“Freedom from Fear” by Norman Rockwell
For the director of music. A psalm of David.
1 Hear me, my God, as I voice my complaint;
protect my life from the threat of the enemy.
2 Hide me from the conspiracy of the wicked,
from the plots of evildoers.
3 They sharpen their tongues like swords
and aim cruel words like deadly arrows.
4 They shoot from ambush at the innocent;
they shoot suddenly, without fear.
5 They encourage each other in evil plans,
they talk about hiding their snares;
they say, “Who will see it?”
6 They plot injustice and say,
“We have devised a perfect plan!”
Surely the human mind and heart are cunning.
7 But God will shoot them with his arrows;
they will suddenly be struck down.
8 He will turn their own tongues against them
and bring them to ruin;
all who see them will shake their heads in scorn.
9 All people will fear;
they will proclaim the works of God
and ponder what he has done.
10 The righteous will rejoice in the Lord
and take refuge in him;
all the upright in heart will glory in him!
The Nature of Fear
“Mister Skinny Legs!” shouts Sophia my 3 and half year old. For the next few minutes her attention will be singly focused on dealing with the large spider in the room. She will not think about anything else, she will not talk about anything else, not will she do anything else until the large spider has been dealt with.
One of the concepts we have most difficulty unpacking in the vocabulary and lexicon of the bible is the word fear. But what do the Scriptures teach about fear? The easisest way to understand what the Biblical meaning of fear is just as Sophia will think of nothing else in her life, do nothing else in her life until that spider in the room is dealt with so humanity has sole focus known as “fear”. So in this Psalm we see that the Psalmist has two very different types of fear. Fear about anything and everything other than God (v 1-8) and then that most liberating fear of all, the fear of God (v 9-10).
The first 8 verses of this Psalm deal with David’s fear of enemies, bodily harm, war, and injustice. Then the theme of fear is radically refocused in verses 9-10. David unpacks how fear operates in our life. When anything other than God becomes our main focus, it will have the effect of becoming the most dominating thought in our life. When David does not make God the centre of his thinking, he discovers that other things become the almost obsessive focus of his life. Then in verse 9 we see an exultant transformation and a thoughtful reflection on not only the nature of fear, but the object of fear.
Fear of Nothing But the Loss of You
David finds courage and freedom from fear when the dominant thought of his life is no longer his worries, but rather his God. We hear verses such as those in Proverbs, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”(Provervs 1:7). Other places in Scripture we are praised if we fear the Lord. “Praise the Lord. Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who find great delight in his commands.”(Psalm 112:1). ‘ David in verse 9 becomes a God-fearer. He makes thoughtful reflection on his deliverance by God the central focus of his life. How much more should we be a people full of the knowledge of the “works of God”(v.9) wrought on the Cross. May it turn into exultation and refuge for us as we reflect on his glorious rescue from the fear of sin and death through Jesus’ wonderful resurrection.
A prayer for the day…
“Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for
all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all
our care on you who care for us: Preserve us from faithless
fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life
may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal,
and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ
our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the
Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.” (Collect for the Eighth Sunday After Epiphany)