Numbers 13:1 – 14:45
“Do not rebel against the Lord, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the Lord is with us! Don’t be afraid of them!” Numbers 14:9, NLT
The only certainty in life is that we will face losses and changes in life. We are afraid of changes and challenges for it is human to be fearful of change. Our brains are wired for fear in order to survive in a world filled with threats and danger. Fear drives us to fight, flee or freeze in reaction to change. However, human beings are different from the animals as they have the power to rewire their brains and to be connected to a power beyond themselves.
As human beings, fears reveal what we truly love – the desires that lie deep within our hearts. Our fears reflect the nature of our relationship with God. We will be filled with dreadful fears when we think of God only as a Creator and Judge – we are filled with guilt about breaking the rules. But the root cause of such dreadful fears is the loss of faith in the love of God and the tendency to put our trust in our self effort. This is the lesson we need to learn from the Exodus journey of the Jews.
When the Jews were told to take possession of the land of Canaan, they were discouraged by ten of the twelve scouts who were sent to explore the land. The scouts had reported that the land was a bountiful country flowing with milk and honey. However, they saw the inhabitants as giants and the scouts felt like grasshoppers. In their despair, the Jews complained and wished for death and thought that God was leading them to die in battle. They contemplated choosing a new leader to lead them back to Egypt.1 However, Joshua and Caleb, two of the twelve scouts, encouraged their fellowmen to trust that God will give them the land:
“Do not rebel against the Lord, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the Lord is with us! Don’t be afraid of them!.”2
But the whole community responded by threatening to stone Joshua and Caleb. Then they experienced the judgment of God when the ten men who incited the rebellion were struck dead with a plague and the community were condemned to wander in the wilderness for forty years. In remorse, they tried to enter the Promised Land without the Presence of God and they were soundly defeated.3
Instead of believing in God’s promise to be with them, the Jews were full of complaints and filled with fears about the power of the Amalekites. Likewise, we can let the fear of men keep us in darkness and from doing God’s will. The kingdom of heaven is all about our relationship with God. God does not want us to be afraid of Him – we are called to love Him as our Heavenly Father.
The filial and holy fear of God leads us to live in the light as the children of God. Jesus came to lead us to God as our Heavenly Father. The filial fear of a child of God is very different from the sinner’s dread of God.4 When we have the filial and joyful fear of God, we will transcend all our other fears – fear of man, fear of poverty, fear of disease, fear of suffering and fear of death.
The fear of God is not a state of mind but a matter of the heart. To fear God is not about changing our habits but changing our hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit.6 To do so, we are to be faithful in listening to God. The more we listen to God, the more understanding we will have of Him as our Heavenly Father. The less we listen to God, we will lose whatever little faith we have in God’s love.
We need to take heed how we hear.7 When we listen with fear, we will be afraid of the outcomes like the servant with one talent in the parable of the Talents – ““I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.”7 When we listen with faith in God as our Heavenly Father, we will respond like Mary, the mother of Jesus – “let it be to me according to Your Word.”8 It is not what we do for God but how He is using us for His glory.
“Be it unto me
According to Your word
According to Your promises
I can stand secure
Carve upon my heart
The truth that sets me free
According to Your word O’ Lord
Be it unto me”9
Lord, lead me from the fear of sinners to the filial and joyful fear that empowers me to glorify Your name.
- Are my fears leading me to a frozen relationship with God or to flee from God?
- What do my fears reveal about true desires of my heart?
- How can I have a filial and joyful fear of God?
- Numbers 13:25-14:4, NLT
- Numbers 14:9, NLT
- Numbers 14:10-45, NLT
- Michael Reeves, What Does It Mean To Fear The Lord?, 41
- Michael Reeves, What Does It Mean To Fear The Lord? 47-49
- Luke 8:18, NLT
- Matthew 25:25
- Luke 1:38, ESV
- Be It Unto Me, Don Moen