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What the Bible says about Dread
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Numbers 22:3-4

This whole passage is quite ironic.

The name Balak means "devastator," a very evil name. However, his father's name, Zippor means "sparrow," which are among the flightiest of birds. A person cannot creep close to a sparrow, as they fly at the slightest movement. So, here is mighty Balak, the Devastator, the son of Zippor, the Sparrow, and "Moab was exceedingly afraid"! The Devastator was afraid, acting like a sparrow!

The Moabites were so afraid that they were "sick with dread." Hebrew is a rather colorful language. This means that they were so terrified that they were throwing up. Their fear was visceral; it made their guts wrench. What makes this so ironic is that they had nothing to fear: God had told Israel not to harm the Moabites but pass them by (Deuteronomy 2:8-9). If Moab had left well enough alone, if they had not let their fear get the best of them, then nothing like the following story would have happened. Many people died because of Moab's fear and the resultant actions. In reacting to their fear, they really made a mess of things.

Another irony is what is said in verse 4 concerning a possible economic problem. Moab says that Israel would come through and "lick up" all of their goods, that is, eat all their wealth. At the time, their wealth was mostly on the hoof or in their grain storehouses. They thought Israel would come in, take all their livestock and grain, and leave Moab destitute. Again they had nothing to fear because God was still giving them manna six days a week and double on Friday. Israel was not going to invade, devastate their land, kill their people, and take all their wealth. Thus, the second element they feared was also bogus. They had made it all up in their own heads; their fears were figments of their imagination.

They were functioning by human nature, and it was only natural for them to think that, if two or three million people came in, they would eat up everything and take over the territory, but that is the irony of all this. Nothing like that would have happened, especially if they did not move to make Israel their enemy.

All of this could have been avoided with a little bit of communication between Balak (the Devastator) and Moses. If he had come to Moses instead of Balaam, everything would have worked out differently. Instead, Balak makes some sort of alliance with the Midianites, who, as the book of Judges details, became a thorn in Israel's side. Thus, here is the beginning of an alliance against Israel that lasted for many years.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Balaam and the End-Time Church (Part 1)

Isaiah 8:12-14

Just in case we thought it was sufficient to stand only in reverence or awe or respect of Him, Isaiah adds, "Let Him be your dread!" God is asking, in effect, "Of whom are you more afraid, the Assyrians or Me?"

In The Interpreter's Bible Commentary appears an interesting comment regarding this passage. The editors saw clearly that God was instructing Isaiah to turn away from the bulk of the Israelites and aim his message at a tiny remnant of people who were willing to be obedient and faithful in response to God. He tells the prophet to reject the main body and pay attention to a small group, the remnant that desires to be faithful to God. He said, "I will become a snare, a trap, to those who are turning away from Me. They will stumble as a result of not having the fear of God and because of their faithlessness."

God does not seem the least bit worried that His people should dread Him. Indeed, this dread, rather than hindering a proper relationship with Him, is advanced as producing a positive benefit. He becomes a sanctuary, a place of abode, to which his people can run for safety. He is a place of safety for those who fear Him!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fear of God

Daniel 10:7

They did not see what Daniel saw, but the hair on the back of their necks stood up, they felt creepy and crawly all over, and they wanted to get out of there. They did not know why, but something of awesome power was close to them. Maybe the spirit of man within them was aware that something was near them, and they fled.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 1)

Daniel 10:7

Only one saw this, and the others fled in terror—but even they were aware of a presence. They knew something was there. Perhaps the hair on the back of their heads stood up on end, and their skin felt creepy. Maybe they had a feeling of dread as though they knew they were in the presence of an awesome power of great magnitude but could not see or feel it. But it was there. A presence frightened them, but they could not clearly identify it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part Three)

Related Topics: Angels | Daniel's Vision | Dread | Fear | Terror


 

Daniel 11:32

The circumstance prophesied in Daniel 11:32 is gradually taking shape on the horizon. Those who know Him and "see" Him are those who so respect and revere Him that they never want to be out of His presence nor disappoint Him. The Bible describes such people as "fearing Him." Fear is generally defined as an unpleasant emotion caused by exposure to danger or expectation of lack or pain. Its synonyms include "dread," "terror," "panic," "alarm," and "fright." Though it contains elements of these characteristics, the fear of God is most certainly not dominated by them. This particular quality of fear is not abject terror.

The fear of God centers on worshipful admiration and appreciation. It is a wonder, awe, delight, pleasure, and warm approval of all He is in His Person. It esteems Him above all others because of the awesome, loving mixture of His intelligence, creativity, generosity, wisdom, kindness, patience, and mercy, all within an aura of overwhelming and yet subdued power. These qualities are not ones that a person immediately recognizes, but rather ones that an individual comes to know as the result of experience with Him. His qualities draw a person to God rather than repel him in cringing terror.

Psalm 34:11, a psalm of David, a man after God's own heart, makes a telling statement regarding this fear: "Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD." This fear is not natural to man; it is not built into the carnal mind. Human nature will reject it because the carnal mind is enmity with God (Romans 8:7).

Godly fear is a quality of reverence and respect of God that must be learned, and only those whom God calls and converts can learn it, because doing so requires a relationship with Him to come to know Him. The unconverted do not have this relationship. Those who fear God will do great exploits regardless of their human status, great or small. To be in that position, we must make the best use of the relationship that He enables by His calling. We have to respond by seeking Him to remain in His spiritual presence, or we will never learn the fear of God nor have it as part of our characters.

The fear of the Lord is a necessary, foundational plank supporting a life lived in faith. It is a strong influence that drives us toward God and His way, not one that incites us to flee from Him. It is not only foundational to this way of life, but it is also a fruit of it, learned and strengthened in the character of those who pay the costs of living by faith. The sons of God live in the present yet always look to the future in the Kingdom of God, humbly accepting His judgments on their lives. They strive to make good, daily use of His Word. Such people will receive God's spiritual blessings and do exploits.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Fully Accepting God's Sovereignty, Part Three: The Fruits

Matthew 10:27-28

It is not unreasonable that we should fear God. Jesus Christ Himself says that we are to fear Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell. Why? He is the only One who can revoke the judgment of Gehenna fire. The wages of sin is death in Gehenna fire. If we want to escape this punishment, we can see that it is closely connected to whether or not we actually fear God.

Why? What does the fear of God have to do with escaping a judgment that would otherwise take us into the Lake of Fire?

This series of verses in Matthew 10 contains some encouragement, indicating that, if one really fears God, then there is no need to be fearful of others. Proverbs 29:25 plainly tells us, "The fear of man is a snare." This is an attitude in which we do not want to be entrapped. It is obvious, in the context of Matthew 10:27, that He is talking about fear in the sense of "dread." We are not to fear men because the worst that they can do does not even begin to match the worst that God can do! The basis for this is what God is: omnipotent and omniscient, and in Him are the issues of life and death!

The Christian life is our calling; this is our only chance for salvation. We have been personally chosen by God. The elect are an insignificant number, and we are even more insignificant personally. Yet, He has given us this calling. The world population is somewhere in the vicinity of six billion people, and out of this huge number are a miniscule few who are truly converted and have been given the Spirit of God. This is not something that we want to pass up! The fear of God is crucial to our salvation!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fear of God

Luke 1:50

A Christian is a person upon whom God has shown mercy, and here Luke also identifies Christians as those who fear God. In Luke 18:2, 4, Jesus reveals in a parable that it is the unconverted who do not fear God. His followers fear God.

Elsewhere, the Bible identifies Christians as those who fear God. Notice Acts 9:31: "Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied." Later, Luke writes: "And they said, 'Cornelius the centurion, a just man, one who fears God and has a good reputation among all the nation of the Jews, was divinely instructed by a holy angel to summon you to his house, and to hear words from you" (Acts 10:22). Cornelius, a Gentile prepared for baptism, is called "one who fears God."

Hebrews 5:7 describes Jesus' fear of God: ". . . who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear." Even Jesus, who knew God better than anyone who had ever walked the face of the earth, feared God. Note the special attention paid to the fact that God answered His prayers because He did.

God is holy. He is different to a level so far above mankind that those who truly know Him do not lose that apprehension and awe that comes from the privilege of being in the presence of sheer, powerfully pure holiness. Fear plays a large part in a good relationship with God.

Genesis 3:10 is the first time a form of fear appears in Scripture, and interestingly, it is in the context of sin. Adam responds to God, "I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself." Elsewhere, the English word "fear" and its cognates appear in many contexts and forms: "feared," "fearful," "fearfully," "fearfulness," "fearing," and "afraid." These terms appear over 720 times in Scripture.

We tend to be uncertain about fearing God because we think of fear as a negative characteristic. We feel that we should love Him rather than fear Him. However, as we study God's Word and experience life with Him, we come to understand that, at the foundation of loving God, godly fear modifies our highly variable faith in God and love for God in significant ways.

All of those forms of "fear" express a wide range of emotions. Feelings such as dread, distress, dismay, trouble, terror, horror, alarm, awe, respect, reverence, and admiration may all appear as "fear" in Scripture. The fear that God desires in us is a good, positive, motivating quality.

This fear is one that we do not naturally possess. Recall Psalm 34:11: "Come you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD." How do we learn the fear of God? Psalm 33:8-9 gives insight: "Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast." Godly fear is one of a deep and abiding respect that grows as we learn—from within a continuing, intimate relationship—of His character, His purpose, and His powers. The unconverted do not have this relationship as a sustaining presence.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sin, Christians, and the Fear of God

1 John 2:15-17

Love of the world is forbidden by God, and conforming to it shows that a person loves it (Romans 12:2) and therefore hates God. Much of the time, the world equates lust with love, but nothing could be further from the truth. Lust is self-centered and destructive. The person who has God's love perfected in him cannot fear because he has no dread of punishment and no torment from sin.

Martin G. Collins
Love


 




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