“And Moses said unto the people, FEAR NOT: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.” ~ Exodus 20:20
FEAR NOT: God is Working on Us
The Hebrews had been waiting on Moses while he was receiving God’s laws on Mt. Sinai. While they waited they were awestruck by the thundering and lightning, trumpeting and smoke coming from the mountain (v. 19). It is at this point that God (through Moses) commanded His people to FEAR NOT, because He was going to prove them and the result of the ‘proving’ would be that they would “fear” Him.
Some key concepts from our text are:
- Focus on The Spiritual not the Spectacle
- Focus on Your Identity not Your Image
- Focus on Fellowship not on ‘Fire-Insurance’
(1) Their fear was misdirected. The focus of their fear was the spectacle (lightening, thunder, etc.) surrounding God’s ‘visit’ to Mt. Sinai to have a meeting with Moses. In effect God told them that there was nothing to fear in the spectacle, their attention was on the wrong thing: lightning and thunder wasn’t anything to worry about.
God wanted them to “fear” Him, not the spectacle. God wanted them to recognize Him as a Holy God, whom they needed to know individually so that they could walk in obedience to Him (Micah 6:6-8). The people wanted Moses to be their ‘go-between’ because this God they heard about was scary. But God wanted them to get to know Him for themselves. The really fearful/scary thing was not knowing who God really was.
That is, also, what our focus must be: not that we are afraid of God’s awesome power, but that we are afraid of going through life without knowing Him. Those who are just afraid of God’s punishing power, are usually quite comfortable having a go-between: ” Let the pastor tell us about God, we just want enough salvation for ‘fire insurance’.”
Do not worry about “lightning and thunder” and other spectacles. Do not allow anyone get between God and you: get to know God in the quiet study of His Word and in the quiet communion of your spirit with His in prayer.
(2) Therefore, God would “prove” them. Because they did not recognize their need to come to God, to know Him, God would “prove” each of them: that is to say, God would test their worth and quality. The intent was to show them who they really were. God wanted them to see themselves as they really were (James 1:23-24) so that they would be motivated to get to know Him.
Likewise, God “proves” us today so that we can see our weaknesses and begin to learn how much we need Him to guide us into truth and transform our sin-sick soul. God allows trials and difficulties to enter our lives so that, in dealing with them, our true nature, our true faith (or lack thereof) will become clear to us. Then we can turn to him like The Disciples did and plead “increase our faith” (Luke 17:5) or like David cry “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10).
God is not concerned with the image we project to those around us: God wants to reveal our true identity, so that we can see our need to be transformed from who we were and conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29, 12:2).
(3) God wants “His fear” before our faces so that we won’t sin. It is God’s intent that we have relationship with Him. To this point in their journey, the Hebrews’ relationship with God consisted of complaining when things didn’t go as they wanted. Largely, they had little concept of who God was and little interest in fellowship with Him. They had followed Moses out of bondage in Egypt primarily because it was a way to escape oppression from the Egyptians. God was not part of their day-to-day lives except in the way He imposed Himself on them: telling them when and where to go.
The Hebrews feared what God could do, but they didn’t reverence Him. They followed God for fear of consequences, rather that out of reverence for His Holiness, respect for His wisdom or regard for His love.
Very often we find ourselves doing likewise. Many believers only follow God for “fire insurance”: fearing the punishment of Hell. But that is not enough, God wants us to respond to Him out of reverence: recognizing that He is Holy and Sovereign: Creator of the universe and worthy to be praised. God wants us to rely on His wisdom, rather than our own, because we realize our inadequacy cannot replace His perfect adequacy. God wants us to relish in His love for us as the Father who would sacrifice His only begotten Son, just so that we could be born again and restored as sons through the atoning Blood of Jesus.
We hold with low esteem those who we fear for what bad things they can do to us, because that is a form of forced slavery. God does not come to us as a slave-master, ready to punish us spectacularly when we go wrong. God comes to us as Father and we fear Him in the same way a little child looks up to his/her father: as a source of inexhaustible strength, all-encompassing knowledge, unfailing love and, yes, sure, swift and righteous judgment.
It is this kind of relationship that keeps us from sin. Despite their fear of what God could do to them. The Hebrews still sinned against Him. While Moses was still on Mt. Sinai, while the cloud of the Lord’s presence still hung low on the mountain, while the lightning flashed, the thunder rumble, the smoke billowed and the trumpets blared: the people, turned their back on the God the ‘feared’ and made idols which they worshiped with a mass orgy (Exodus 32).
Fear of consequences does not produce love or even obedience. It is ONLY an enduring, reverential, and respectful love relationship with God that will keep us from sin. When we reverence God’s Holiness, when we respect His way, when we have a genuine relationship with Him we will find it increasingly uncomfortable to disobey Him, we will avoid sin.
FEAR NOT, God is going to prove us; FEAR NOT, He will show us who we really are. FEAR NOT, if we commit/recommit ourselves to Him we will walk in His perfect will. FEAR NOT, God is working on us; He is not finished with us yet.
This post is a part of a series on several of the “FEAR NOT” sayings in the Bible.