This is the Day of Atonement. The Jews call it “Yom Kippur”. It is considered a “sabbath of sabbaths”. The Jews consider these fall Holy Days the “Days of Awe”. The Day of Atonement is a day of reconciliation between God and man and for man to cleanse himself before God.
The Church of God realizes this day has a future meaning. After the return of Jesus Christ to this earth, after He has stopped the warfare and carnage, God and humanity are still not reconciled. That occurs after those events. In order for that to happen, Satan must be put away for 1,000 years. Only then can true reconciliation and healing begin. If you aren’t familiar with the Biblical Holy Days, you might want to read “Overview of Bible Holy Days” for a crash course. A well-researched article on the Day of Atonement is also at BibleStudy.org.
It may not initially seem related to the Day of Atonement, but there is a lot of fear these days. Politicians in particular are good at peddling their particular brand of fear. Conservative Republicans have peddled the fear of Al-Qaeda, Saddam Hussein and the like to gain further controls over various personal liberties. Liberal Democrats, on the other hand, use fear to gain control of health care, investments, guns and religion. Each comes up with paranoid scenarios where the proposed solutions result in further unwanted changes and spread even more fear that way. Both parties spread fear and chip away at the freedoms that the US’s founding fathers envisioned. On top of that is the entire recession, with real people losing real jobs and unable to find meaningful employment at a staggering rate, which fuels even more fear.
It is an interesting parallel to the Great Depression. In the “Roaring Twenties”, there was unprecedented wealth. However, it was all a house of cards. It came crashing down in 1929 (actually, the signs were there before then, but then, just as recently, the warning signs were ignored). In the midst of the Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) became the 32nd President of the United States on 4 March 1933. In his inaugural address, he said that these things concerned “ thank God, only material things.” He went on to delineate rising taxes, decline in morality and the freezing of free trade as concerns of his time.
Note what he said just after that, however:
Yet our distress comes from no failure of substance. We are stricken by no plague of locusts. Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much to be thankful for. Nature still offers her bounty and human efforts have multiplied it. Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply. Primarily this is because the rulers of the exchange of mankind’s goods have failed, through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.
~ History Matters, The U.S. Survery Course on the Web. (n.d.). “Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself”: FDR’s First Inaugural Address. Retrieved from http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5057/.
Morality was the key. Nature had not failed us. God had not failed us. Rather, we failed ourselves. We failed ourselves back then, and we failed ourselves in this recent recession that resulted from yet another burst bubble of greed.
With all of this rampant fear, is it any surprise that editorial columnist William McKenzie surveyed people of various faiths about dealing with their fears rather than falling prey to various demagogues? I particularly found enlightening the answer from Jonathan Tran, Assistant Professor of Theological Ethics at Baylor University:
In the case of Christianity, if we fear the wrong things, it will keep us from loving the right things. To me, fear has become the most intense barrier to Christian faithfulness. We fear everything, inhabiting a culture of fear, a society’s whose very industry (from economics to politics to relationships to vocation, so on and so forth) turns on the engine of fear.
~ McKenzie, William. (22 Sept 2009). TEXAS FAITH: Glenn Beck and the culture of fear. Message posted to Religion Blog at http://religionblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2009/09/texas-faith-glenn-beck-and-the.html.
Is it any wonder then that John wrote, “love casteth out fear” (1Jn 4:18)?
Is it wrong then to fear God? What about all of those verses that say to fear God?
That shows the problem with quoting only part of a verse, doesn’t it? What does the entire verse say?
We are not made perfect instantly upon conversion. The process takes the rest of our lives. We must be constantly striving and overcoming our faults and weaknesses and perfecting our love.
What drives most sinners to repentance? I’d wager it is most often fear. When the Israelites came out of Egypt, they had a lot to learn about fear. Carnal people are most often motivated by the most basic emotions.
Fear is only the beginning, however. Time and time again, ancient Israel lost its fear and fell into idolatry. God then had to re-introduce that fear to them. Fear, when not followed up by love, does no one any good!
1Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
2And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
Jesus tells His Church to not fear the things we will suffer (Rev 2:10; cf Mt 10:28).
God’s people are not to fear. It has been said that “Fear not” is the most often repeated command in Scripture. I don’t know if that is true, but I can easily believe it. Consider the parable of the talents in Lk 19:11-27. What did the man who hid his talent say? “For I feared thee” (v 21). Fear can be detrimental, dangerous and risk our eternal salvation.
7He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
8But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. (Revelation 21:7-8, King James Version)
We are still to have a deep abiding respect for God. “Fear” can run the gambit from paralyzing fear to deep respect. Is there ever a time we should be paralyzed with fear? Yes! And, it should drive us to repentance, as I noted before. Fear cause by our sins, fear of punishment and awe of God’s power should drive us to our knees. It is the wicked who should be fear-struck by God.
18And I fell down before the LORD, as at the first, forty days and forty nights: I did neither eat bread, nor drink water, because of all your sins which ye sinned, in doing wickedly in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger. (Deuteronomy 9:18, King James Version)
23Then hear thou from heaven, and do, and judge thy servants, by requiting the wicked, by recompensing his way upon his own head; and by justifying the righteous, by giving him according to his righteousness. (2 Chronicles 6:23, King James Version)
“Faith” is a word we religious people throw around a lot, but what does it really mean? In simplest terms, it means to trust! Do you trust God? Who does not want you to trust God?
39And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
Love, then must be followed up with faith. Trust that God can and will save you! Trust that God wants the best for you!
6Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. (Deuteronomy 31:6, King James Version)
7Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper withersoever thou goest. (Joshua 1:7, King James Version) [Note the conditional aspect of this promise! It is the righteous who are to be strong and courageous!]
Repentance and acceptance of the sacrifice of Jesus atones for our sins. This is often motivated by fear. People in general will fear God when Christ returns, but not all will repent even then. Instead of turning the repentance outward, they will call to the rocks to fall upon them (Rev 6:16).
However, the father of lies will be put away so he cannot deceive the world any longer (cf Rev 12:9). Without his influence, people will see Christ as He really is: Just, kind and merciful. As their fear dissipates, their love and trust (faith) will grow.
Should we fear God? On the level of deep, abiding respect, “Yes.” If we have repented and come to Him for salvation, we should drop the terror and fright of punishment once we are forgiven.
Should we fear breaking His laws? We should always be afraid of violating the trust He has given us, even as we should always be afraid to violate the trust of our loved ones here on earth.
Should we be afraid of the recession? Job loss? The tribulation? Not being one of the “chosen” or the “Philadelphians” to flee into some desert somewhere? No.
However, if we have not repented, if we have not stopped living a lifestyle of sin, we need to be very afraid.
Satan would like us to be and remain afraid of God, even as the man with one talent was afraid. His was a paralyzing fear, but it did not lead to repentance. Adam and Eve were afraid and hid themselves in the Garden. Satan wants to disrupt our relationship with God, and fear is an effective way to do it because it drains our faith.
God speed the day Satan is put away and humanity is reconciled to Him!