The Fear of Man
The fear of man bringeth a snare:
but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.
1. The theme of this proverb is the theme of many passages throughout the Scriptures.
2. It is an exceedingly important principle that transcends dispensations. It is equally applicable to believers of every age… except the very first dispensation, the age of innocence, before sin entered the world.
3. The fear of man is the root of all kinds of evil, spiritually.
The fear of man bringeth a snare:
A. The Fear of Man
a. Defined: tremble; shake; terror; horror; panic.
b. This is not the same term for fear that is translated “reverence” and refers to a “godly fear, as Solomon used in Prov. 1:7.
c. It does not speak of worship, piety, or a respect for God.
d. The term used in our proverb speaks of being scared to death—not a reverential fear, but a fear that causes one’s knees to knock and his hands to tremble.
2. Thus, “the fear of man” in our proverb does not speak of a respect or reverence for man; rather, it speaks of being terrorized by man.
a. The fear of man refers to a kind of terror that comes as a result of the behavior of other human beings.
b. The fear of man comes in many different ways.
• It might be the fear of reprisal from the government.
• It might be the fear of peer pressure.
• It might be the fear of religious intolerance – as is the case for many under Islamic rule. They rule with a sword and many under that rule fear the sword.
• It might be the fear of losing one’s job. A cruel and crooked boss has put many under his authority in fear all day long in the workplace.
• It might be the fear of blackmail. Some young people today have been blackmailed into submission out of fear of having certain pictures posted online for the whole world to see.
• For the believer, the fear of man speaks primarily of a fear of opposing the world for one’s faith. It might be a fear to evangelize; a fear of letting others know you are a Christian; a fear of opposing immorality; a fear of being ostracized for our faith; a fear of being labeled a bigot; etc.
c. The “fear of man” takes many forms, sizes, and shapes for the believer—and it always has.
• The world has often used persecution to strike fear in the hearts of God’s people.
• The Middle East is harassing, burning, and executing Christians.
• There has been a mass exodus of Christians (both nominal and genuine) from Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and other countries which has been virtually ignored by the press.
• For many, common sense tells them to leave.
• But for those who stay, they will experience constant pressure to conform and to compromise their faith. That is the danger of the fear of man for the true Christian… and the goal of those seeking to cause Christians to fear.
B. Bringeth a Snare
1. SNARE defined:
a. A trap that lures an animal with bait; a device to capture an animal; that which captures and controls another.
b. It is used figuratively of anything that lures one to ruin and disaster.
c. Obviously, it is being used figuratively here.
d. The fear of man is a trap that lures one to ruin and disaster, spiritually.
2. The fear of man BRINGS a snare.
a. The word translated “bringeth” is used almost 2000 times in the Old Testament. It obviously has many shades of meaning.
b. Its basic meaning is to “give, to exchange, or to place.”
c. It can also have the meaning of “to cause” – which seems to be the way Solomon uses it in Prov. 29:25.
d. The fear of man causes or results in a trap… a snare.
e. It lures men in with its bait, but the end result is a trap.
f. It paralyzes the believer and prevents him from walking as he should.
g. It captures and controls them in the end. They are imprisoned by their fear of man. That is the purpose of the trap.
h. It is a very clever tool of our adversary the Devil.
3. Many people, including godly people, have fallen for this trap.
a. Gen. 12:11-13 – Abraham feared the Egyptians and told his wife to lie and say she was his sister. He was afraid they would kill him.
b. In Gen.20:2, out of fear of Abimelech, he did the same thing.
c. In Gen. 26:6-7 – His son Isaac did the same thing—for fear of being killed by the Philistines. This was the fear of man.
d. Ex. 32:22-24 – Out of fear of the people, Aaron made golden calves to worship. It became a snare unto them for generations.
e. I Sam. 15:24 – Out of fear of the people, Saul obeyed their voice and spared the best of the sheep and cattle, contrary to God’s Word.
f. And what about those who bowed before the image of Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon in the plain of Dura? Surely there were more than just three men there who did not really believe that the idol was worth worshipping. But only three did NOT allow the fear of man to control them. The others fell into the snare.
g. John 9:19 – Out of fear of the Jewish leaders, the parents of the man born blind refused to answer.
h. Gal. 2:11-13 – Peter, out of fear of “them of the circumcision” (legalists from Jerusalem) forsook eating with the Gentiles and demonstrated hypocrisy. And others followed his action. Many were snared.
4. The fear of man keeps some from trusting in Christ.
a. Fear of man and trusting in God are often seen as opposites. Only one can control us at any given moment.
b. John 12:42-43 – Some of the rulers who believed on Christ refused to confess Him publically out of a fear of man. They feared being cast out of the synagogue—and the stigma and persecution attached to that.
c. Fear is an extremely powerful tool. It can control behavior.
But whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe
A. Whoso putteth his trust in the Lord…
a. This also is a very common term. It means to trust; to believe; to have confidence in; to rely upon; to be (feel) safe and secure.
b. It also has a related meaning –
2. The contrast in this proverb is between FEAR and TRUST.
a. This term is used in Psalm 112:7-8 – “He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the LORD. 8His heart is established, he shall not be afraid…”
b. It is translated “bold” (confidence) in Proverbs 28:1 – “The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.”
B. Shall be Safe
a. This word means to be high, lifted up.
b. It often has the sense of being lifted up to a position of strength and power.
c. It also has the sense of being protected; cared for; defended.
• Ps. 20:1 – “The LORD hear thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob defend thee…”
• Prov. 18:10 – “The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.” (The same term is translated “safe” here. And notice that the safety comes from running to God – the strong tower. The tower lifts them up to a place of safety and protection.)
2. The one who trusts in God (while facing the fear of man) shall be SAFE.
a. The one who stays close to God and honors Him will be safe—regardless of what man may threaten to do.
b. This is the LIE of the devil with respect to his bait and snare.
• Satan seeks to ensnare believers by causing us to fear what men will DO to us if we practice our faith.
• Satan desires the fear of retaliation, imprisonment, beheading, etc., to cause the believer to stop practicing his faith and start walking in lockstep with the world system.
• For Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, it meant “bow down to the image” or be cast into a fiery furnace.
• For the pastors today (more likely tomorrow – the next generation), it may mean “stop preaching against homosexuality” or be cast into prison. That is already the law in Canada. It will be coming here soon.
c. But Satan’s lie is this: “if you abandon your beliefs and bow down to my ways, then you will be safe.”
d. Contrary to that, God says, “whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe.”
e. And it boils down to “whom do you believe?”
• Our actions demonstrate whom we believe.
• The actions of Daniel’s three friends indicated that they believed God. They refused to fall for the snare – the lure and the trap of the devil.
f. But God’s way of safety is not always the same.
• Sometimes God’s safety comes by delivering us OUT OF the persecution (avoiding the persecution)…
• Sometimes safety comes by delivering us THROUGH the persecution (being cast into the furnace but rescued)…
• And sometimes it comes by EXPERIENCING the persecution and being killed (and going to the safety and security of heaven forever).
• But regardless of the means, God’s way results in safety in the end. Satan’s way results in a snare.
3. It is an ongoing battle of the two fears for the believer.
a. Will we choose to live in the fear of man or in the fear of God?
b. Will we choose to live our lives to please men and receive earthly rewards from man… or will we lives our lives to please God and receive heavenly rewards in the life to come?
c. The fear of man is a real and legitimate fear.
• In some places men threaten to kill believers… to kill their families… to burn down their homes… to cause them to lose their jobs… to run them out of town… to be tortured or beheaded.
d. Then there is the fear of God—the fear of displeasing God.
e. If we choose to fear man, we will discover that it is an enslaving fear. MAN will control your will and your soul. It is a miserable life of a cowardly loser.
f. If we choose to fear God, there is FREEDOM of mind, heart, and conscience—even if our body is imprisoned. That is a life of peace and rest of mind and heart.
g. The Lord Jesus challenged His disciples—and us—to consider the seriousness of this choice: “But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear Him.” (Luke 12:5)
h. Psalm 118:6 – “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?”
i. Psalm 27:1 – “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”
j. Psalm 56:4 – “In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.”
k. Psalm 56:11 – “In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me.” (quoted in Hebrews 13:6)