|Messages By Ovid Need|
Exodus 1:15-22 - Godly Fear
I would like to cover a simple little truth this morning which comes accost our path as a result of our study in Matthew. The Scriptures talk a lot about fear; fear of man, fear of God. What is meant by fear? To develop a Bible based doctrine of fear, as always, we must look at the OT.
We saw last time that John came preaching Maiachi's message. It was a two-edged message:
1. It was a message of hope to the repentant of the Lord's mercy, love, forgiveness and protection no matter what was going on around them.
2. It was also a message of literal wrath against the ones who were hardened in their sin. It was a warning about the soon approaching day of the Lord, and that day was upon them when Christ appeared.
John the Baptist was warning the Scribes and Pharisees to fear God. His warning was of a soon coming temporal judgment against their sin. That judgment was prophesied by Malachi and preached by John and it came in the person of Christ.
So today I would like to Scripturally define fear. God gives us two types of fear. There are scads of verses on this subject, but we will only give two to start with.
Notice the contrast of the two fears which are mentioned in the Scriptures:
1. Pro 29:25, fear of what man can and might do to us.
2. Pro 16:6, fear of what the Lord will do to us.
Heb. 13:6. The overwhelming teaching of the word of God is that fear is fear of something that will happen to us, IN THIS LIFE.
In other words, I feared my dad: If I would have smarted off to him, that would have been the end of me.
Even when there are no yellow lines on the road, such as a little used gravel road, I will not pass on a hill. Why? Because I am fearfull that I might get to meet someone head-on.
Therefore, godly fear which causes one to depart from evil is that the Lord will permit the results of that evil to catch up with us this side of death.
Recently, while studying in the book of Exodus, I came accost this statement by A. Edersheim in his book, Old Testament Bible History. He is referring to the midwives in Exodus 2.
Edersheim points out that both Egypt and Israel believed in the same basic truths: the immortality of the soul, and future rewards and punishments. But Israel was taught that God is the God of the present as well as the future, "and that even here on earth [God] reigneth, dispensing good and evil." He goes on to say that this present reward and punishment was so much insisted upon in the Mosaic law that there was no special need to refer to sin's consequences in another life. On the other hand, the Egyptians knew of a future reward, but knew no temporal reward of good and evil. [Reward/punishment in this life.]
It is important to notice that two thirds of the word of God (the OT) emphasizes the temporal blessings of following the law of the Lord. In other words, the Lord says to man, "You do this and here is what will happen to you: If you do right, your life will be blessed and you will prosper. On the other hand, if you fail to follow My word, your life will be shortened, your enemies will prevail over you, you will have illness and sickness, or any number of physical problems."
As we move on into the other third of Scripture, the NT, we find surprisingly little of the eternal rewards for following the word of God.
In other words, the word of God presents two kinds of fear:
1. fear of getting caught; fear of the results of sin catching up with man before one dies. Over and over the Lord promises His people that if the results of their actions in this life do not catch up with them before death, the results will catch up with their children; either good results or bad results.
2. fear of eternal results of sin.
There are a great many passages which bear this out, so we will only look at just enough to establish our thought and then to tie them together.
As we look at these passages, please keep in mind two things:
First, this is not Moses', Paul's, Christ's, nor any other authour's opinion; this is God's word.
Second, we are not underestimating the fact of a literal heaven, hell, eternal reward or loss of reward, or eternal punishment. There is a literal hell to shun; there is a literal heaven with rewards for which to strive. Furthermore, the Scriptures teach degrees of hell and heaven.
It is the fear of the temporal punishment for the violation of the law which produces the fear of the Lord in the heart of man. It was fear that if I brought false charges against someone I would have done to me what I tried to do to them. How did I know this would happen to me? Because I saw it happen to others.
Deu 13:10, 11.
Deu 31:11-13, the Lord tells us that as His law is read with its curses and blessings, fear of Himself is developed in the heart of those who hear it read.
Notice that the Lord makes no mention of eternal reward or punishment to motivate obedience to Himself. Rather, the Lord tells them over and over of the temporal rewards and punishments for their actions.
Psalms 52:5, 6, God uses the temporal, physical results of sin coming to pass in the lives of the lawless to cause a fear of Himself in the lives of His people.
It is the promised whirlwind for sowing to the wind in Hosea 8:7; it is the promised hemlock in the field for false swearing in 10:4; it is the warning of the temporal results of sin that God uses to warn His people to depart from evil.
In other words, it is God's people seeing the results of faithfulness or unfaithfulness to the public assembly come to pass in the lives of others that should cause them to remain in church. It is seeing the results of faithfulness or unfaithfulness in giving to the Lord which should cause His people to remain faithful.
Conspicuously prevalent in the OT is the emphasis on the temporal results of godly or ungodly action. Many times over we read warnings like Proverbs 1:24-26, where God says that the result of refusing to walk in His commandments is that He will not hear us in our distress when we call upon Him. Then God shows us the results in the lives of OT Israel.
Clearly, the fear of God in the OT Scripture is fear of the physical, temporal results of sin upon the parents and unto the third and fourth generation.
This definition of fear is carried over into the NT by many connecting passages; the most obvious is Hebrews 12:18-24, which brings Exodus 19:12, 13, forward. Everything about the mountain where the people assembled to receive the law was designed to invoke the fear of God in their hearts. When Moses went up to the mountain, it was the fear of physical death which caused the people not to touch the mountain.
The author of Hebrews uses what took place at the mountain to illustrate the literal fear which is to be in the heart of Christians. The writer of Hebrews is referring to the temporal and physical consequences of treading under foot the blood of the new covenant, Christ. He is clearly referring to the physical results of sin.
Heb 10:23-31, gives us another connecting reference. The Lord is referring to the physical results of failure to assemble and the physical results of wilful sin. Physical death was inflicted upon the lawbreaker under Moses' law; therefore, how much more physical punishment is deserved against the lawless under the new covenant of Grace, Jesus Christ.
Vs. 30, 31, does not release the lawless child of God from the physical results of his indifference; rather, it warns them that God will catch up with their indifference, IN THE PHYSICAL REALM. And this catching up will be just as sure as if a rebellious Israelite had touched the mountain.
Therefore, godly fear is fear of His righteous justice and judgment being recompensed upon the sinner (whether inside or outside of the covenant) on this side of death.
Ephesians 6:2, 3, gives us another connecting reference. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;).. The promise is a temporal promise clearly referring to Exodus 20:12. When Paul brought forward the fifth commandment, he left the physical results of obedience or disobedience connected to it for the church.
We will find, with few exceptions, that every instance of fear mentioned in the NT refers to the fear of the temporal consequences which are brought about by the divine providence of God against sin.
Phil. 2:12, Paul exhorted the people to obey God with fear and trembling over the physical results of sin.
1 Cor 10:5-11, Paul motivates these Christians at Corinth to not lust, not to commit fornication, murmur, serve other gods of this world (including the god of mammon), and not to tempt God. What does Paul use to motivate these people not to do these evil actions? Something very practical and easily understood by all... the literal physical judgement of God against the sinners.
Paul says that God wrote these things down so that the child of God in the end of the age, that's us, would fear God and depart from these evils. Why depart from evil? Because of the literal physical vengeance of God against evil.
Galatians 6:8, is a warning against the physical results of serving the flesh.
Ecc 8:11, Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. Here Solomon tells us that men continue in sin because they do not think the results of their sin will catch up with them this side of death.
Pro 16:6, By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil. The context requires that this be a fear over the temporal physical results of sin. When men fear that the results of their sin will catch up with them and/or their children, they will depart from evil.
Now let's look at some logical implications of these two views: eternal reward, vs. temporal reward.
If people hold to the eternal view at the expense of the temporal view of punishment, the unholy desires of the heart can be justified; there is no immediate fear of God. To these folks, the temporal rewards are not truly important.
After all, the eternal rewards will outweigh any temporal discomfort that might result from their compromised action. Although they claim to be Christians, their actions will be little, if any, different than the Egyptian's. The eternal view has no practical application of the law-word of God. What does it matter? We are only worried about the eternal consequences.
On the other hand, if people hold to the temporal view by taking the law, with its threats and promises, seriously and literally they will consider the temporal consequences of their actions upon their children, their community, their society, their nation, and the world in general.
The emphasis in their message and life will be vastly different than the one who is only interested in an eternal reward. The temporal view presents primarily the temporal consequences of following the word of God. Therefore, it does matter that we obey now; it matters to our children to the third and fourth generation.
In other words, if a person believes that their uncontrolled anger will be judged against them, their family, and their society, they will be far more inclined to bring it under control.
If a person believes their indiference to what is going on around them in society will be judged against them, their children, and their society, they will be far more inclined to get involved.
God emphasizes the temporal results of following His word while Egypt emphasizes the eternal results. The flesh has very little fear of something that might or might not happen sometime way off in the future after we die.
Anyone with children know exactly what I am trying to say. If we threaten them with some kind of distant future punishment or reward for their action, it has very little influence upon them.
On the other hand, if we promise the reward for their action immediately, the influence upon them is astounding. And the more immediate, the more change.
It is the immediate rod of reproof that drives foolishness from the heart of a child, not the threat of some kind of reward or punishment way off in the future. Does this fallen nature change as a person matures? I think not. It is the assurance of soon, even immediate, punishment which causes men to depart from evil.
Obviously, the majority of professed Christians of modern Christianity have only an eternal view of reward and punishment. They get together and discuss heaven, sing about heaven, dream about heaven, imagine what kinds of rewards they will receive in heaven; they escape from reality to heaven. Yes, they believe in an eternal reward and punishment; so does Egypt; so do the devils.
The result of this 'heavenly mind' is no practical Christianity for action here on this earth. Paul says it best as he quoted Ps. 36:1 in Romans 3:18, there is no fear of God before their eyes.. Man's love for sin dismisses any fear of a temporal reward for their actions. This antinomian attitude has resulted in the logical conclusion of, "As long as it results in the glory of God we can do whatever we need to do."
Finally, let's look at the fallacy of emphasizing the eternal view of rewards for our actions here in this life.
1. It ignores that Christ is in heaven on the right hand of all power and authority, Ephesians 1:21, 22.
2. It ignores that our God reigns here and now, and that He does whatsoever He pleases in the kingdom of men, Dan. 5.
3. It ignores that God's rule is according to His law-word, and ignores that He has revealed to His creation how to please Him to inherit His temporal blessings.
4. The eternal view reduces Christianity to no more than mysticism; the old pagan Egyptian religion; it is paganism revived. It removes godly fear from mankind.
An unbiblical emphasis on eternal reward and punishment will permit Christianity do disintegrate into no more than a powerless hope in heaven by and by, powerless to change society.
Some might ask, "What about Romans 8:6? Does not Paul tell us there that we are to be spiritually minded? This means to be thinking about heaven, doesn't it?" The answer is in the context; the spiritual mind, and therefore the spiritual life, is through the power of the Spirit of God, subject to the law of God, v. 7.
Christianity has forgotten that, first and foremost, God is the God of the present. Certainly, He is the God of the future, but His word and law is active right now.
Sinful man will fear God and keep His commandments because he fears the temporal results of not keeping His commandments. The idea of heaven is good and true, but when more emphasis is placed upon heaven than what the word of God does, there will be no fear of the Lord in this life; men will not depart from evil.
Can we expect a degenerate society to instill a temporal fear in the lawless people around us if the church refuses to instill a temporal fear in the people of God?
The logical result of the church refusing to instill a temporal fear of God in the hearts of God's people, is a society refusing to instill a temporal fear in the hearts of the lawless.
If we have no fear of God rewarding our actions, either good or bad, in this life, we have no more than a pagan religion.
['Messages'] ['The Biblical Examiner'] ['Home Page']