Covenant Reformed News
May 2016 • Volume XVI, Issue 1
Fearing Man and Forgetting God (2)
“I, even I, am he that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass; and forgettest the Lord thy maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth; and hast feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor, as if he were ready to destroy? and where is the fury of the oppressor?” (Isa. 51:12-13).
There is not only the fear of man as man; there is also the fear of man’s fury. Jehovah declares that Israel “hast feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor” (13). There are people who can cope with displays of power from the ungodly but will cower before their wrath. Our text describes a fear of the fury of the wicked that is daily (“every day”) and continual. Beloved, by God’s grace, never allow yourself to get into such a condition: fearing man, fearing man’s fury and that “continually every day”!
Our text does not speak merely of fearing man and his fury; it also speaks of fearing what man can do to us. Thou “hast feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor, as if he were ready to destroy” (13). The indications given by the wicked as to what they may do to us may be in the form of threats or examples; they may be spoken or unspoken; they may be subtle or not so subtle.
One way or another, our ungodly enemies leave this definite impression with us: “This is what we will do to you, to your home, to your spouse, to your children, to your family, to your church, to you legally. This is what we will do to you in your neighbourhood, in your employment, in the press, in the courts.”
By God’s grace, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did not yield to the fear of an ungodly law, requiring them to bow down to a golden idol (Dan. 3). They did not capitulate to the fear of Nebuchadnezzar or to his fury (for he was enraged) or to the threat of the burning, fiery furnace. Maybe they had read or had been thinking about Isaiah 51:12-13 (or 43:2)?
So do not fear what the wicked can do to you, child of God! Do not spend time imagining what they may do to you. Probably 99% of such threats are not fulfilled anyway. Remember that the Lord stands with those who stand for His truth!
Our text asks, “where is the fury of the oppressor?” (51:13). Mighty Babylon is long gone. The beast-like empires of Greece and Rome were destroyed many centuries ago. All the wicked and their powers will be crushed by the Almighty!
“The captive exile hasteneth that he may be loosed, and that he should not die in the pit, nor that his bread should fail” (14). What a picture of Israel: in exile as a captive in a pit with starvation rations! But deliverance from Babylon was coming soon (“hasteneth”) and so Israel’s fears were groundless!
By the way, Isaiah 51:14 is a figurative and spiritual presentation, and proof that Isaiah 51 was not written by someone in the Babylonian captivity long after the real Isaiah, for the physical conditions of the Israelites in exile were not too bad (cf. Jer. 29:4-7) and so many stayed in Babylon when they had opportunity to return to Judah.
The believer must remember who he or she really is. Our text puts the question to the child of God: “who art thou”? It asks, “who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass ... and hast feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor” (Isa. 51:12-13)?
You know the Son of man, Jesus Christ, and are joined to Him who has atoned for your sins, has risen from the dead and is alive for evermore! You are immortal, for you will live after death in your soul with Christ in heaven and you will be raised from the dead in your glorified body on the last day to inhabit the new heavens and the new earth, a new world of righteousness and joy!
Why then are you worried about “the fury of the oppressor” (13)? What about God’s fury against sin? Think about Jehovah’s fury displayed and satisfied in the cross of Jesus Christ when He bore God’s wrath against us for our awful transgressions.
You are elect and beloved, redeemed and ransomed, adopted and called by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. So do not fear man!
God charges Israel: Thou “forgettest” Me (13; cf. 49:14)! What is the relationship between fearing man and forgetting God? Both the fear of man and forgetting the Lord are sins against the first commandment. These sins are related in that they are inversely proportional. The more you fear man, the less you fear God. The more you fear God, the less you fear man.
In our text, God reminds Israel and us of three of His names. First, He is “the Lord,” Jehovah (51:13). In Himself, He is self-existent, eternal, unchangeable. To us, He is true and faithful in Jesus Christ. Second, He is “the Lord thy God” (15). Jehovah is our covenant God, according to the covenant formula: “I am thy God and thou art My people.” Third, He is “The Lord of hosts” (15). He is sovereign over the hosts of heaven and earth and the sea, and His visible and invisible hosts. They are all in the service of Jehovah their master who uses them in the service of His church.
“So how could you, Israel? How could you forget Me? How could you forget My names?” asks Jehovah. Let us not be guilty of this, beloved! Rev. Angus Stewart, Pastor of Covenant PRC, Ballymena, N.Ireland
“Listen and Wake Up!” 10 sermons on Isaiah 51:1-52:12, in a handsome box set (CD or DVD), is available from the CPRC Bookstore for £12/set (inc. P&P). Free videos and audios of these sermons can also be found on the CPRC website and YouTube site.