Fear Isn’t Always a Bad Thing….But Sometimes It Is

Do you remember the song?

“Twelve men went to spy on Canaan.

Ten were bad and two were good.

What did they see when they got to Canaan?

Ten were bad and two were good.

Some saw giants big and tall.

Some saw grapes in clusters fall.

Twelve men went to spy on Canaan.

Ten were bad and two were good.”

With our hands in the air,

my youth group friends and I would make two thumbs up,

pointing them down for the bad spies and then up for the good ones,

as we sang.

I can remember repeating this song over and over with my friends,

getting faster each time until our little hands struggled to keep up.

We were always laughing by the end,

because it was funny to watch each other trying to match our hand motions to the pace of the words…..

and failing every time.

Fast forward forty years,

and here I sit,

reading this story as an adult.

It’s not quite as funny now.

Twelve men were sent to check out the Promised Land.

They were supposed to come back with a plan and news of all that was in store just around the corner.

But ten of them became overwhelmed, bringing back messages filled with fear.

Only two came back, excited with all they saw, bringing messages filled with hope.

And just like we often do today, 

the Israelites chose to listen to the voices of fear,

changing their 250 – mile journey into 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.

God isn’t a fan of whining.

And these people don’t seem to get it.

A couple of chapter’s later,

Moses and Aaron’s cousin, Korah,

the great-grandson of Levi himself,

decides he deserves equal power with the high priest.

“I am, after all, from the same tribe,” he convinces himself.

And forgetting the important fact that God decides these kinds of things,

he rallies supporters who feel the same injustice.

There’s nothing like a crowd of like-minded rebels to boost someone’s confidence –

as if numbers suddenly makes a belief true and right.

Korah’s fear of human authority led him to rebel against the One authority that mattered.

______________________________

It’s very clear in these chapters of Numbers that the Israelites have a problem.

And it seems to become a bigger and bigger one with the turning of each page.

These people have a supernatural cloud to follow by day

and a supernatural fire to follow by night,

but they continue to choose an eye-level gaze at the world around them,

using majority vote to determine their convictions.

Ten spies and 250 rebels

grab the attention of the Israelites

and suck them into a state of fear and trembling

that God’s thundering voice can’t seem to do.

And when we stop fearing God,

it’s so much easier to live a life of rebellion.

______________________________

As I type these words, I’m beginning to get it.

There are two kinds of fear in life.

Earthly fear and Godly fear.

Earthly fear comes from a place of self-preservation.

Terrorists incite it.

The evening news can leave us sitting in it.

Thinking about our children’s safety can stir it up.

Earthly fear is real.

And not fun.

Godly fear, on the other hand, comes from a place of awe and respect.

Understanding the consequences of sin incites it.

Reading the Bible can leave us sitting in it.

Praying for His leading in our lives can stir it up.

Fearing God is entirely different than fearing our circumstances.

The Israelites as well as Korah chose the wrong kind of fear,

forgetting the power in the hands of the One who had rescued them from Egypt.

What peace they gave up when they tried to take matters into their own hands.

I could list at least ten things in my life at this very moment that have the power to grip me,

pulling me into a state of earthly fear.

From family concerns to work pressures,

there are plenty of things spinning in my head that could lead me down a road much longer than the one I need to walk.

I don’t want my life to turn into a wilderness-wandering experience.

I have to remind myself –

every single morning.

The same God who led the Israelites is leading me.

And He knows the way.

My reading today also included Psalm 95.

Verses 6 and 7 spoke to me as I thought about fear.

Come, let us bow down in worship,
    let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
 for he is our God
    and we are the people of his pasture,
    the flock under his care.

Lord,

may my respect for and awe of You

be the only fear that brings me to my knees.

Psalm 23:1-4

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

There will be days, though, when fear rises up.

On those days, Lord,

please be patient with me.

And help me place my trust in You.

And you alone.

Psalm 56:4

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
 In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
    What can mere mortals do to me?

 

(Today’s reading was from Numbers 14-16 and Psalm 95)

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