The people of God have always lived in the tension of opposing fears. A “resident alien” of this world but a “citizen” of the “city who’s architect and builder is God”; the believer’s life is the life of undulation. Screwtape counsels his nephew Wormwood:
Humans are amphibians-half spirit and half animal (The Enemy’s determination to produce such a revolting hybrid was one of the things that determined Our Father to withdraw his support from Him.)…This means that while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, for to be in time means to change. Their nearest approach to constancy, therefore, is undulation-the repeated return to a level from which they repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks .
Is not a large part of this rising and falling a result of the undue fearing of man?
The fear of man, writes Ed Welch, is ,“…being afraid of someone, but it extends to holding someone in awe, being controlled or mastered by people, worshipping other people, putting your trust in people, or needing people” (When People are Big, But God is Small, p. 14).
Isaiah confronted and comforted an undulating people. They had seen the rising of an enemy and the fall of their homeland. Under the weight of a tyrant, they feared and God spoke:
12 “I, I am he who comforts you; who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, of the son of man who is made like grass, 13 and have forgotten the LORD, your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth, and you fear continually all the day because of the wrath of the oppressor, when he sets himself to destroy? And where is the wrath of the oppressor? 14 He who is bowed down shall speedily be released; he shall not die and go down to the pit, neither shall his bread be lacking. 15 I am the LORD your God, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar— the LORD of hosts is his name.’ ” (Isaiah 51)
“Our inordinate fear of man is a tacit forgetfulness of God.”, says Matthew Henry. “When we disquiet ourselves with the fear of man we forget that there is a God above him, and that the greatest of men have no power but what is given them from above; we forget the providence of God, by which he orders and overrules all events according to the counsel of his own will; we forget the promises he has made to protect his people, and the experiences we have had of his care concerning us, ..Did we remember to make God our fear and our dread, we should not be so much afraid as we are of the frowns of men…”
“We need”, Welch states, “more sermons that make us tremble.” O God, may we tremble in awe and joy at You so that we fear not any other.