The proverb for today is one that I know quite well. It is one of the sins that is a very real stumbling block for me. Fearing man is something I've done too often in my life - and just as this proverb says, it is always a baited snare or trap that I trigger in the process. It is not hard to remember one of the very first principles of wisdom, which is that fearing God is how wisdom begins. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, fools despise wisdom and instruction." (Proverbs 1:8) With that as our backdrop, let's take a look for a few moments at the opposite, the fear of man - and the problems and traps that come with it.
The first thing we need to take note of here is that the word fear here is different than the one used in Proverbs 1:8. Proverbs 1:8 uses the Hebrew word "yirah" which is a positive word for fear beasue of its use in connection with fearing God. The word speaks of fearing to displease God and has with it the connotation of respecting and honoring Him. This fear acknowledges God's good intentions in His commandments and therefore motivates us to delight in them and in so doing Him. This fear is identified with wisdom, knowledge, discretioin, and understanding and helps the one who has it to judge things properly and most of all restrains us from sin and rebellion against God. The word for fear in today's proverb is the Hebrew word "haradah," which speaks of a trembling, quaking, or shaking with fear. The word was used to speak of a physical shaking of Israel's enemies when God began to fight for them. It is not a good fear - but rather a shaking and trembling that come before someone flees or surrender's to another.
The context in which this fear happens is men. Proverbs warns against trembling and shaking in fear of mere men this way. Scripture tells us that we are not to fear the ones who can kill the body, yet do nothing to our souls. The One we are to fear is the One who when our bodies are dead can take our soul and cast it into hell. That rules out ALL men. Yet we fear and tremble before men. What does this tell us? I will equate the things we are "falling for" as the bait of a trap. That is what the word "snare" here means in the Hebrew. It referred to the trap and the snare that caught animals - but the reference was to the bait that was in the trap more than the trap itself. The trap would never be effective unless the animal was deceived by the bait. So what "bait" are we being deceived by in stepping into the trap of the fear of man?
First, we take the bait that our life consists of our possessions. We fear man because we think that man can take away our stuff. We think that ultimately our stuff defines us. That was the case with the rich farmer - who thought his life consisted of his possessions. He did all he could to protect his bumper crop so that he could retire securely. The problem for him was that he would die that very night - and all his stuff was gone anyway. All he was left with was how he had prepared for his meeting with God - for which he was eternally unprepared. You are not defined by your stuff - but when men make you think they can control your stuff (or your ability to earn so you can buy stuff) you will be tampted to fear them instead of God. When you do that, you've taken the bait - and stepped into a snare.
Second, we take the bait that men control our lives rather than the sovereignty of God. Some fear man because they think men control their destiny. Here is where I was guilty of the fear of man. I thought men controlled whether I was pastor or not - and feared their power. The fact is that God is ALWAYS ultimately in control of our lives - and to fear men is to put yourself into a very dangerous position. You begin to listen to men more than God. You can wind up lifting the thoughts of man above the Word of God. These are the traps you fall into when you take the bait that men control your destiny rather than God.
I will only go into a third bait that we often take when we fear men instead of God. That is that how men think of us is what is important. That is a lie - and one that controls the behavior of billions. Fashions and all aspects of culture function off of this lie. Immoralty becomes acceptable because we fear what men will "think" of us if we hold to a biblical morality and standard. Our culture has embraced almost every and any kind of sin because they value what men think above what God thinks. We call sexual immorality - both heterosexual and homosexual - normal because we've valued what men think above what God says. We've embraced materialism, racism, as well as perverting sexual roles of men and women because we exalt current culture above God's eternal Word.
We are told that the cure to the fear of man is to trust in the Lord. That one, we are counselled, will be exalted. We trust the Lord when we read Scripture and value what God says, even if it has violent collisions with our current cultural norms. We trust the Lord when we realize that God moves the hearts of kings (and everyone else for that matter) wherever He wants them to go. We trust the Lord when we are willing to leave everything for the sake of God's will - knowing that the eternal eclipses the physcial and temporal in life. Trusting the Lord is simply valuing God's view of things above that of anyone else's. That, by the way, is also the definition of wisdom - seeing things the way that God sees. That view of things will bless us - and - protect us from buying the lie of the bait that blinds us to the trap in which it is sent.