Fearing God: Make God Your Fear
10 September 2017
A study on the proper fear of God by John Dugas
Grace Bible Church, Tulsa
Full Audio Message
Make God Your Fear
The fear of man is a complex problem and it takes a multi-pronged approach to conquer it. We saw in Ps 55 that we need to dive into our hearts like David did to see what exactly it is that we fear. His solution, which is one prong of the attack, is to cast upon the Lord that which tempts us to fear. That is, The Lord has ordained the situation that we are in and we must cast the outcome onto Him. We are to remain faithful and obedient, but leave the results to Him.
This morning we will look at another essential prong of our attack on our fear of people. We must make the Lord our fear. As others have said before me, if we fear God, we won’t fear anything else. Fearing God is the solution to fearing people.
One thing I love about Scripture is that it presents principles for godly living in the context of someone’s real life experience. Why is that so wonderful? It is wonderful because we need to apply godly principles to our own real life experiences. Several times we’ve explored David’s circumstances to see how he responded to them. This morning, we’ll explore a situation in Isaiah’s life.
Isaiah ministered in a spiritually difficult time, much like today. People quickly turned to anything or anyone but Yahweh for help and comfort in life’s tough situations. God’s people sought to be more like the world around them, to fit in and not be thought of as weird. They sought the world’s solutions to life’s problems. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
What was happening in Isaiah 7 and 8 is that Assyria was becoming a serious threat to the nations nearby. Israel had already split into two nations: Samaria and Judah. The northern kingdom of Samaria had already turned away from the Lord. So when they felt the threats from Assyria, they joined forces with Syria (Damascus). Those two nations tried to force Judah to join their alliance. When Judah resisted, they planned to conquer Judah and replace king Ahaz with a puppet king.
Now Judah wasn’t much better, which is why Isaiah had such an important ministry, seeking to call Judah back to whole-hearted obedience and love toward Yahweh their God. Ahaz was an ungodly king who polluted the pure worship of Yahweh with pagan religion. Isaiah’s message that Yahweh was “holy, holy, holy” was desperately needed. But Ahaz and most of the people of Judah wouldn’t bring themselves to trust in Yahweh. They chose instead to put their trust in the military power of Assyria to protect them against the Samaritan-Syrian alliance.
So in the midst of such a religious and political mess, how should true believers like Isaiah respond? How were they to deal with overwhelming fear of people? God calls them to make a decisive shift in their fear. They must develop a conscious fear of Yahweh. We need to be so steeped in God’s holiness that it shakes us to our core. Then we will fear no one else. Then it will turn into a profound source of rest, peace and trust. From Isaiah 8:11-15 then, let us look at four actions we must take to exchange our fear of man for fear of the Lord. Let’s look at the setting in Isaiah 8:1-11.
I. Stop yielding to the fear of people (Isaiah 8:12).
What was the conspiracy? It may refer to the people thinking Isaiah was conspiring with Samaria and Syria, trying to get Judah’s king to not trust in Assyrian help. Isaiah called Judah to trust in Yahweh’s help. The point is, Isaiah shouldn’t fear what people were saying about him. And the Lord goes on to counsel Isaiah, “you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it”. The people of Judah feared the Samaritan-Syrian alliance. They feared men. The fear of men comes naturally to sinners. It would be easy for Isaiah to fear.
You may recall the story in Gen 50:19 where Joseph’s brothers think that now that he is in power, that he will take revenge on them. But he tells his brothers to not be afraid of him because he is not God. Either you fear men, or you fear God. Stop yielding to the fear of people.
II. Submit to Yahweh as the Holy, Sovereign Lord (Isaiah 8:13a).
Every time I read this, I expect the Lord to say “it is the Lord of hosts whom you should fear”. But that isn’t what He says yet. He first says that we are to regard Him as holy. Why do you think that is? We must first grasp that our God is holy before we will rightly fear Him. We must understand what He means by ‘holy’.
The phrase “regard as holy” is from the same root as “sanctuary” in Isaiah 8:14. It has to do with setting God apart from other sources of help, such as Assyria. Yahweh is nothing like them and so He must be set apart in our hearts as distinct. God refers to Himself as “the Lord of hosts”, literally, Yahweh of hosts or armies. He is the Sovereign Lord in control of all armies. So, at the very deepest part of your soul, submit to Yahweh as the Holy, Sovereign Lord.
What is at stake here is our faith and obedience. Ed Welch explains that “Fear of man is always part of a triad that includes unbelief and disobedience” (When People Are Big And God Is Small, p. 43). Later in Isa 51:7, Yahweh commands His people, “do not fear the reproach of man, nor be dismayed at their revilings”. By faith, believe that He is holy. In obedience, submit to Him as Sovereign Lord.
III. Make Yahweh your fear (Isaiah 8:13b).
The Lord said in Isaiah 8:12 that Isaiah was not to fear what the people fear. Then the Lord used that same word to say instead, that the Lord Himself shall be Isaiah’s fear. The Lord said too that Isaiah was not to dread what the people dread. Instead, the Lord Himself shall be Isaiah’s dread.
That sounds strange to our ears, that Yahweh should be our fear and dread. That word ‘dread’ means ‘to cause to tremble’. It was used earlier in Isaiah 2 where God says that in the great day of His wrath, when people flee from Him into the rocks and caves, that He will cause the earth to tremble. That’s the same Hebrew word here for ‘dread’.
When we realize that the Lord is holy and that He is the Sovereign Lord, it causes us to tremble. The Holy One of Israel personally is to be the source of our fear and dread. We must fear no other source. There’s a fascinating passage in Gen 31:42, 53 where Jacob said to Laban, “If the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, had not been for me, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed”. Then later Moses wrote, “So Jacob swore by the fear of his father Isaac”. What a curious title for our God! “The person who fears God will fear nothing else.” (Welch, p. 96).
IV. Trust and rest in Yahweh as your sanctuary (Isaiah 8:14).
When a believer regards the Lord as holy, the Lord becomes a sanctuary for them. Isaiah will say later in Isa 51:12 that it is foolish to trust in people. People come and go like grass. On the contrary, God is the one who provides comfort. Turn over to Jer 17:5-8. Just as Yahweh is to be our fear, so He must be our trust. It is His character that we fear and trust.
What happens is that terror-fear and trust-fear come together in our hearts to form the fear of the Lord. He is holy and sovereign but He is faithful and gracious. But what if you prefer to stay neutral? That isn’t an option. The only other option is what we find in the rest of Isaiah 8:14-15.
Both nations of Israel will stumble over the Lord if they do not submit to Him. This refers to a large rock or boulder that a person strikes his foot against in the dark and then falls over it and is smashed on it. Or God will be to them like a trap where birds are caught to be killed. The Lord will either be your fear and your trust, or He will be your destruction. That “stone of stumbling” sounds familiar doesn’t it? It is used several times in the NT to refer to Jesus the Messiah (1 Pet 2:8; Mt 21:44; Lk 2:34; Rom 9:33). But the earlier part of our passage, Isa 8:12-14, is also quoted in the NT.
Quoting from Isa 8, Peter calls believers to not fear the intimidation of people. Peter applies to Christ what Isaiah wrote about Yahweh. Jesus is Yahweh. Turn to 1 Pet 3:13-15. Setting apart Yahweh as holy is setting apart Christ in your heart. Our hearts are the sanctuary where Jesus reigns as Lord (godly fear). Peter calls you to submit yourself to Jesus at the very deepest part of your soul. Setting Him apart as Lord, means that you regard Jesus as Yahweh of hosts from Isa 8. Jesus is the Sovereign Lord. It means to set Him apart as nothing like any other thing you might trust in. He is unique because He is truly able to rescue those who are troubled by intimidation.
This means that Jesus is to be our fear and our dread. Only then will Jesus become our sanctuary! When you fear God rightly, you will trust Him fully.