Whatever we fear more than God is, more often than not, exactly what God will bring upon us. That’s how the human heart works. If we fear something more than God himself, then we’ll get what we fear. The prophet Ezekiel was pronouncing the Lord’s judgment on the wicked counselors of Judah when he said this:
You have feared the sword, and I will bring the sword upon you, declares the Lord God…You shall fall by the sword. I will judge you at the border of Israel, and you shall know that I am the LORD (Ezekiel 11:8, 10).
The root issue for Judah – and for us – is that we fail, on an experiential level, to know that God is the LORD. We fail to fear him – to live with the reverence and awe that a right understanding of his glory should produce.
For Judah, they were more concerned about the possibility of Babylonian invaders than they were about following the Lord: “For you have not walked in my statues, nor obeyed my rules, but have acted according to the rules of the nations that are around you” (Ezekiel 11:12). And the thing they feared was exactly what they experienced, as God declared: “I will bring you out of the midst of [Jerusalem], and give you into the hands of foreigners, and execute judgments upon you” (Ezekiel 11:9).
Most of us don’t fear foreign invaders, but in our dark hearts we hold onto myriad other fears and anxieties. We fear failure, losing the approval of others, material or financial loss, and countless other things. When your mind drifts toward anxiety, what is on your mind? So often our daydreams tell us what we really fear – and who we really are.
The Bible teaches that our root problem is a disordered heart. When our hearts should be structured to fear the Lord above all, our actual fears reveal that we value, cherish, and even worship realities other than the Lord. Apart from grace, we should expect that we will receive from the Lord whatever we fear more than him – just as Judah did.
Apart from grace. But our God is a gracious God, eager not only to forgive our sins but to give us new, rightly ordered hearts. He makes that promise, through Ezekiel, to Judah – virtually in the same breath with which he pronounced their judgment:
I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, they shall be my people, and I will be their God (Ezekiel 11:19-20).
Lord, help us to receive more completely this new heart and new spirit. Help us to order our hearts rightly around you, fearing you above all else. And help us to identify, through our fears, the things that compete with you for our affections, that we might turn to you as the all-satisfying, joy-inspiring God that you are. Amen.