Shalom in the Lamb,
Fear and Fear Not!
FEAR did not seem like a likely topic for our yearly Passover Jewish Jewels newsletter, but the Lord seemed to impress the words “Fear Not!” on my heart for this season. As I write, the country of Ukraine is at war, a David/Goliath scenario that must be generating tremendous fear in the hearts of the Ukrainian people, many of whom are our brothers and sisters in Yeshua and a number of them survivors of the Holocaust. Women fear for their husbands and sons who are not permitted to leave the Ukraine but have been ordered to stay and defend their country.
What does the Bible say about fear? A lot. There are two types of fear mentioned in the Holy Scriptures, two main words with very different meanings. The primary word for fear is yirah (yeer-AH) יראה. The verb form is yare (yah-RAY). Yirah includes the idea of reverential awe, honor, and respect. Yirat HaShem or Yirat Adonai יראת יהוהare translated “Fear of the Lord.” This type of fear is a positive fear and is actually a companion to the love of God. According to Jewish tradition, ahavah (love of God) and yirah (fear of the Lord) are the two wings on which the Torah soars through the heavens (Deut.10:12).
Yirat Adonai, the fear of the Lord, is mentioned in Isaiah 11:2 as one of the seven spirits of God. It has been connected with a Hebrew word that means “flowing” and, as such, is the source of wisdom and knowledge, even life. Good things flow from yirah (Prov. 9:10, Prov. 19:23). The fear of the Lord causes us to love God so much that we want to please Him in all things and not grieve His Holy Spirit.
The second type of fear is a sudden, startling fear. Instead of fear–revere, it is fear–dread, pachad in Hebrew (pa-KHAD) פחד. This is the fear that God said the enemies of Israel would experience after He delivered them from Egyptian bondage by His mighty arm. “Fear and dread (pachad) will fall on them; by the greatness of Your arm they will be as still as a stone, till Your people pass over, O LORD, till the people pass over whom You have purchased” (Ex. 15:16). The word terror in Psalm 91:5 is pachad: “You shall not be afraid of the terror by night….” While the word pachad is only used to describe fear–dread, different forms of yirah are used to describe fear in general. For example, “Do not fear” is al Tirah (ahl tee-RAH) תירא–אל. “You shall not be afraid” is “lo tirah” (low tee-RAH). “I will fear no evil,” in Psalm 23:4 is “lo irah ra.”
Fear in the Passover
“And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord…and Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace’” (Ex.14:10, 13-14). (This is a good word for some of you today!)
Moses had a heritage of faith. “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s command.” No fear. “By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.” No fear. (Heb.11:23,27) God is saying to us this Passover Al Tirah! (Fear Not!).
Fear in Today’s World
Fear is reigning in hearts everywhere today. The dictionary defines fear as a strong emotion caused by the anticipation or awareness of danger. It is an uneasiness of the mind at the thought of future evil likely to happen. Forms of fear include anxiety, worry, fright, shyness, terror, and panic, among others. People today fear war, terrorism, failure, financial insecurity, traveling, growing old, death, cancer and other diseases, and the future in general for themselves and their loved ones.
The Feb. 2022 report by the CDC says that heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. One person dies every 36 seconds in our country from cardiovascular disease, about 659,000 people each year (1 in every 4 deaths). What is happening to our hearts? It is more than high cholesterol. The Bible says in Luke 21 that in the last days there will be “distress of nations, with perplexity.” (We are there.) “…men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth…” (Luke 21:25-26).
Fearful hearts are not the will of God. Is that you? Your Father in heaven has a word for you. “Say to those who are fearful-hearted, ‘Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; He will come and save you’” (Is. 35:4). (He does not want any of us to be among the rejected ones spoken of in Revelation 21:8 who partake of the second death. The word “cowardly” in that verse is translated “fearful” in the King James Version.)
Fear and Hiding
Fear entered the world in the Garden of Eden as a result of sin. Sin caused Adam and Eve to hide from God. “Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ So he said, ‘I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid (v’irah) because I was naked; and I hid myself’” (Gen. 3:9-10).
Fear results in hiding. We see this pattern throughout the entire Bible. Abraham told Abimelech, the King of Gerar, that Sarah his wife was his sister (hid her identity) because he was afraid that he would be killed on account of her. It is interesting that Abraham assumed that the fear of God (yirat Elohim) was not there (see Gen 20:11). Queen Esther hid her Jewishness because Mordechai feared for her safety (Esther 2:10). The Israelite army hid from Goliath out of fear. “And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were dreadfully afraid” (I Sam. 17:24). The woman with the issue of blood was afraid because she did not have a hiding place. “Now when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling…” (Luke 8:47). After Yeshua’s death, the disciples hid behind closed doors because they were afraid. “It was evening on that day, the first of the week. When the doors were locked where the disciples were, for fear of the Judean leaders, Yeshua came and stood in their midst! And He said to them, ‘Shalom aleichem!’” (John 20:19 TLV).
Fear, unfortunately, can cause believers to hide their faith, to hide the Good News of Yeshua’s death, burial, and resurrection, to even hide the new birth that they have experienced through Messiah. “Yet no one spoke openly about Him for fear of the Judean leaders” (Jn. 7:13 TLV). Abba, please help us to overcome our fears and boldly proclaim the truth of your Son to Israel and the nations. “O Zion, you who bring good tidings, get up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, you who bring good tidings, lift up your voice with strength, lift it up, be not afraid; say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!’” (Is. 40:9) The hour is late. Do not let fear rob you and cause you to hide your faith or your talents any longer! (See Matt. 25:25.) God is Good, and He is for us!
Yeshua on Fear
Our Messiah sought to comfort fearful hearts. He said to His fellow Israelites: “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matt.10:29-31). “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (Jn. 14:27). “And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, ‘Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death’” (Rev 1:17-18).
Since we are all human, we will all face fear at some point in our lives. Not “if” but “when.” That is why Psalm 56:3-4 says, “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God (I will praise His word), in God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?” Some of you, like me, have dealt with serious health challenges. Cancer, MS, Diabetes, Heart Disease, MD, Auto-Immune Diseases, Mental Illness, PTSD. It is very easy for fear to creep in when our bodies seem to betray us. Fear can sap your strength, rob your joy, cause you to make bad decisions, and make God and others seem distant. I must thank all of you for your prayers on my behalf. During the six months (Sept.-Feb.) since my diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer, I have lived an extremely active life with absolutely no symptoms or pain. Very supernatural—almost no fear at all, despite the fact that I am scheduled for surgery on April 26, 2022. I know. It may never happen. God’s call. I accept His plan for my total healing and long life. I have been taking communion at home on a regular basis and experiencing the joy of the Lord in amazing ways. By the grace of God, I have been able to take my thoughts captive (see 2 Cor. 10:3-5) in order to not dwell on possible negative, fearful situations. But one word describes what I have found to be of utmost importance in combatting fear: TRUST.
Consider the word “trust” in the following verses. “Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass” (Ps. 37:5). “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” (Prov. 3:5-6). “The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe” (Prov 29:25). “Behold God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; for YAH, the LORD, is my strength and song; He also has become my salvation” (Is.12:2). “I sought the LORD, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears…Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!… The LORD redeems the soul of His servants, and none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned” (Ps. 34:4, 8, 22). The word “trust” in Hebrew is batach (ba-TAKH) בטח.
Trust Flowing From Love
While trust is indeed an antidote to fear, there is a deeper well beneath trust, that propels us to victory: Love—the Love of God. If we embrace the God Who created us, and Who says to us, “Fear not for I have redeemed you, I have called you by your name; You are mine…” (Is. 43:1), His love causes us to trust Him. His love also says to us, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Is. 41:10).
Love casts out fear. But not just any love. God’s perfect, powerful, unconditional love. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us” (I Jn. 4:18-19).
An article by the late David Wilkerson titled “Freedom From Fear” (10-26-1998) was in my files and has some thoughts worth sharing. Following are direct quotes from the article: “True freedom from fear consists of totally resigning one’s life into the hands of the Lord. Resigning ourselves into God’s care is an act of faith. It means putting ourselves completely under his power, wisdom and mercy, to be led and preserved according to his will alone. And, if we do so, the God of the universe promises to be totally responsible for us—to feed, clothe and shelter us and to guard our hearts from all evil.”
We can surrender our life into God’s hands because His Hands are Hands of love. Wilkerson continues: “Now, if you know the Lord at all, then you know this is his character. He is almighty, infi-nitely wise, and a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Indeed, he is the very essence of love. The apostle Paul writes, ‘…I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day‘ (II Tim. 1:12). Paul is saying, ‘I’ve put my life in the Lord’s hands. And I’m persuaded he won’t embezzle my trust.’”
“The biblical prophets warn us that when we see God shaking the nations, and perilous times befall us, our natural man will fear greatly. Ezekiel asked, “Can thine heart endure, or can thine hands be strong, in the days that I shall deal with thee?” (Ezek. 22:14) But our fear must come from a holy reverence for the Lord, and never from a fleshly anxiety about our fate. God despises all sinful fear in us—the fear of losing material things—wealth, our standard of living. All over the world today, people are filled with this kind of fear as they see their nations’ economies deteriorating. Such is the cry of unbelievers who have no hope. It ought not to be the cry of the godly.”
Fear and Little Children
When our children were little, our two boys were afraid of the dark. Jesse, especially, needed to be comforted at bedtime. When we told him that God was always with him, and he did not need to be afraid, he responded: “He may be, but he doesn’t have skin on!” True, but the Messiah Yeshua was God with skin on, and He is with us now by His Spirit.
I wrote Righteous Rhymes two years before my children were born, based on my experience as a teacher. The first nursery rhyme that I rewrote had to do with fear. Part of the lesson is as follows: “Did you know that God never sleeps? ( Ps.121:4) He’s always watching over us. He is always there to help us when we need Him. The Bible tells us what to do when we are afraid: “When I am afraid, I will trust in You, God” (Ps. 56:3). Why not put your right hand over your heart and say that Bible verse out loud! Fear won’t stay long around a heart that is filled with God‘s love.
Sing now, if you remember the tune: “Baa, Baa, black sheep, have you any fear? No, sir. No, sir. God is near. He is the shepherd who watches His sheep. He never slumbers and He never sleeps. Baa, Baa, black sheep, have you any fear? No, sir. No, sir. God is near.”
Al Tirah (Do Not Fear)
Our Abba says to us, “Be calm. Never fear. I am with you to help you and deliver you. Trust in my love. It will never fail you. Don’t allow fear to rob you of hope. Resist fear. Fight against it. The victory is yours in Yeshua, the Son of my Love.”
We say to Abba: “Dear Heavenly Father, please help me to have a heart free from fear. Flood me with your perfect love so that I can trust You more and defeat fear when it comes against me. I choose to trust and not be afraid. I stand on the promise of 2 Timothy 1:7, ‘For God has not given us (me) a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.‘ Help me to hear You saying, ‘Peace, be still!’ when storms assail me and my faith waivers. Thank you that your love is greater than all my fears. In Yeshua’s Name, AMEN.”
“…Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
Love in the God of Perfect Love,