A truthful witness saves lives, but one who breathes out lies is deceitful. In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge. Pro 14:25-26
Exegeting Scripture involves looking at all the different parts of God’s word. You whittle each line down and examine each and every word. Each phrase is scrutinized. But as you look at the individual trees (and even individual leaves!), you should never forget to step back and see the forest.
Each of these proverbs contains good lessons. You can learn a lot from each line. But it is important to notice their juxtaposition too.
We could talk about the excellency of a truthful witness. We could enshrine the bold advocate of Biblical truth as one who is a savior. And we could talk about how wonderful it is to know the fear of God and possess a good self esteem (confidence). But you have to understand that these ideas are not separate and independent of each other. They are intertwined and the first is absolutely dependent upon the second.
A truthful witness saves lives. He is one who stands up against the tide of unbelief and is willing to be known as a kook. He’s not afraid to speak out against the issues of his day, despite being the minority—perhaps even the lone voice. But how is it that he has that boldness? His confidence comes from his fear of God. When you are not anchored in the fear of God, you will end up pandering and capitulating to the masses.
Think of Athanasius. He was exiled three times for his standing against the rank heresy of Arianism. There is no doubt that there was the temptation to succumb to the falsehood that was becoming more and more mainstream. Life in exile was certainly not a pleasant thing. Yet, despite his persecution, he remained faithful to the word of God.
Martin Luther is a good example too. We romanticize Luther’s life. We tend to forget that people didn’t much care for his speaking out against purgatory, the Roman establishment, and such. We forget that he cowered at times in his home, to the point of being almost mad.
What was it that made these stalwarts so persevering? It was their fear of God.
Or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, think of the Apostle Peter. He betrayed Christ three times. What was the grand pressure that he faced? It wasn't anything much. He got rolled over by a little girl. Why did he cave? Why did he lack the confidence to speak up? Because he didn’t know the fear of God.
What about our day? What would it be like if you spoke up against the sacred cows of our day? If you dared to pipe up about feminism, and talk about things like Titus 2 or 2 Tim. 2:14. Or if you had a crazy thought like: You know, children are leaving the faith in droves and becoming atheists and agnostics almost en mass. Perhaps it is because they are going to schools that are atheistic and agnostic? Maybe we should do something completely off the wall and reconsider the way we raise and educate them.
What would it be like if you attempted to broach these kinds of issues? Imagine the kind of blowback you’d get. I would suppose some of your jobs would be on the line. You’d likely be thought of as a kook. You might not be physically exiled like Athanasius, but you might experience an exile of sorts as people leave your church or say things like, “there goes Crazy Uncle Matt again!”
That’s why the fear of the Lord must be your confidence. The best summary of what that is goes like this: The fear of God is when your biggest fear is breaking God’s command and offending him. God is so loved, so enjoyed, so reverenced, so enjoyed that His will, and it alone, is what matters.
Only when He comes first will you be able to be a savior...and an oddball.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.