I ran into my friend Felix at Starbuck’s today and he told me how much he enjoyed Friday’s blog (“Fear and the Myth of Friday the 13th”). He shared with me how one of his major fears is disappointing other people’s expectations (don’t we all have that one?) He said that that fear often influences him in making wrong and bad decisions. But the one simple truth that put that this fear into place came when he read that “God is the Ultimate Fear that makes all other fears tremble.” He summarized it in a great phrase that was too good to pass up:
“God is The FEAR that ‘Fear’ fears.”
Good one, Felix!
This concept immediately lifted his heart and put things into perspective. It was probably the same feeling that Joshua had when Yahweh spoke to him after Moses died – “Fear not; be strong and courageous.” Or when Jesus told his disciples on the boat that was about to capsize in the furious storm, “Don’t be afraid!” and then stilled the storm with a word.
We are introduced to this concept in Gen 31 where God is called “The FEAR of Isaac.” Oddly enough, in this passage Isaac is not the one who uses this name of God – it is his son, Jacob. But it shows that Isaac must have taught it to Jacob; as dysfunctional as their relationship was. On a side note, this should give hope to us parents who feel like we’ve failed our children. As the writer of Proverbs states, if we train a child in the way they should go, they will eventually remember it when they get older (Prov 22:6).
This came to Jacob at a crucial time. He was scared to death (31:31) because his father-in-law, a pretty ruthless guy named “Laban,” overtook him after Jacob stole away in the night with Laban’s two daughters, his grandchildren, and a pretty sizeable flock of animals that were taken by deception.
But his father’s God intervened. The Fear of Isaac dispelled Jacob’s fear of Laban’s retribution by speaking to Laban in a dream (31:24). Laban’s attitude was changed and they were able to talk about the situation and resolve it in peace. Jacob recognized this grace and realized that his father’s Fear was greater than his fear (31:42).
The Bible affirms God as this unique FEAR. In Proverbs 1:7, Solomon writes, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of all wisdom.” Jesus teaches, “Do not fear those who can kill the body. But fear the One who can destroy the body and the soul in Hades” (Matt 10:28). And John writes, “God is love … Perfect love casts out all fear” (1 John 4:8, 18). The intention of lesser fears is to manipulate and deceive us into making poor decisions, to deny God, and to settle for something much smaller than the Kingdom life. But the intention of the ultimate FEAR is wisdom, life, and love.
Jacob realized this and chose the greatest FEAR over lesser fears. This was a huge paradigm shift and it was a concept he would have to re-learn over and over again (just fast forward to Gen 32, 42, and 46 – God graciously had to show up again to help him with this issue; good news for us who have a hard time letting go of our lesser fears). And for people like Felix and me – and you, dear Reader – we do well to follow the Fear of Isaac; whom we know is our precious Lord Jesus.
Sometimes we are locked into thinking that Jesus is only the meek and mild one who is full of love and tenderness to bruised reeds and wicks. That is true. BUT he is also the One who wields the sword of justice, riding on the White Horse (called “Faithful and True”), whose robe is dipped in blood and has His title KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS etched on his thigh (Rev 19:11-16). And we need to hold onto that image, as well.
Yes, this is the FEAR that makes all other ‘fears’ tremble and wet their pants (sorry, but I believe they do that when they see Him). He is the FEAR that ‘Fear’ fears.
And He is the One who stays in our corner when we choose to live in His.
So, Whole Life Worshipers, let us let the FEAR of Isaac dispel our fears, whether they are great or small. Whether it is the fear of not pleasing others or the fear of suffering from cancer. Whether it is the fear of not getting a promotion or a fear of losing a loved one. Whether it is a fear of being misunderstood or a fear of losing everything, let us live in the love of the Greatest FEAR of all. For if God is for me, who can be against me?