THE FEAR OF GOD VERSUS THE FEAR OF MAN
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
22 AUGUST 1993
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Exodus 1:9, 15-22
The fear of people in authority is strong, even in a free nation such as ours.
The fear of being caught speeding in a car is such an example.
The fear of speaking in public is another example.
Some people won't take responsibility, because they fear how they will be accepted by others.
We have this kind of fear if we don't have the power of God within us to conduct ourselves properly: the power not to speed, the power to speak forth the truth, and the power to do any task the Lord places before us.
But what about people who are in a dictatorial society, when disobedience could easily mean their life? Surely that fear is different, isn't it?
No! Not really!
If our fear or reverence for the Lord God comes first in our lives, then even such oppression need not be feared.
The events surrounding the birth of Moses present such a case. Let's take a look at Exodus 1:15-2:10.
15. Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah, and the other was named Puah;
16. and he said, "When you are helping the Hebrew women to give birth and see them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, then you shall put him to death; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live."
If we just use some simple common sense, as the king should have used, we can easily come to the conclusion that such an edict won't work.
The king feared the rapidly growing population of the Hebrews, because he thought that they might rebel against him and take over the country. (Exodus 1:9)
1. And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of the sons of Israel are more and mightier than we.”
What he should have desired was loyalty; but such a cruel edict would create just the opposite reaction, and even promote rebellion.
But what about these midwives? They have been placed into a situation where the only solution could be to kill or to be killed.
17. But the midwives feared [or revered] God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live.
18. So the king of Egypt called for the midwives, and said to them, "Why have you done this thing, and let the boys live?"
19. And the midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous, and they give birth before the midwife can get to them.”
Here we are left with two spiritual questions, the first of which the Scriptures answered for us.
The midwives did not commit murder by killing the male children.
But the second question, that of honesty, is not answered directly; but we do see God's response to it in the next two verses.
20. So God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied, and became very mighty.
21. And it came about because the midwives feared God, that He established households for them.
But what about the question of their response to Pharaoh? Were they lying? And did God approve of their response?
Hebrews 6:18 says, “…it is impossible for God to lie…” and the psalmist writes of God in Psalm 111:3, “And His righteousness endures forever.” Therefore, God would not be righteous if He took part in causing someone to lie.
So our answer must be somewhere else.
Perhaps the midwives didn't go at all to assist, so that they would not be put in a situation of having to choose between the sin of killing and that of lying.
Perhaps they taught others what to do, and how to assist, so that they could stay away.
Or perhaps, as was quite common in that time and place, many of the women did give birth without midwife assistance.
The worst these midwives did was to not tell Pharaoh the whole truth.
It is also obvious that such an edict was not popular among the general population either, for they did not inform Pharaoh of what was going on.
So Pharaoh tried another evil scheme.
22. Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, "Every son [of the Hebrews] who is born you are to cast into the Nile, and every daughter you are to keep alive."
I find it very difficult to see how such an edict would be followed. Parents would do everything in their power to conceal the birth of a son, and to find ways to keep him alive.
And this new edict was also unpopular with the people of Egypt, even within Pharaoh's own household, as we shall see as we look at Exodus 2:1-10.
1. Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a daughter of Levi.
2. And the woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was beautiful, she hid him for three months.
3. But when she could hide him no longer, she got him a wicker basket and covered it over with tar and pitch. Then she put the child into it, and set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile.
4. And his sister stood at a distance to find out what would happen to him.
5. Then the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the Nile, with her maidens walking alongside the Nile; and she saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid, and she brought it to her.
Moses' mother and sister didn't just put the basket anywhere in the Nile; they put it where it was sure to be found, not by soldiers, but by someone with compassion.
Moses' mother would not place her child in harm's way and be a party to his death; she chose to give him up, rather than to see him die.
She trusted in the Lord for His protection.
Or, we might say that even though she feared man, and what they could do to her and her son, her reverence for the Lord led her to do what she did.
6. When she [Pharaoh's daughter] opened it [the basket], she saw the child, and behold, the boy was crying. And she had pity on him and said, "This is one of the Hebrews' children."
7. Then his sister said to Pharaoh's daughter, "Shall I go and call a nurse for you from the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for you?"
8. And Pharaoh's daughter said to her, "Go ahead." So the girl went and called the child's mother.
9. Then Pharaoh's daughter said to her, "Take this child away and nurse him for me and I shall give you your wages." So the woman took the child and nursed him.
Moses' mother's reverence and trust in the Lord not only kept the child alive, but also gave her the child back and provided her with extra income.
Additionally, the child was now under the protection of the very family that had called for his death.
When our reverent fear of God is greater than our fear of man, the wonders of the Lord are marvelous to behold.
10. And the child grew, and she brought him to Pharaoh's daughter, and he became her son. And she named him Moses, and said, "Because I drew him out of the water."
In our everyday life, we seem to be so concerned with the way people will react to our decisions that we fail to consider how the Lord will react.
Most people fear being rejected by other people, but they rarely consider the implications of being rejected by God.
Do you remember the story of the ten virgins (Matthew 25:1-13); how they all had lamps or, we could say, how they all appeared to be members of the church?
Yet we are told that only five of them had oil in their lamps, or had the Holy Spirit within them.
To them, the kingdom of heaven came first. Yet, at the same time, they were also concerned about the world around them, but not to the extent of compromising themselves or their position with the Lord.
On the other hand, the other five virgins didn't concern themselves with the immediacy of heaven. They thought that they had a lot of time. Their concern was with the world. Thus, they had no oil – no Holy Spirit within them.
And when they finally went back to buy oil for their lamps, they arrived after the door to heaven was closed.
Lest we forget, however, the oil of the Holy Spirit is free to all believers; and it cannot be purchased, except with faith and the blood of Jesus Christ, which these five without oil didn't have.
Thus, we read in Matthew 25, verses 11 and 12,
11. "And later the other virgins also came, saying, 'Lord, lord, open up for us.'
12. "But he answered and said, 'Truly I say to you, I do not know you.'
People who fear other people, more than they fear God, are like these other five virgins who were not prepared.
On the outside they all looked similar, and even in their way of life, such as being a virgin; but inwardly they were not the same. They did not have the Holy Spirit.
Unfortunately, churches are full of such people, who only appear to have a form of holiness.
As Jesus said when He ended this story in verse 13,
13. “Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.”
Are we ready, if the Lord should call us home before we leave here today?
Are we going to be like the midwives, like Moses' mother and sister, even like Pharaoh's daughter, and the five virgins who had the oil, who feared God by doing what was right, being full of the love and compassion of the Lord?
Or, are we going to be cold of heart like Pharaoh, and the five virgins without the oil?
If we have truly committed ourselves to God, first, then what are we going to do to show the world around us, and even the one among us who is only here to please others or to receive recognition?
The Lord has given us a free choice: do we fear Him, or do we fear other people?
I truly pray your choice is with the Lord your God, and that you truly walk before Him with your own lamp burning brightly.
Your Comments are welcome
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