There are many stories of fear in the Bible – Moses was afraid to leave his comfortable shepherd’s life behind and confront the terrible Pharaoh; the ten scouts who Moses had explore the Promised Land were afraid and caused the Hebrews to wander for another 40 years; Jonah was afraid of God’s command, so ran to the edge of the sea where he was swallowed by a fish; and how David must have trembled before the mighty Goliath!
Yes – even Jesus Christ himself experienced fear. In the Garden of Gethsemane, hours before he was seized by the Romans for execution, just like his temptations in the desert, God allowed his Son to experience every form of human suffering. Jesus was tempted in every way, including with fear, but he did not run away from his eternal destiny to save mankind from their sin.
Examples of Fear in The Bible
There are endless examples of fear in the Bible. In the perfect realm of paradise, the first humans Adam and Eve felt no fear at all. But as soon as they took a bite from the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, humanity was cut off from the Lord’s goodness and we fell into our sinful nature.
When God strode through the garden, he looked for Adam. But Adam and Eve heard God coming, and realizing the ultimate evil they had committed, they hid behind the trees. God found them and asked them why they had hid – and do you know what Adam said?
He answered that he heard the Lord striding through the garden, but he hid: “I was afraid because I was naked.” (Genesis 3:10) This is the very first instance in human history when man experienced fear. Adam knew the terrible evil made him worthy of God’s wrath, to be hurled from paradise and burn in the Lake of Fire forever. Adam was afraid, because he knew he committed a wrong and felt ashamed.
The Difference Between Godly Fear, and Earthly Fear
Stories about fear abound in the Bible. However, throughout the Bible we can find that there are only two types of fear – fear of earthly troubles, and fear of the Lord. Fear of the Lord denotes our reverence and love for Him. According to Proverbs 1:7 – The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
Fools despise wisdom and instruction. Fear of the Lord is where wisdom begins, so Proverbs 9:10 tells us. However, the most repeated command throughout the Bible is “Do not be afraid.” Doesn’t that sound like a contradiction? Not quite! Fear itself doesn’t displease the Lord – it’s how we react to fear, and the motivations behind our fear. Neither is our God’s perfect will for you and I to be afraid.
The differing commands also depend on the context in which they were given – it is good for us to fear God and be obedient, but it’s sinful when that fear is focused on our own well being. This type of fear is borne from our sinful nature. The Lord promises to banish this second type of fear, and replace it with the first. The kind of fear that Adam felt in the Bible is an example of the wrong fear. There are several other examples of this type of fear in the Bible:
(Revelation 21:8) we see in the King James Version that the “cowardly” will burn forever in the Lake of Fire. “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
(Matthew 25:25) the evil servant hid his coins in the ground claiming that he was “afraid” of the master, who represents God. “And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.” (James 2:19) Jesus tells us that it isn’t enough to merely believe in the Lord – because even the demons do so, and they “tremble.” “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble”
What then is the proper kind of fear?
We are afraid of many terrible things: war, crime, losing a loved one, becoming infected with disease, losing our jobs, or even being late for a meeting. But these are fears of earthly things, and if we act on that fear, it will hold us back from all the good God has in store for us.
It sounds like another contradiction, but through our fear of the Lord, the Lord will abolish all other lesser fears. In the original Hebrew, “fear” used in context of the Lord was good. It means that when we put Him first and foremost in our lives, as long as he remains our highest concern over any earthly thing, those earthly fears will fade away.
No matter what happens to our physical or mental wellbeing, as long as our happiness comes from pleasing the Lord, we can’t be emotionally harmed by the troubles of this life.