"You are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it. It is the LORD of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread. Then He shall become a sanctuary" (Isaiah 8:12-14).
Please understand that fearing "what they fear'" was the completely “rational”, “sane” and “responsible” thing for me to do that Lenten season. Everyone and everything formed a Greek chorus that sang out in collective voice that my little family was legitimately doomed. There were myriad proofs for all five of the senses confirming I should join the "they" that is the world at large in the dread of the imminent. And because I had always prided myself on being the stoic, down-to-earth kind of Christian, this all made me feel very brave and grounded to be accepting "what they fear." I was being realistic. I was refusing to put my head in the sand. I was accessing the situation and complying with the odds and the data. But then someone dared to call it plain old fear. This friend risked further suggesting that what we fear we worship. I felt immediate disdain for my dear little delicate, smug soul-sister. Somehow in our quarter century of friendship she had clearly failed to ascertain that an army of catastrophe was always at my front door. I bucked it off, but this wasn’t truth’s first rodeo. It got back on and rode me hard, and I saw my fearing for what it had always been: I had been planning for chaos. I had been giving my fears the seat of honor—the throne, if you will. Here's how that sort of invitation reads:
I’m savvy to your being in control here. I’ve seen the writing on the wall. I've been expecting you and all you have planned for me and mine. I've set out my best china and a killer spread. The door is unlocked. Come on in. I'm slipping into something a little bit more comfortable.
Obviously, I have taken that a bit too far. You read me though. The enemy had been busy laying out "proofs" for all the possible horrors becoming actualized, and I was lapping it up along with every other schmuck in the masses. I was constantly preparing for his arrival. But here is what struck the death-blow. God was not asking me to stop fearing. Have you ever tried to stop doing something? Let me give you a sure-fire way to run headlong into that thing: focus very hard on not doing it. The funny thing about our focus is that it is becomes a worshipful gaze even in spite of us. What we look upon becomes the thing we build our lives around. No, God was not calling me nor Isaiah to stop fearing. He was calling him—He is calling us all—TO fear. He is calling us to fear rightly.
When we fear what they fear, we fear everything. There are a million monsters under every bed, around every corner, under every shrub—a million possible horrible things that could happen in any one millisecond. Yes, we would be fools to assert that these terrible things are not out there as very real possibilities. But when we regard the LORD as holy, our fear goes from myriad to singular. When we rightly fear God, we see Him as He is, and He is all there is room for in our gaze. He takes up the whole frame, and then we understand that He is the most fearsome force of them all to be reckoned with. Indeed, literally, one day He will call all men to reckon with Him. If we pay attention as we quake before our fears, everything we fear is trembling, and it is because of the One who is behind us. When the mountains see Him, they shiver and lose their waters (Habakkuk 3:10). When everything in creation truly sees Him, there will not be a foot left on the ground or a still tongue in the house (Philippians 2:10).
And this Dread Champion is for us! He is on our side because He ransomed us back to His side at a very high cost. We are caked in the blood of His Son. The reckoning on our sin is finished. The biggest fear of our entire existence (eternal annihilation) has already been dealt the death blow. We have been taken on as the apple of His eye for all of time. Now He goes behind us as rearguard and before us as vanguard (Psalm 139:5). He literally stoops down to serve us in that way, to condescend to fight on our behalf, to make us great (Psalm 18:35). He delights in rescuing and defending us (Psalm 22:8). This Terror, this Wonder, this Force to be reckoned with is our bodyguard (Jeremiah 20:11). But there is more. When the LORD takes His rightful place as our dread champion—when we He see Him as He truly is in all His omnipotence—He becomes our sanctuary. He is on our defensive as well as our offensive team. He is sword and shield and high tower (Proverbs 18:10). He himself, my friends, becomes a sanctuary for those who dread Him. Selah. Pause. Calmly think about that.