Matthew 10:24-31: Do Not Fear!

Three times Jesus says “Do not fear”:

  • The first time in verse 26 is looking in response to those who will call malign a Christian falsely, as they did with Jesus when they said he was the prince of demons, Beelzebub (Matthew 12:24). In a manner of speaking, Jesus says there is no need to fear because their falsity will be brought into the light – that is it will be revealed.
  • The second is found in verse 28, where Jesus says they ought not fear those who will kill them either. He justifies this, saying that they can really only kill the body, not the soul. But God who is the judge of all call kill the body and soul.
  • The third time comes after and admonition concerning the value of a person. Jesus here makes an argument to the greater saying that if a sparrow worth only a penny is worth something to God, how much more is the person worth to God – it’s really beyond measure and nothing misses his view.

In the context of Christianity, there are two kinds of a “fear”. The first is the “fear of the Lord”. This sort of fear is a “good” fear, and really can be equated with faith. Jesus speaks to this fear whenever he says that one shouldn’t fear the one who can destroy only the body. Proverbs 1:7 starts with this idea: the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. The second sort of fear is of circumstances that is actually the antithesis of faith. One who fears circumstances, especially when circumstances present themselves as a challenge to faith is actually lacking faith.

The context in which Jesus is speaking about this fear is in light of persecution. The persecution that Christians endure can cause them to want to shrink back. The writer of Hebrews wrote to a persecuted group of believers who were being tempted to abandon their faith. To them, he reminds them to hold fast because of the blessing that come as a result of faith – a rich reward (Hebrews 10:32-39). When persecution does come, Christians should think about the future glory, not about the temporal circumstances and be encouraged to keep on.

Lord, help me to not fear, but have faith in you!

Joshua 9:1-15: “Do Not Fear”

Read: Joshua 9:1-15

Gibeon had made peace with Israel by deceiving them, but Joshua nevertheless upheld their mutual defense pact even though they Israel had been deceived. Shortly thereafter, the other Amorite kings heard that Gibeon had made peace with Israel and formed an alliance to destroy Gibeon. Israel came to Gibeon’s aid, and the Lord fought for Israel and Gibeon by giving them an extended day, sending hail upon the Amorites, and confusing the Amorite armies when Israel attacked. The battle was a complete route by God on behalf of the Israelites.

The battle with the Amorite kings is but another example of how God doing the fighting on behalf of Israel. The day was full of miracles such that Joshua notes that there was never a day like it before and hadn’t been one since. The confused army and the hailstones are easily fathomed, but the unfathomable was the sun stopping in the sky and Joshua makes special note of this miracle. There have been explanations offered up throughout the ages to explain this phenomenon, but the only one that really makes sense from the text is that God deed indeed stop the sun in the sky. The scope of this miracle however is not so hard to grasp if one considers that God created the universe and all that it contains by merely speaking it into existence!

When God told Joshua, “do not fear,” God was telling him that he was going to be with him in the battle and the people Joshua was going against were already given to Joshua. Joshua was being reminded of the promises God had given to them before they entered the land in Deuteronomy 20:1-4. Here, God tells Israel to not be afraid because he was going to be fighting on their behalf. God fought for Israel, and is still fighting for his people today. When Jesus left the earth, he promised that he would be with them even until the end of the age (Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus explains in John 14:18-23 that he would be with them by means of the Holy Spirit. Paul in Romans 8:31-39 makes some strong remarks concerning the nature of God. He says, “If God is for us, who is against us?”, that Christians are “overwhelmingly conquerors,” and that nothing can separate Christians from the love of Christ. The ultimate victory of Jesus is when he conquered death which Jesus did on behalf of those who believe (1 Corinthians 15:54-58). Christians have no reason to fear anything in life or in death for that matter because God is fighting on behalf of those who believe. God is the most awesome, powerful force in the entire universe. This unstoppable, unmovable force is still telling his people, “do not fear” because he will win the day!

God, you do the fighting for me! Help me not to fear!

Ecclesiastes 12:8-14: The End of The Matter

Read: Ecclesiastes 12:8-14

The Preacher ends where Proverbs starts off – the fear of the Lord. Proverbs 1:7 says that fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The Preacher, after having searched things out and evaluated his entire life accordingly, concludes that all is vanity and that the lot of main is to fear God and keep his commandments. He Preacher sought to gather wisdom and arrange it in a fashion for his readers to understand, and writes his treatise as if it where the ultimate manifesto on the subject matter concerning life. He shifts from third person to first person, warning his “son” to beware of anything beyond what he has read in the Preacher’s writings here. The Preacher warns that there is no end to the making of books and much study is tiresome. But nevertheless, the Preacher does commend wisdom calling it a “goad” – that is something worn by cattle to prod them on. In the case of wisdom, it is to live skillfully in accordance with God’s commands, because God brings action into judgment.

The Preacher already encouraged his reader to fear God (Ecclesiastes 5:7, Ecclesiastes 8:12). The Preacher in his conclusion echoes what the Law had already spoken in Deuteronomy 10:12. When the Old Testament talks about fearing God, it is not talking about being afraid of God in the sense that one is afraid of something that is scary, rather being fearful of God is realizing one’s place before God and responding appropriately to that knowledge. The appropriate response is obedience as the Preacher points out and what God requires. Deuteronomy 10:12 says that God’s people should love him and serve with all their heart soul. Jesus declared that this was the greatest commandment on which the law and the prophets were suspended like a weight on a rope (Matthew 23:37-40) and says that obedience is how one shows live for God (John 14:15). What is certainly true throughout the whole of scripture and is the bedrock of all that one does in life is to love and fear God, and one does this by keeping his commandments.

One’s relationship with God begins at the point of salvation where one follows Jesus’ command to repent from one’s sin and another to believe the gospel (Mark 1:15, John 12:50). After this, a believer receives the Holy Spirit and with the help of the Holy Spirit embarks on a life that pursues godliness by following the commands of Christ. The Preacher learned this lesson the hard way, but people need not do this – they can learn what brings the most fulfillment by hearing the gospel, believing it, and living it!

Lord, help me to fear you and keep your commandments!

Ecclesiastes 1:12-18: Wisdom

Read: Ecclesiastes 1:12-18

The writer of Ecclesiastes claims to have accumulated more wisdom than all of his predecessors. He “set his mind” to explore what people do. He set out to explorer life in general and all the wisdom and knowledge pertaining to it. At the end of his exploration, he concludes that He had studied much concerning the issues related to man, and found that the pursuit of wisdom is as anything void of meaning — what he calls a “chasing after the wind”. He says it is crooked and cannot be made straight. The sage is saying that man, in all his cunning, cannot do anything to alleviate meaningless in life through the pursuit of wisdom and knowledge.

It would stand to reason that the one writing a piece of wisdom literature putting down the pursuit of wisdom and knowledge is self-defeating.  The author if Ecclesiastes though isn’t putting down wisdom in general, rather the pursuit of wisdom as the end in and of itself. Wisdom is praised elsewhere in the scripture. Ecclesiastes 7 speaks of the value of wisdom. Proverbs speaks of wisdom in great lengths too, saying that is useful any number of things (Proverbs 1:1-6). Proverbs 1:7 says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, rather than the end of it. Ecclesiastes concludes the matter after pursuing all other things to an end (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Proverbs starts the book with the fear of the Lord. Wisdom for the purpose of serving the Lord is always better. James 1:5 says that one should ask for wisdom and the Lord will give it (Proverbs 2:6), and one should ask for it in all things so that the Lord can teach one how to live skillfully.

For any Christian wanting to live a life of godliness, wisdom and knowledge are essential. But wisdom is not an end and of itself. If it does not manifest itself in some practical way to enable one to live skillfully as one should do according to the principles of God, then wisdom is useless, and without meaning, as the write of Ecclesiastes notes. One should be a hearer as well as a doer (James 1:23-25), learning the wisdom and knowledge of God and putting these things into practice. This way one can be filled with knowledge and walk in a manner worthy of the Lord and be able to bear fruit and please God in all respects (Colossians 1:9-12).

Lord, help to to have wisdom when I need and apply it skillfully!

Ecclesiastes: “Fear the Lord”

Read: Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

Ecclesiastes was written by one who identifies himself as the “Preacher”, “son of David” and “King of Jerusalem” (Ecclesiastes 1:1). The author himself is anonymous, but has been traditionally associated with Solomon who was known for his wisdom. The vocabulary and style of the book, however, resemble literature from a much later period from Solomon’s era. While the author is unknown, the books canonicity has rarely been challenged, and most early canons and translations have included it.

Ecclesiastes is wisdom literature. Wisdom in Western thought is generally thought of as principally cognitive, but the wisdom in the Ancient Near East was more practical associated with skill – they saw a wise person as one who lives skillfully. The Jews had the law already. They desired to live according to the law to the fullest. The sages among the Jews collated and recorded a set of “best practices” for living out the law. In a manner of speaking, wisdom literature was a commentary on living life according to the law. Wisdom was offered as generalized statements about particular subjects such as money, family, friends, work, and government among many other topics. When reading literature one should be careful not to over extend it, thinking of wisdom as commandments, but neither should one diminish wisdom literature as irrelevant or unimportant.

Ecclesiastes was written by someone who had experienced many things. He had pursued wisdom, pleasures, and wealth and his conclusion on the fulfillment all these pursuits bring is “vanity” – that is it is empty and meaningless. That is fruitless endeavors that ultimately leave one empty, yearning for more. The vanity of these things however, is interspersed with commandments to “Fear the Lord” (Ecclesiastes 3:14, 5:7, 8:12-13, 12:13) – that is revere and respect the Lord. The pursuits themselves do not have meaning, but the writer seems to think that when one connects them with the Lord, realizing the blessings from the Lord, it corroborates the ultimate conclusion on the matter that the writer gives in Ecclesiastes 12:13.

Ecclesiastes is often seen as pessimistic and brooding, but this is only because the author is speaking truth about matters of life apart from God. At the end of the book, the author, as mentioned, things that fear of the Lord gives meaning to existence, and that is best for man to fear the Lord and keep his commandments. Rather than pursue things that result in emptiness, it is certainly better to pursue something that results in something eternal. The results of living a life of godliness is storing up treasures in heaven that do not rust (Matthew 6:19-21). If is best to fear the Lord and keep his commandments to store up this treasure.

Lord, help me to fear you and keep your commandments, for this is best!

John 6:16-21

Read: John 6:16-21

Jesus’ miracle of walking on the water is another one of the miracles of Jesus that is recorded in Mark 6:45-52 and Matthew 14:22-33. John’s accounts notes that they went from Jerusalem to the “other side” of the Sea of Galilee before feeding the 5000. Luke places the feeding of the 5000 in Bethsaida on the north side of the Sea of Galilee. They started across the sea to Capernaum, which was not too far away from Bethsaida. While they were rowing, a storm picks up and then they see a man walking on the water. Jesus calls out to them to not be afraid, and he enters the boat. John does not record this, but here the apostles worship Jesus, calling him the “Son of God”. Matthew notes that Peter wanted to come out on the water and meet Jesus, but after he got out of the boat and he started walking to Jesus, be began to sink and called out for Jesus to save him. Jesus does so, but calls him of little faith.

The contrast between faith and fear is more evident in Matthew, but is certainly evident in John’s gospel too because Jesus said to them, “do not be afraid”. The word translated “φοβεισθε” is the base word from which the English word “phobia” comes from. In the Greek language, it carried pretty much the same meaning “fear” in the English language does in that it can have a good connotation and a bad one.  The good connotation is in respect to reverence or awe such as Revelation 9:4-5. The bad connotation is the one noted hear as being the antithesis of faith. Fear is a natural response to circumstances that are beyond one’s control or when something happens and one does not understand. In the case of Jesus walking on the water, Matthew notes that they thought he was a ghost and they did not understand that it was Jesus.

This does not necessarily indict the disciples. But what is apparent is that considering Jesus had claimed equality with God and had just fed 5000 people, they did not think of Jesus first. Christians today are no less fickle than the disciples were in that often times Christians default to fear in light of uncertain circumstances rather than calling out to God. Being fearless does not mean that one should go out of their way to place themselves in fearful situations, but inevitably fearful situations will come. Knowing that Jesus will never leave a Christian (Matthew 28:20, Hebrews 13:5) is an assuring fact. For this matter Christians can rest assured that in any situation Jesus will be there to help one along.

Lord, help me to trust in your in all things!