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When humankind is left to its own fallen, natural self, its nature will relate to other fallen people. It basically operates from the principles and philosophies of humans. “The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe” (Prov. 29:25). This verse indicates to us that “the fear of man” is dangerous! And the word snare here is mowquesh in the Hebrew, meaning to “entrap or to bait and lure.” This has to do with what we follow. And even when people have been converted and God saves them, they still can fall into the “snare” of the fear of man.
“Fearing man” is not something that most people think they do. They are so caught up in their schedules and busy lives that they usually pay very little attention to why they do what they do. People do not even understand what it is that motivates them and compels them to make everyday decisions. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones” (3:5–8).
You will notice that the above passage tells us to “trust in the Lord.” It also tells us to “fear the Lord” and “not to be wise in your own eyes,” not to “lean to your own understanding,” but to “acknowledge Him,” for it is “God who will direct our path.” Now, if I am not to fear man but rather fear God, then what do these two different types of fear look like and mean?
Let’s first look at what it means to fear God.“Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling” (Ps. 2:11); “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:7). This word fear in these verses is yir’ah, meaning “reverence, awesome and respect.” God requires us to reverence Him and for us to know how awesome He is. He is in control. He never has and never will give us reason to doubt Him, for He has promised the sun to shine and to provide our needs, which He is constantly accomplishing. There is so much in the design nature and even in the way our bodies work that gives evidence of a God who is wise, good, and loving.
“Fools will despise wisdom and instruction” because they reject true wisdom that can come only from God. He is the source of all wisdom, and He has an abundance of it. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). But those who choose not to “fear” God (respect, revere, hold in awe) are void of wisdom. And when people lack true wisdom, all they have left is what they can come up with themselves.
Looking back to Proverbs 29:25, when it says, “The fear of man brings a snare,” the word fear is relating to charadah in the Hebrew, meaning “quaking, and extreme anxiety.” We may sense this type of fear when a political figure claims that our Social Security checks will be cut off, or our country is under a nuclear threat. To keep the populace on their side, fallible leaders often make promises they know they can’t keep, and they come up with unsound or unworkable ideas to fix a problem.
There is the “fear of the Lord,” which brings wisdom and peace, and the “fear of man” that results in extreme anxiety, which relates to instability. And when we have instability, it is the by-product of not trusting God. Just as Psalm 118:8 tells us, “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.”
We live in a very pragmatic-driven world. The typical non-believer who accepts the world’s (humankind’s) wisdom will make choices and decisions based on whatever seems practical at the moment—the popular opinion. It’s no secret that what seems practical to one group of people, may be ridiculous to another group of people. Remember when the vast majority of people believed that the earth was flat? Or all but a few scientists believed the earth was the center of the universe? Or that Pluto was once a planet? Humankind’s wisdom is faulty and subject to correction. And if we follow this kind of “practical” wisdom, it comes from faulty humans, not from the perfect God.
Where is your wisdom coming from? What is your objective? Is it to bring honor and glory to Christ, or more prestige to yourself and others?
Whatever people place their trust in that is what they follow. If they are to trust in God, then their lives will display that. What they say and do will reflect that it is God whom they fear. And if they trust in humankind, their lives will manifest instability, that fear of man.
Paul said, “Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences” (2 Cor. 5:11). The reason he wanted to persuade the members of the church at Corinth about his integrity is because his heart references God, and he doesn’t want to bring any dishonor to His name. Paul knows he will convince men of his message and what he stands for, much more so, when they see how he continues to trust God. Paul surely was placing the right concept into people’s minds by being a true obedient follower of the One he trusted in.
People desire so much to be accepted that they mistakenly believe that they should not speak up for what is right or that they should just go along with the crowd mentality so as never to rock the boat. God’s truth remains true no matter the situation, so we should stand on that truth regardless of our circumstances or who may be putting our faith to the test.
Jesus breaks the stranglehold of fear by supplying His truth to every issue that we could possibly have in life. He gives us our minds as an instrument to be saturated by that truth so we can apply it to every situation, and experience its freeing, life-refreshing results. When we put on the Word of God, we are putting on Christ!
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"We are the Bridegroom's friends, and we rejoice greatly in His joy, but we sigh and cry till we have found the chosen hearts in whom He will delight."
"The motive of the church is to glorify God. And the mission that does that is to win men and women to the Savior."
"To commune with God in prayer, in the Bible, and in the assembly of His people-these things will be the holy person’s principal enjoyments."
"It is by the mixture of counterfeit religion with true, not discerned and distinguished, that the devil has had his greatest advantage against the cause and kingdom of Christ."