Jul 26, 2023
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. (Proverbs 9:10a)
When Saul realized that the Lord was with David and that his daughter Michal loved David, Saul became still more afraid of him, and he remained his enemy the rest of his days. (1 Samuel 18:28-29)
Our theme is growing to maturity in Christ, and I have begun to believe that the book of 1 Samuel is one of the best illustrations of what this growth to maturity means. Today we’re looking at the role of fear.
Saul was a man given to many fears, but the fear of the Lord was not one of them. Saul did not cultivate a living relationship with the living God. He was not willing to grow up to a mature trust and fear of the Lord. Instead, Saul lived in the fear of men and so eventually grew mis-trustful of everyone. Saul feared his own men (1 Samuel 13:26), the Philistines (chapters 13-15), and eventually David also, as the verse I read today mentions.
Three times in chapter 18, Saul is said to fear David. It is a fear that grows and eventually consumes Saul by the end of the chapter in our verse from today. So much so that Saul becomes an enemy of David for the rest of his days. From this point onward, Saul’s fear drives his mistrust. He mistrusts his son Jonathan and hurls a spear at him (20:30-33). He mistrusts his officials and advisors and accuses them of conspiring against him (22:6-8). He mistrusts the priests of the Lord and has 85 of them ruthlessly killed, along with their families and village (22:9-19). Family, state, and religion: Saul mistrusted them all. All he trusted, was his fear.
In this same chapter of 1 Samuel 18, David offers a strong contrast to Saul. David, this man after God’s own heart, is said to have been loved by Saul’s son Jonathan, by the Israelite people, and then eventually by chapter’s end also by Saul’s daughter, Michal. While Saul is afraid three times, David is loved three times and his circle of trusting relationships grows.
Trusting our fears more than our God is a mark of immaturity.
Cultivating a mature, fear of the Lord on the other hand, means entrusting our life to the Lord beyond what our eyes can see or our mind can comprehend. It is to trust that whatever comes of this mystery of life or the uncertainty of our future, that we are loved and held by God—that we belong to him—and that we therefore may step forward in faith to live another day trustfully, open-handedly, lovingly. Whether in times full of joy or sorrow, sickness or health, life or death, in plenty or in want, anxious or peaceful, we trust the ability of our God to hold on to us and make our paths straight—whatever the paths may be.
I think this run of chapters about Saul and David is what the Apostle John is reflecting on when he writes about love and fear in 1 John 4:7-21. In that section he says: “We know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. … There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:16, 18a).
As we’ll see in tomorrow’s devotion, this all takes some growing and living into. David didn’t catch it all at once either. But the invitation is clear enough. Receive God’s love. Remember who you are in Christ as God’s own child who, in life and in death belongs to him. Do not live in the fear of other people, or of not having or being enough, or of not having control of the future, but rather, live in the fear-of-the-Lord, trusting all your ways to him and his love for you. In doing so, you may just find your own trust and capacity for loving relationships with others growing as well.