had in mind when the word was first spoken or written. At last, this brings us to our subject – Fear!
Generally, fear is not a certainty but a perception or presumption of something that might happen. Fear has several meanings. Absolute heart throbbing terror is one. Adrenaline goes into overdrive and if relief doesn’t come soon, a heart attack or stroke could be imminent. Consider the man who is tied to a chair who cannot run or fight in front of a hungry lion. The lion has his head bowed giving thanks to God for his next meal.
An example of this level of fear is illustrated in the last couple of days in the life of King Saul. He was in disobedience to the Word of the Lord when Samuel prophesied to him in 1 Samuel 28b-29a. “The LORD will bring down the entire army of Israel in defeat. Saul fell full length on the ground, paralyzed with fright because of Samuel’s words” (NLT). This was fulfilled the very next day. Saul, three of his sons including Jonathan, and many of his army perished.
On the other hand, Psalm 111:9-10 says: “He has paid a full ransom for his people. He has guaranteed his covenant with them forever. What a holy, awe-inspiring name he has! Fear of the LORD is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom” (NLT). This is not a fear due to terror. It is a respect, awe, honor and obedience and is often translated that way.
John Gill’s (1697-1771) commentary says, “The fear of the Lord, whose name is revered, is not a fear of his judgments here or hereafter, but of his goodness and grace; it is a reverential affection for him, a fiducial fear of him, a fear of offending so good a Being as he is; and it includes all religious worship of him, inward and outward, private and public; and at this true wisdom begins; a man begins to be wise when he fears the Lord, and not till then; this is his highest wisdom, and this is, as it may be rendered, "the chief of wisdom," the principal part of it.”
This concept is carried forward in the often quoted 2 Timothy 1:7. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (KJV). The word for fear in this verse is often translated timidity or cowardice. But the major point that the Holy Spirit is making is not what God has not given us but what He HAS given us—power, love, and a sound mind. Power and a sound mind will have to wait on another time. Right now, meditate on Proverbs 3:24-26.
24 You can go to bed without fear;
you will lie down and sleep soundly.
25 You need not be afraid of sudden disaster
or the destruction that comes upon the wicked,
26 for the LORD is your security.
He will keep your foot from being caught in a trap.
In a world filled with panic, income loss, uncertainty, sickness and disease, international upheaval and politics, I want to be filled with peace. I want to sleep well tonight and wake up in joy. Fear NOT! Trust that He has it all, including all of your problems, under control. “For me and my house, we shall...”