The Fearful Tenderness of God
This is not a new phenomenon, beloveds. Fear is an integral part of us, designed by God as a warning of impending danger. Adam and Eve should have feared the talking serpent, but “he was more subtle and cunning than any beast of the garden” (Gen 3:1). By his lies, he convinced our first human parents to misplace their fear, to be afraid of God instead of trusting Him. In our fallen, broken cosmos, Satan uses the exact same methods. Fear has run amok. Fear has been the tool of tyrants for centuries without end.
God knew this could happen, and designed us accordingly. Our heart, our identity, the core of who we are as unending spiritual beings, can withstand incalculably enormous strains and stresses, given the proper nourishment (which is, of course, God’s love). Even without that nourishment, our hearts have another method of survival. Hardness of heart is, in part, a defense mechanism lost souls utilize against evil. Our hearts harden to survive cruelty, terror, tyranny, all sorts of evil.
Think of earth. Dirt. Soil. With proper irrigation, crop rotation, and fertilization, even hot and arid wilderness can produce abundant crops. But take away that life-giving water, and dirt only has one option. It hardens. The sun is the great tyrant of the desert, and fear is the great ruler of the heart. But the great psalmist who glorifies God’s Word in Psalm 119 has a secret for us.
Love can invoke greater fear than tyranny.
Love can inspire greater terror than cruelty.
Love can generate greater awe than torture.
How can this be, you ask?
Every evil dictator who manipulates fear for evil ends shall be overthrown, no matter how greatly he terrifies his subjects. This is the unbroken testimony of God and history. Even Satan, that great tyrant, has been overthrown. But who can withstand the relentless love of God? Power is not displayed by how many people you can hurt. Real power is displayed by how many people you can afford to help. When God confirms his covenant with his servants, outsiders cower and moan in terror.
The Canaanites feared Abraham and his God because God cared for them.
The Egyptians gave the departing Israelites riches and blessings, because the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob had put all their idols to shame and still had power enough to redeem a million people from slavery.
When Israel dwelt before God at her moral and political pinnacle of power, the surrounding nations trembled because “there is a God in Israel!”
Therefore, Jesus says, “But I will show you whom you should fear. Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell: yes, I say to you, fear Him!” (Luke 12:5)