With recent decisions in the courts, the temptation to just “go along because it’s the law” will never be stronger, but we must choose whether to fear God or fear man in the increasingly anti-Christian culture we live in.
Ezra 3 & 4
Fearing God in an Anti-Christian Culture
Ezra 3 & 4:
Fearing God or Man?
In chapter 3, even though the people who returned to Jerusalem had the authority of the king behind them, there was still opposition from the people already living in the land.
Verse 3 says, “… fear had come upon them because of the people of those countries …” But in spite of their feelings they determined to do what was right and to worship God as Moses had instructed them to do.
Even though there is a move to restrict our rights as believers, we still have a great deal of freedom under the laws of our land. And while Romans 13 instructs us to obey those who rule over us, even that has limitations. Anytime someone in authority asks us to sin, we have a higher authority—that is God and His Word.
With recent decisions in the courts, the temptation to just “go along because it’s the law” will never be stronger. There will be times on the job (even when we are within our rights), with our friends, or in our families where we will feel fear—fear of being ridiculed, fear of being rejected, fear of what people will think, fear of being labeled unloving or intolerant, even in some cases, fear of losing our jobs or our businesses. But, we too, can do what’s right in spite of our feelings.
We are to fear God and not man. The fear of God isn’t a cowering fear, but a desire to please Him, to care more about what He thinks than what other people think, and to choose to bring Him glory. It is a reverential respect for God and His Word.
And courage isn’t the absence of fear; it is doing what’s right with His help in spite of it.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding (Prov. 9.10).
The fear of man brings a snare,
But whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe (Prov. 29.25).
Today’s Other Readings:
Single Minded Fear
Verse 11b says, “… unite my heart to fear Your name.” As I said above, we are to fear God and not man.
In his book Taste and See, John Piper suggests praying for God to unite our hearts to fear His name. He points out that we all have areas of our lives where we do fear and obey God and other areas where our hearts are bent on going our own way or caught up in the fear of man—hence the importance of asking God to “unite our hearts” to be single-minded on pleasing Him.
The Love of Pleasure
Verse 17, “He who loves pleasure will be a poor man …” When we develop a taste for the best of everything, a desire for ease and entertainment, or for sensual pleasure, instead of satisfying us, it causes us to want more.
“The eyes of man are never satisfied” (Prov. 27.20).
A focus on pleasure, entertainment, and ease leads to laziness and a lack of willingness to fulfill responsibilities. And when that focus is sensual pleasure, it often leads to immorality. All of them lead to poverty— material poverty, relational poverty, and, ultimately, poverty of spirit.
Circumstances and God’s Sovereignty
Here in chapter 22 Paul shares a large portion of his testimony. He will give it more fully in chapter 26 when speaking before King Agrippa. He confessed his involvement in the death of Stephen, the first martyr of the church (Acts 22.20), and spoke of his zeal to destroy “the Way”—that is the church.
The Jews listened to what he had to say until he told them that God had called him to share the gospel with the gentiles. At that they were incensed and wanted to kill him, but God used his Roman citizenship to keep him alive. This is an example of how God uses circumstances to bring about His will.
Lord, help us to be like the Apostle Paul—willing to share the truth even with those who oppose us—but help us to do so with wisdom, gentleness and patience.
In the next few days, we’ll look at how what to do when you feel like your purse has a hole in it and you just can’t get ahead, the biblical grounds for divorce, how an entitlement attitude affects our contentment, the worthlessness of religion, and how flattery can result in great temptation. Be sure to sign up so you won’t miss any of these upcoming posts.
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