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GOOD VS. BAD FEAR

Daily Devotional Isaiah 41:8–14


Good fear, according to theologian Michael Reeves, is marked by reverence and awe. Bad fear is marked by anxiety. “Sinful fear hates God and therefore acts sinfully. Right fear loves God and therefore has a sincere longing to be like him...I want you to rejoice in this strange paradox that the gospel both frees us from fear and gives us fear. It frees us from our crippling fears, giving us instead a most delightful, happy, and wonderful fear.”


Do not fear, for I am with you.

ISAIAH 41:10


This contrast between normal human fear and the fear of the Lord is the background for today’s Scripture reading. When God says not to fear (vv. 10, 13–14), He’s referring to normal human fear— the feeling of being afraid when threatened or in danger. Why should they take courage? Because God is on their side. He calls them “friend” and has a covenant relationship with them (v. 8). He’s called and chosen them (v. 9). He will strengthen, help, and uphold them (vv. 10, 13). He is their Redeemer (v. 14). Thanks to Him, their enemies will be defeated (vv. 11–12). There’s absolutely no reason to be afraid!


As we’ve already seen, the fear of the Lord is quite different. Because of God’s love and promises, His worshipers can draw near to Him in faith. It’s their enemies who should run away, not them! When God calls Israel His “servant”’ (vv. 8–9), this is a special title, even an affectionate term, especially in light of the four “servant songs” in Isaiah 41–53.


This drawing near, though, is not like drawing near to another person. God is infinitely greater than us. Our knees should knock a bit. Faith-filled fear and trembling in our worship is a very appropriate response to the awesomeness of who He is (Ps. 119:120; Jer. 5:22).


Go Deeper


What is the difference between good and bad fear? In what ways do we show that we fear God?


Pray with Us:


We admit, Lord, that often we treat you as our “buddy” who is there to fulfill our requests. May it never be! May we draw near to You with awe and faith-filled fear, recognizing You as a righteous Judge, Almighty Creator, the great I AM.

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