Adam was well aware of the Sovereign power of the Creator God, who had not only created him but also provided all necessary things in the Garden of Eden. Yet, filled with fear, he tried to hide from the same God in whom ‘there is no darkness at all’ and who did not hide anything about Himself from him. Darkness hides and what we cannot see or fully discern, becomes the cause of fear for us, causing us to hide to protect ourselves. Since fear takes us away from God and anything that is not of faith is sin, being fearful itself becomes a sin.
What is fear? – It is said that the word fear is used more than 500 times in the Holy Bible and two Hebrew words ‘pachad’ and ‘yirah or yare’ are used for fear and both produce two different ways to think about it. ‘Pachad’ means ‘terror or dread, great fear, panic’ and is that paralyzing fear that is experienced when we are suddenly faced with a dreadful situation. But it is also a type of fear that forces us to retreat within oneself and is about threat and panic. ‘yirah or yare’ also means fear but it is ‘the fear that overcomes us when we suddenly find ourselves in possession of considerable more energy than we are used to or inhabiting a larger space than we are used to’. Both of these types of fear are greatly different from each other and ‘yirah’ has a tinge of exhilaration and awe, probably like what prophet Isaiah felt on seeing the glory of God in the Temple (Isaiah 6:5).
God created man and provided everything for him in the Garden of Eden with one command to eat every fruit except of one tree. Man was given free will by God to eat or not to eat what was given or forbidden and he chose to disobey God. The all-knowing God called out to Adam and said, ‘Where are you?’ (Genesis 3:9). Hebrew has two words translated as where, the first is ‘ephoh’ which is about geographical location and the second word ‘ayyeh’, also translated where, but it is not about location but an expression of surprise. Thus God’s question is an expression of surprise that Adam is not where he should be and God’s question means, ‘What happened? Where are you? You are supposed to be here with Me?’ Adam does not answer but reveals the state of his mind, ‘I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself’. Adam does not say, ‘Here I am’ using the Hebrew word ‘hinneni’ which implies obedience and ready availability to serve. Adam is not ready to serve but is hiding and is looking inward at his state rather than toward God. The voice of God comes from all sides and one cannot hide from God nor remove the proof of His presence. Escape from God is not possible.
The second aspect is of Adam being afraid and it is not a onetime finished act but a continuous incomplete action, implying that the state of fear continues in his progeny. Suddenly for him the garden and presence of God do not mean safety but fear and we inherit this fear. His nakedness, therefore, is not about his clothing and he is ‘erom’ meaning ‘to lay bare, to expose’. He had covered his nakedness with the best possible means, the fig leaves, using an artificial means of concealment. Thus it is not about outward appearance but about inner self and felt or perceived vulnerability. In that state then he starts blaming others for the reason of his fear for he realizes that hiding cannot protect him for the fear is inside him and he is his own enemy from then on. The command to ‘subdue the earth’ was about external battle but from this point on the battle becomes internal while the cause is external. The acquired knowledge exposed his inherent vulnerability.
Adam and Eve were both naked but without shame for they had nothing to hide and God protected their innocence (Genesis 2:25). We have all eaten the fruit and are afraid and God told Joshua four times not to be afraid with various assurances about God’s presence and victory everywhere (Joshua 1). Adam realized the importance of the woman after learning about the imminent death, for he was hiding from God to escape likely death after eating the forbidden fruit. He named her Eve from ‘ishshah’ or woman for it is only through her that his name could continue on the earth (Genesis 3:20).
Undeserved grace arrives when God asks the question, ‘Why are you not here with Me?’ God desires fellowship with man for God’s question is not, ‘Why did you sin?’ but about the man’s inner well being to ask, ‘Who told you that you were naked?’ This question is about self reflection and realization that Adam himself was saying to himself about his nakedness. Adam turns to rationalization and remains fearful but God gives grace anyway by clothing them. We are required to confront every thought of fear, with, ‘Who told you that?’ and enter into God’s grace and forgiveness.
Events leading to Lord Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection are an exact repetition of the same situation. Judas Iscariot betrayed the Lord and felt remorse for his action, but attempted to hide from God and then committed suicide. Apostle Peter had also denied the Lord three times, with cursing and swearing but received grace and fellowship with his Lord for he could overcome his fear of rejection in the knowledge of God’s love. The risen Lord came and stood in the midst of the disciples who were hiding behind closed doors, ‘for fear of the Jews’ and blessed them with His peace and gave them new life as was given at creation of man (John 20:19-22). Lord Jesus ‘breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’. They had sinned by denying and deserting him, were hiding in fear, a grave sin, that denies entry into God’s presence (Revelation 21:8) but God still came to give them grace and not only to them but to Thomas also asking him to believe after showing him the pierced hands and side. Fear leads us away from God but faith takes us to Him, and both are about things not seen but felt. Whether we believe a delusion or maya and be afraid or be blessed for believing in Lord Jesus without having seen Him. It is our choice, to go to Him or away from Him.
Why is fear, a natural reaction, considered a sin? Mankind was not created to be fearful but the task was to ‘overcome and subdue the earth’ and Adam and Eve had the entire animal kingdom and all other resources and God’s presence to guide them to achieve this. Fear entered only after disobedience and led to their hiding from God. The letters dictated by Lord Jesus to the seven churches begin with a revelation about Himself, followed by a command and a promised reward to those who overcome (Revelation 2 & 3). The Savior Lord first offered encouragement by revealing some great aspect of Himself and only then was the command given and the promise of a reward. The revelation was to help them overcome their fears and the reward is the incentive to overcome. Despite all this and details of the future events being given to Apostle John, if someone is still fearful, that person displays lack of faith in God and His Word. Without faith it is impossible to please God and how can someone enter His Kingdom without believing Him (Hebrews 11:6)?
After leaving Egypt, the Israelites faced the first challenge at the Red Sea and Moses conveyed to them God’s promise, ‘Do not be afraid. Be still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace’ (Exodus 14:13-14). Holding your peace is overcoming your fears. The Israelites crossed ‘on dry land’ but the Egyptian army was destroyed and this was a move towards fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, ‘To your descendents I will give this land’ (Genesis 12:7). Ten of the twelve spies, sent to spy the Promised Land, gave a very negative report, ‘we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight’ (Numbers 13-14). God had asked Adam, ‘Who told you this?’ and Moses faced a similar situation. We listen to our own self or the lies of the devil and fear enters to remove our faith in God. Only two, Joshua and Caleb remembered God’s promise and urged the Israelites to go in. Years later, again only a young shepherd boy, David, remembered God’s promises, when the Israelites faced the Philistine army and Goliath challenged them (1 Samuel 17).
Why fear is considered a sin? –– Solomon in his wisdom declared that all that we do is ‘Utter futility! All is futile’, ‘havel havalim’ and ‘grasping for the wind’ (Ecclesiastes 1:2 & 14). Man was created in God’s image and likeness on the last day and was not a partner in the creation process though God put eternity in him(Ecclesiastes 3:11). ‘Hevel’ means utter futility but also ‘what amounts to nothing, illusory, senseless or absurd or violation of reason’. What Solomon meant was that in the end we are all forgotten after our death. Eve gave birth to a son and said, ‘I have acquired a man from the LORD’ (Genesis 4:1). God’s proclamation about the certainty of their death had brought in the realization of their leaving the world and this child was her progeny to carry their name. Mankind desired to ‘make a name for ourselves’ by creating the Tower of Babel and God scattered them and confused their language (Genesis 11:4).
Man was created to represent God and look toward Him and not try and make a name for himself for he was to live forever and not die. Fear of extinction is the greatest fear man has and all his efforts are to ‘make a name for himself’ and get recognition. The Risen Lord in heaven declared to Apostle John for all of us, ‘Do not be afraid. I AM the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I AM alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and Hades’ (Revelation 1:17-18). He has given us an assurance about eternal life in Him.
Dr Skip Moen says that the opposite of believer is coward, for fear is about emotions and feelings and is a reflex action. But the Creator is aware and He cannot be asking us to stop feeling fear but to live and act according to His truth despite how we feel. God desires us to be joyful not only during praise and worship but even during times of great distress. This is the task for us, to be sure of the coming dawn, despite the deep darkness, certain of His power to turn even a curse into a blessing, crying into a song of thankfulness. In the face of the roaring lion we are to proclaim the glory of God and hope and see him turn into an angel and while going through hell like situation to continue to trust in the goodness of God like Prophet Daniel’s three friends did.
That is why the opposite of a believer is a coward, someone who is afraid in spite of God’s promises and chooses not to believe and trust in the sovereignty of God. Anyone who lives without trust in God is a coward, for attempting to fight the storms of evil all around us, without receiving the goodness of God for such a fight, will never lead to righteous deeds and victory. The victor will be one who refuses to dishonor God through cowardice and fights both against the evil all around as also against unbelief in God’s authority and power over His creation. Without receiving the guarantee of the promises of the Living One, fear is the only thing that I have and I might get motivated to fight against impossible odds but will be ineffective in changing the direction of the world. To act in spite of my fear because I trust in the Lord will change the direction of evil for more will then join the fight after believing and seeing my testimony in action. That is the faithful servant who will one day enter ‘the joy of His Master’.
How to change curse of fear into a blessing? – King Solomon said, ‘Blessed is the man who fears always, but he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity’ (Proverbs 28:14). This is in direct contravention to what we are always told. King Solomon was well aware about God’s commands and he wrote ‘mippahed tamid’ (who fears continually) and did not add ‘Adonai the LORD’ and the verse is not about fear of the LORD. Proverbs 23:17 is about fear of the LORD always and Solomon knew that fear of the LORD is not essential to believing. This is not fear in the face of the enemy but realization of the impossibility of meeting the requirements of what is acceptable to a holy God. This fear is about standing before the judgment seat of Christ and it leads a believer to being watchful always and judge the possible consequences of an act, before doing it. This fear motivates us towards remaining in the righteousness of Lord Jesus and it becomes a blessing, for it causes worry and concern for the other. This fear then helps in loving my God with all that I have and also loving my neighbor and then gives immense joy in doing it.
A Rebbe, a Jewish religious teacher, was approached by someone for guidance to overcome major problems faced by him in his business. The Rebbe asked him about the difference between ‘emunah and bitachon’. Emunah is faith, that God will help in overcoming my problem but bitachon is believing and understanding that God does not send problems but challenges and opportunities and I should not fear them. It is not to rest with taking up a challenge occasionally but daily and believing in bringing about changes in the material world as also in the spiritual realm and vice versa. An artisan is called ‘uman’ in Hebrew for he has practiced his work repeatedly to become an expert. So ‘emunah’ also grows stronger and deeper as we get accustomed to see all of life as manifestation of God’s presence and glory. Emunah is enriched by being tested and withstanding these tests and by making sacrifices for emunah.
Faith and fear are the two sides of a coin and it is not chance how the coin will fall, it is up to us. We cannot control what we are faced with but we can definitely control the way we react to it. Life is either a nonstop flow of obstacles causing dread in our hearts or amazing opportunities to glorify God. Abraham believed and moved away from his people to an unknown land, Apostle Peter stepped out of the boat to walk on water and the Apostles travelled to far off unknown places and peoples and changed the world while being always fearful but overcoming fears. God has given us free will to choose!
Faith and fear are continually present in our lives, one leads us away while the other draws us to God and be victorious over fear while turning situations into great blessings to praise God and remain in His blessed presence. We can either face fear as a challenge and in faith overcome it or succumb to it and be imprisoned by it. Fear is a prison while faith is the way to escape that prison. What will you choose?