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Psalm 34
The Comfort of God-fearing Fearlessness

1 I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.
3 O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.
4 I sought the Lord and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.
5 They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed.
6 This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.
8 O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.
9 O fear the Lord, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him.
10 The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.
11 Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many good days, that he may see good?.
13 Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.
14 Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.
15 The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.
16 The face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
17 The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.
20 He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken.
21 Evil shall slay the wicked: and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate.
22 The Lord redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate.

At first glance the title of this chapter appears to be a contradiction in terms. How could one fear and yet be fearless? The answer is found in the type of fear that one should have, namely, fear of God. This fear is enjoined in verse 9. One of its benefits is found in the same verse. That it is something that can be taught is seen in verse 11 and actions that proceed from it are demonstrated in verses 12 through 14.

In essence, to fear God is to revere, respect and honor God and be in awe of Him. This fear is cited in other Bible passages. Solomon wrote that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…” (Proverbs 1:7). Later he said, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10). The Psalmist said, “The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever…” (Psalm 19:9).

With the fear of the Lord in one’s heart, he or she will submit themselves to the will of the Lord. They will strive to lead lives of purity. Again, refer to verses 12 through 14. In addition, consider Solomon’s words in Proverbs 16:6. “By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the Lord men depart from evil.” This fear leads one to faithful obedience to God which in turn leads to the blessings mentioned in this Psalm. These blessings include deliverance (verses 6-7 and 19), abundance (verse 10), God’s ear in prayer (verse 15), God’s constant presence (verse 18) and God’s continual care (verse 22), each of which provides comfort.

When one has the fear of the Lord in his heart, he blesses God, praises God, magnifies God and exalts God by his humble obedience. When he does this, thus surrendering to the Lord, he is able to take whatever troubles him, including his fears, and turn them over to God (verse 4).

If you have ever had any difficulties, then you know from experience that walking hand in hand with that trouble, maybe even leading the way for it, is the feeling of fear. When financial challenges come, fear of loss, fear of failure and fear of embarrassment or shame rise up and show their ugly faces. When illness invades our lives, fear of pain, fear of financial distress and even fear of death make themselves known. When a loved one dies, fear of loneliness can creep in. Every one of these fears is potentially crippling to one’s emotional state, one’s physical condition and one’s spirituality. The fear of God that recognizes the power of the Almighty to relieve these fears is the only way to defeat them.

It’s terrible to be afraid, but when we break down fear we find that it is typically the result of a lack of knowledge. We’re facing trouble and we don’t know how it will all turn out. As a result, we’re afraid. We’ve seen horrible things happen to others in our situation and we assume that our situation is going to turn out the same way. This family lost their house. That person suffered a lot of pain and spent weeks in the hospital. Often we’ve made up our minds that our results will be the same or even worse. Adding to this are the “friends” who seem to take delight in sharing their horror stories with us.

This lack of knowledge which breeds fear can easily be replaced with that which conquers fear. God has given us His inspired Word to fill that knowledge gap and allows us to come and speak to Him in prayer to cast these fears upon Him. Thus, faith replaces fear. There is not enough room in the human heart for both.

In order to gain freedom from fear, we first have to acknowledge its presence and then identify it. The Psalmist acknowledged his fears in prayer. “I sought the Lord…” (verse 3). “This poor man cried…” (verse 6). To acknowledge fear is to admit that it’s there. Why would we not tell this to God? He already knows our hearts (I Chronicles 28:9). Why would we deny the existence of our fears in His presence?

Identifying fear is just as important as acknowledging it. Playing out scenarios, both positive and negative, can be helpful. During the illness of my wife, Shannon, she and I discussed our fears in the early days of her disease. We would ask, “What is making you afraid and why does that scare you?” We shared a fear of the unknown. She feared the cancer treatments, the sickness that might come with them, the loss of hair and the loss of strength. My fears included those of not being able to adequately take care of her and, of course, that of losing her. As we examined each fear we kept coming back to one conclusion. Whatever we didn’t know about what would happen, we were certain that God knew. Whatever fears we entertained were eliminated by such powerful statements as, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13). That’s how we made it through that particular trial of life. She showed such tremendous courage throughout her ordeal and even in death she refused to allow fear to discourage her. Faith, grounded firmly in fear of the Lord, produced fearlessness that allowed her to overcome.

When troubles come, ask yourself or discuss with someone else what is making you afraid. Spend time in prayer to God and tell Him what is making you afraid. Verse 18 of this Psalm says that the Lord is near. II Timothy 1:7 says, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” The word “fear” in this passage means “timidity, fearfulness, cowardice.” I John 4:18 reads, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” The word for “fear” in this verse means “dread, terror.” Face the troubling fears and then turn in reverential fear to the One who can deliver you from them.

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