Who Are You Going To Fear

October 28, 2007 Preacher: Randy Smith Series: 1 Samuel

Scripture: 1 Samuel 20:1– 22:23


Who Are You Going To Fear

1 Samuel 20:1-22:23
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Pastor Randy Smith

Though we have been running around in short pants lately, we don't need a change in weather to tell us that Christmas is approaching. To my surprise, I was welcomed by a massive display of holiday decorations the moment I entered Home Depot this past week. Still two months away, but the retailers who see little more than dollar signs are exploiting the cash holiday as soon as possible.

But while we plan for Christmas, we cannot overlook two other days between now and then frequently observed by those in our country: Thanksgiving in November and the dreaded day in October that public schools seem to celebrate the moment the children return in the fall.

As Christians we hold different convictions as to how we choose to approach Halloween, but there is one thing I trust we can all agree upon - certain elements of this day represent a darkness that is unbecoming of our faith. From witches to evil spells, from haunted houses to the demonic, from ghosts to bloody gore, much of Halloween, despite it's billing, is far from innocent. As I see it, the central goal in most of these activities is summed up in one word: fear.

As Christians we cannot totally insulate ourselves from evil. We live in a fallen world. I am not suggesting we condone or participate in evil, but I do believe we need to understand the darkness that surrounds us for at least two reasons. One, to be thankful for our present salvation in Christ, which called us into His marvelous light (1 Pet. 2:9). And second, to analyze and evaluate the root of human sin whereby we might expose its folly, lead others to deliverance and deepen our biblical worldview.

"In the world but not of it." Interacting with our world through the grid of Scripture is the essence of biblical living. For example, it stands at the heart of biblical parenting.

Consider the following conversation not much embellished from the one I had with my daughters as we strolled through the isles of K-Mart on Friday evening:

Question: How has school being going, honey?
Answer: Fine (Isn't that their usual response!)

Question: It's October, so I'm sure you have been doing a lot of Halloween activates, right?
Answer: Yes we have.

Question: What do you think about all that stuff?
Answer: I don't know.

Question: How do you think God feels about it?
Answer: I'm sure much of it doesn't please Him.

Question: Why do you say that?
Answer: Because it goes against what He teaches us in the Bible.

Question: Great answer! Did you ever notice how everything about Halloween is intended to scare us? Do you fear anything about Halloween?
Answer: Not really.

Question: Who does God want us to fear?
Answer: Himself.

That's right! The Bible says to "fear God and keep His commandments" (Ecc. 12:13). And when we fear God, we don't need to be afraid of other people or other objects.

Question: But daddy, why do all these people enjoy fearing everything but God?
Answer: Because we have been created to find our ultimate needs met in God. But unfortunately, most people reject God and prefer to fear cheap substitutes. And these cheap substitutes cannot remove our sin and bring us satisfaction in life.

Halloween is just one among countless examples which demonstrates how people have turned from a fear of the Lord to a fear of man. Though we think this shrugging off of the Lord brings us greater freedom, the fear of man only produces greater despair, dissatisfaction and bondage.

Fear in the biblical sense goes beyond simply being afraid of someone. It extends to holding someone in awe and being controlled by that individual. Every morning when I awake, I am faced with a decision: Who will I worship today? Who will I trust today? Who will I listen to today? Who will I need today? Who will I fear? Those in Christ no longer need to fear the wrath of God, but we still have an obligation to revere the Lord with holy awe as we trust Him and love Him with all of our hearts.

Here is a great quote that I came across last night: "To fear God means that my life is structured by a sense of awe, worship, and obedience that flows out of recognizing Him and His glory. He becomes the single most important reference point for all that I desire, think, do, and say. God is my motive and God is my goal. The fear of God is meant to be the >central organizing force in my life" (Paul Tripp, Age of Opportunity, p. 217).

First Samuel has been a book about individuals standing at the crossroads of choosing to fear either people or God.

  • Would Hannah be given over to ridicule and criticism and allow it to produce a vengeful spirit and anger toward God, or would she trust the Lord of Hosts (chapter 1)?
  • Would Eli honor the Lord by disciplining his sons, or would he take greater fear in their displeasure and potential rejection of him (chapter 2)?
  • Would the Israelites find contentment in God as their king, or would they desire human leadership and exhibit a greater concern for the opinions of other nations (chapter 8).
  • Would Saul wait for Samuel to arrive before offering the sacrifices, or would he fear the people and listen to their voices (chapter 13).
  • Would the Israelites trust the Lord's promises, or would they place greater fear in a nine-foot giant named Goliath (chapter 17).

I think you get the point. Every day we are faced with this divine decision. When at the crossroads, will we fear people or have faith in God?

Allow us to dig a littler deeper. In chapters 20-22 of 1 Samuel, I see two aspects of this important topic that deserve our attention.


The first aspect I am simply calling "Fearing Others."

Possibly there is no greater time when our fear of God is tested than when we are in a position of feeling physically threatened. Now I am not saying there is anything wrong with a sense of vulnerability, but a slippery slope exists between a healthy fear and an idolatrous fear. When fear consumes us, when it rules us, when it causes us to trust in another apart from God, we have crossed the line and slid into the sinful category (the idolatrous category) of fearing man.

Throughout the Bible, David always impresses us as a man of great faith. When threatened, he consistently turned to the Lord. His life was built on a healthy fear of the Lord. He wrote, "When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me" (Psm. 56:3-4; cf. 27:1-4)? Time after time in the Psalms he described God as his shield (Psm. 5:5), his refuge (Psm. 142:5), his rock (Psm. 18:2), his strength (Psm. 118:14) and his deliverer (Psm. 40:17). In chapter 17 we saw David stand on the promises of God and defeat the great giant from Gath. But even the one who slew Goliath revealed that he too had feet of clay. Like us, there were times when he blew it. There were times when he feared man.

In chapter 21, David fled from Saul and went to king Achish for refuge. Possibly even more surprising than trusting in a human for his refuge was the fact that 21:10 informs us that Achish was the king of Gath! Goliath was from Gath! David slew the Philistines from Gath! So why he would go to these people for shelter totally surprises me. What would the widows of all the Philistine veterans think of the man who killed their husbands? His desire to go incognito was absurd. After all, verse 9 informs us he was carrying Goliath's sword!

Well, it did not take long for those in Gath to realize who David was. Verse 11, "But the servants of Achish said to him, 'Is this not David the king of the land? Did they not sing of this one as they danced, saying, 'Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands (cf. 18:7)?''" The advisors inform the King that this was the legendary David. The one who killed ten thousands - "Most of whom, dear king, were our own people!" Verse 12, "(So) David took these words to heart and greatly feared Achish king of Gath.

It appears David feared the king more than he feared the Lord. His trust in the Lord was lacking. Verse 13 tells us he crafted up a deceptive plan to save his hide. "So he disguised his sanity before them, and acted insanely in their hands, and scribbled on the doors of the gate, and let his saliva run down into his beard." Nevertheless, his deceit was "successful" and David was released. In verse 15 the king of Gath said, "Do I lack madmen, that you have brought this one to act the madman in my presence? Shall this one come into my house?"

But after this event had concluded, David was able to ponder His release. He regained his focus and attributed His deliverance to the hand of God. He realized how God is for him, and God alone is to be feared for men are not frightful but objects of flesh - harmless kittens when compared to the Lion of Judah.

I draw these conclusions from the words he left behind in Psalm 34 that David wrote as he reflected upon this occasion.

"I sought the LORD, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears… The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them. O taste and see that the LORD is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! O fear the LORD, you His saints; For to those who fear Him there is no want. The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; but they who seek the LORD shall not be in want of any good thing. Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD… Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all… The LORD redeems the soul of His servants, and none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned" (Psm. 34:4, 7-11, 19, 22).

Even in his weakness, David found reason to praise the Lord. Even in his folly, David discovered God's mercy. Even when he feared man, David soon repented and regained his proper focus on the Lord.

Another situation of fearing man is found in chapter 22 and it pertains to the lame duck king of Israel, Saul.

In chapter 16 we learned that "the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul" (16:14). The result was an individual who continually feared man in a progressive way. It was probably best characterized one chapter later when Saul was confronted with Goliath. Though Saul had defeated mighty armies in the past (14:47-48), mean words and scary looks from one individual pushed him into a corner, cowering in fear (17:11). The fear of man began to paralyze Saul as his life going forward was marked by paranoia, jealousy, despair and insanity.

When we fear man over God, we lose the power to live a fulfilled life. We become dependent on other people to provide our felt needs. Call it reputation, peer-pressure, codependency, self-esteem or people-pleasing, all of these terms have one thing in common: People become big and God becomes small. Rather than caring only for the opinion of God, we become consumed with what others think about us. We compare ourselves to others. And in this rat race to find other people to fill up our love tanks, we not only use people to meet our needs, but we actually become shackled by their thoughts, words and actions. People become an idol. And that which we worship begins to own us. This is bondage. This is the product of fearing man.

As Saul drew further away from the Lord, he grew in his fear of man - evidence of the evil spirit that had come upon him (16:14, 23). Twice, he tried to impale David with his spear (18:11; 19:10). He even tossed his spear at his son, Jonathan (20:33). 18:9 says he looked at David with suspicion. 18:15 says he was jealous of David. 18:17 says he tried to get the Philistines to kill David. 18:29 says he was afraid of David. And the list continues…

Great evidence of Saul's fear of man is found in chapter 22. I like to call it the royal pity-party. Beginning in verse 6, "Then Saul heard that David and the men who were with him had been discovered. Now Saul was sitting in Gibeah, under the tamarisk tree on the height with his spear in his hand, and all his servants were standing around him. Saul said to his servants who stood around him, 'Hear now, O Benjamites! Will the son of Jesse also give to all of you fields and vineyards? Will he make you all commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds? For all of you have conspired against me so that there is no one who discloses to me when my son makes a covenant with the son of Jesse, and there is none of you who is sorry for me or discloses to me that my son has stirred up my servant against me to lie in ambush, as it is this day (22:6-8)'"

You can see that Saul becomes obsessed with thoughts of a conspiracy. He feels the whole world has turned against him. He speaks with exhaustive terms like "all of you" and "none of you," words that he uses three times in these three verses. He attributes evil to the motives of David and his troops. He longs for the need to be reassured by people rather than approved by God. He desperately seeks the favor of man rather than the favor of the Lord.

Every pastor has heard the whining. "What is the church going to do for me?" "The whole church has rejected me." "Nobody likes me." "There is no where for me to serve." "Everybody is out to get me." Is it just me, or do these comments sound a lot like Saul? There must be a better way! If that attitude fears man, revealed by an unhealthy focus on self, what does it look like to fear the Lord?


As we move to the second point, I believe the fear of the Lord is best seen in Saul's son, Jonathan.

Throughout 1 Samuel, Jonathan has always been a portrait of godliness. That attitude is again seen in chapter 21. Self-esteem depends on using other people to fill us up. It revolves around the fear of man. But when our life is centered on the fear of God, we are filled with God. We overflow and then spill His goodness into the lives of others. One uses others. The other loves others. One seeks to satisfy self-serving needs. The other recognizes those needs and seeks to put them to death. Permit me to explain.

Beginning in chapter 18, Jonathan proved himself to be a loyal friend of David (18:1-4). But by chapter 20, we see Jonathan's love for David really tested.

Chapter 20, verses 1-3, "Then David fled from Naioth in Ramah, and came and said to Jonathan, 'What have I done? What is my iniquity? And what is my sin before your father, that he is seeking my life?' He (Jonathan) said to him, 'Far from it, you shall not die. Behold, my father does nothing either great or small without disclosing it to me. So why should my father hide this thing from me? It is not so!' Yet David vowed again, saying, 'Your father knows well that I have found favor in your sight, and he has said, 'Do not let Jonathan know this, or he will be grieved.' But truly as the LORD lives and as your soul lives, there is hardly a step between me and death'" (1 Sam. 20:1-3).

Though Jonathan starts off with a degree of naivety (cf. 19:6), he soon begins to realize that his father wants David's head on a platter! Will Jonathan side with his evil father or will he support David and honor the covenant the two of them made (18:3; 20:8)?

Jonathan chose David, and Saul's response to that decision is witnessed in verses 30-33: "Then Saul's anger burned against Jonathan and he said to him, 'You son of a perverse, rebellious woman! Do I not know that you are choosing the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of your mother's nakedness? For as long as the son of Jesse lives on the earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Therefore now, send and bring him to me, for he must surely die.' But Jonathan answered Saul his father and said to him, 'Why should he be put to death? What has he done?' Then Saul hurled his spear at him to strike him down; so Jonathan knew that his father had decided to put David to death."

At the risk of his life and certainly of not continuing in the kingly succession of his father, Jonathan sacrificed all to remain faithful to his friend. Jonathan feared the Lord and therefore supported God's chosen king (cf. 18:4; 23:17) and the betterment of another over himself. Fear of man, self-esteem - it is all about me. Fear of God - it is all about God and others (the two greatest commandments!).

Listen to the affection in verse 17: "Jonathan made David vow again because of his love for him, because he loved him as he loved his own life (cf. 20:41).

This sacrificial love can only come as a gift from the Lord. It is a product of fearing Him. This is the divine love that I have seen from many in this church.

  • The willingness to faithfully teach the children on a weekly basis despite the great preparation and minimal encouragement.
  • The passion to share the gospel with the lost amidst much time, rejection and persecution.
  • The desire to put aside your own needs if it contributes to the greater unity of the church.
  • The drive to look for special needs and then meet those needs without recognition or reward.
  • The hunger to leave your comfort zones and embrace new people in the church.
  • The readiness to give up a Wednesday evening to praise God and pray for His blessing on the church.

Jonathan, like these people and so many others, was able to see things from God's perspective. When he feared God, he put God first. And when he put God first, he valued God's kingdom over his own kingdom. He emptied himself of all his pride and allowed the love of God to fill his heart. With the love of God shed abroad in his heart, people no longer were tools to meet his needs but now precious souls to flood with God's love. With God as his only Lord, Jonathan was free to love people more than need people. This, my friends, is the fear of the Lord. And this is the road to freedom and liberation!

Maybe instead of totally ignoring Halloween, we need to reexamine this day through the eyes of God. While people have been created to fear the Lord, does this day betray them? Does this day totally unmask their desire to fear everything but God? Does looking at them reveal any weaknesses in our own lives?

This is why we need to get our eyes off others (especially ourselves) and continually look to Jesus Christ. The Bible says Jesus was not obsessed with the opinions of others (Mt. 22:16; Jn. 5:41). It says He did not come to be served, but rather to serve (Mk. 10:45). It says He emptied Himself and always chose the will of His Father (Jn. 8:29; Phil. 2:7). And it says He greatly loved people to the extent of sacrificially dying for their sins on the cross (Eph. 5:2, 25).

So many people are man-fearers. They would rather die than be disliked, under-appreciated or disrespected. They are more concerned with looking foolish than sinning against God. Yet Jesus accepted it all: Unpopularity, rejection and even poverty. No wonder the message of the cross "is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (1 Cor. 1:18).

The world thought Jesus was foolish. And they will think we are foolish too if we choose to fear the Lord. But in reality, all man-fearers are the true fools. For as Proverbs 9:10 teaches us, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding."

More in 1 Samuel

December 9, 2007

A Contrast Between Two Anointed Ones

December 2, 2007

The Unhappy Medium

November 25, 2007

Turkey or Godly