Stories of Fear in the Bible
I hope you’ve been following along with our Facing Fear Series : A Bible Study on Fear and Faith. I especially hope you read last week’s post, as we dug deep into Scripture to gain an understanding of the fear of the Lord. I believe it lays the foundation for any victory we might find as we seek to overcome our chronic fear, worry, anxiety, and depression. Today we’re going to see further evidence of this truth as we look at several stories of fear in the Bible to discover how God offered deliverance.
As we look at some Bible characters who overcame fear, I hope we’ll be able to see our own struggles with fear through the lens of their stories and find victory in Christ. As we see how the fear of the Lord played into these Scriptures on deliverance from fear, may it further inspire us to learn how to bring our relationship with fear into a state of healthy balance.
Two Kinds of Fear Found in Bible Characters
We’ve already briefly discussed that there are two kinds of fear we’re dealing with in this series. The first is a spirit of fear, and the second the fear of the Lord. A Spirit of fear is unhealthy. It is consuming and paralyzing. On the other hand, the fear of the Lord is healthy and necessary.
A spirit of fear is foolish, while fearing God is the beginning of wisdom. Where a spirit of fear debilitates, fear of the Lord empowers. When a spirit of fear brings death, the fear of the lord offers life.
Below you will find a link to two extensive lists of examples of these found throughout Scripture. With each example, I have included the reference where you can find these stories of fear in the Bible.
It would be useful to take the time, perhaps over the next week, to read through each of these stories. I believe doing so will greatly help as we seek to put the concept of fear into perspective.
Bible Characters Who Overcame Fear
If you look at the list you’ll see, those are a lot of stories of fear in the Bible! And it’s not even close to an exhaustive list. As you can imagine, I could write a pretty extensive series on fear just by exploring each of them. But, I’m not going to take the time to do that right now. Because more than I want to just rattle off a bunch of examples of people being afraid throughout Scripture, I want us to dig deeper into just a few of them and see what we can learn.
So let’s look at first and second Kings and explore two stories. One is from the life of Elijah the prophet, and the other from the life of his successor, Elisha.
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Elijah’s Story of Overcoming Fear
Before we go on, it would be very good to read the whole passage we’re going to look at. So click here to read 1 Kings 18 & 19.
Here is a brief summary with a little back story:
The Background Story (For Context)
King Ahab of Israel was a very wicked king who married an evil woman named Jezebel. They led Israel to abandon the Lord and worship Baal, among other pagan gods. Jezebel was notorious for finding and killing the prophets of God, and silencing anyone who dared to publicly worship Him.
As a warning to return to the Lord, the prophet Elijah had warned Ahab to repent. Because of Ahab’s refusal there had been three years of drought and famine in Israel.
Our story begins at the end of those three years, as Elijah came out of hiding to confront King Ahab and the people of Israel. We see him fearlessly challenge the prophets of Baal to one of the most famous showdowns in the Bible.
In a mighty display of power, God showed up for Elijah, while Baal accomplished nothing. Then, in another act of extreme courage, Elijah executed all those wicked prophets of Baal. Afterward, he prayed to God and the three year drought came to a miraculous end.
Finally, in what almost seems like God just showing off one more time, Elijah was given super-human speed and endurance so that he could run ahead of Ahab’s chariot as the king returned home to his wife.
How the Spirit of Fear Showed Up
But after all that courage and fearless obedience to God, Elijah received a message from Queen Jezebel that terrified him. The message promised that by that time the next day she would do to Elijah what he had done to the prophets of Baal.
And fear took over.
In spite of everything God had done in the previous 24 hours to prove Himself, Elijah could think only of all the prophets of God Jezebel had already tortured and killed. Filled with fear, he ran for his life until he was exhausted.
Defeated in mind and body, he laid down under a tree and begged God to end his life.
Sometimes the Tender Care of God is what Teaches us to Fear Him
What happened next is one of my favorite moments in Scripture between God and one of His dearly loved children. He did not scold Elijah, or throw all the mighty acts of the previous day in his face.
Instead, He came to Elijah in person and miraculously attended to his physical needs, providing food, water, and the safety to sleep long enough to prepare for a forty day journey into the wilderness.
God then led Elijah to Mount Sinai, the famous mountain of God, where He had previously shown Himself to Moses and the people of Israel on numerous occasions.
There, after forty days of tenderly caring for His own, God finally addressed Elijah’s fear.
God’s Truth Silences Fear
God had already displayed His power. I’m certain Elijah didn’t doubt it or need God to prove it again. So God didn’t show up in the terrible windstorm, or the mighty earthquake, or the blazing fire.
The root of Elijah’s fear was not a lack of faith in God’s power. It was a lack of trust in His plan. He knew what God could do. But he also knew Jezebel had killed a lot of God’s people, and God had done nothing to stop her.
He feared for His life for the same reason many of us wrestle with all kinds of fear – because he didn’t know what God’s plan might include, and he feared he might not like what was asked of him.
Elijah was tired and weary and beaten down by this fallen world. He believed he was alone, and he couldn’t bear the thought of loosing his life at the hands of the woman who had wiped out every person who feared God. (Or so he thought)
God knew all this, so He didn’t come in might. Instead, He simply came in a whisper. A whisper of truth.
“You’re not alone Elijah,” He gently intimated, “there are 7,000 others who have never bowed to Baal. My plan does not include the total annihilation of my people. Ahab and Jezebel’s days are numbered, and I have already set in motion my plans for their successors. Not only that, I’m already preparing someone to follow you, Elijah. His name is Elisha, and he’s going to do mighty things in my Name! So get up and go finish the work I’ve called you to do. Trust ME. I am worthy.”
I’ve taken some liberties with the words, but I hope you can hear the tenderness in God’s response. Remember it is said in a gentle, loving whisper!Because God knew what Elijah needed, He did not show up in might. Instead, He simply came in a whisper. A whisper of truth. Click To Tweet
How it All Ends
That’s all it took. Elijah did what God asked, and went to find Elisha. He spent the remainder of his life here on earth faithfully serving God and preparing Elisha to take over as the prophet of the Lord.
In the years that followed we see God give Ahab a few more chances to turn back to Him, but even when it seems he might be seeing the light, Ahab remains wicked. Before long he is killed in battle, and the son who first succeeded him as King didn’t last long before he too died. A few years later his second son was murdered, and on the same day Jezebel was thrown from the tower of their palace and dogs ate her body. A man from a new family took over as King, and the royal line of Ahab ended.
Elijah, on the other hand, was one of only two people in history who never died. God’s good plan for him included one of the most amazing miracles in the Bible as he is carried to heaven alive in a chariot of fire!
God hadn’t told him up on Mt. Sinai how his story would end. He had simply whispered truth, and Elijah’s trust had been restored. God had been put back into His right place, and fear had been defeated.
Do we have any doubt God will be any less faithful to us?
Scripture on Deliverance from Fear
Elijah’s story is awesome, but only one generation later, we find that God delivers another man from fear in a totally different way. While Elijah’s rescue came in the form of whispered truth, this story involves something a little more dramatic.
How Elisha’s Servant Overcame Fear
I absolutely love this story, it’s such a powerful passage of Scripture on deliverance from fear!
Elisha led a pretty incredible life, performing more miracles than are recorded for any other person in the Bible! All along, we find this young servant right by his side, observing all of it.
Once again, I’m sure Elisha’s servant was aware of God’s power. Like Elijah, he didn’t need to know what God could do. Instead, this young man needed to know who God was. He needed to understand that to have God on your side is to have the armies of heaven literally fighting for you!
One of the Greatest Stories of Fear in the Bible Summarized
There was a king in a country called Aram, an enemy of Israel. Every time he planned to attack, God revealed those plans to Elisha. As a result, Israel was always one step ahead of the Aramean king.
Obviously, the king didn’t like this, so when he figured out it was Elisha who was at the root of his troubles, he set out to kill this prophet of God. He sent a huge army complete with chariots, and horsemen, and all the rest.
When Elisha’s servant went out one morning from the small town in which they were staying he found that vast army surrounding them. They were there for Elisha, and sensing his certain doom, the servant was absolutely terrified. He cried out in fear to Elisha.
Fear of the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies Delivers Us From All Other Fear
Ever-trusting of God, Elisha responded, “Don’t be afraid! For there are more on our side than on theirs!”
I imagine the young servant looked at Elisha like he was crazy! They didn’t have anyone on their side! They weren’t in the capital city of Samaria, where the Israelite army could have come to their defense. Instead, they were in this remote town of Dothan, and the Aramean army had brought out a great army against them.
So Elisha prayed.
He asked God to open the young man’s eyes.
And God answered.
As Elisha’s servant looked around he suddenly could see a huge army, far greater than that of the Arameans, all over the hillside surrounding the ground on which they stood. An army of angels seated in chariots of fire!
God proceeded to miraculously fight for Elisha that day, delivering the Arameans into the hands of the Israelites once again.
Friends, nothing has changed. The same God, leading the same army of angels fights for us too. We may not see them, but they’re there. What else is there to fear?
How These Stories of Fear in the Bible Apply to Us
I chose these two stories of fear in the Bible because I believe they capture some important aspects of our own battles with fear. Many times, it’s not that we doubt God’s power. Like Elijah and the servant of Elisha, we know what God can do, and in that sense our fear of Him is in place.
What we doubt is His goodness, at least, in as much as it applies to us as individuals. We may believe His plans are good overall, but we fear the terrible things that might come our way as a part of that overarching good plan for the world.
After-all, we know God did not even spare Jesus from extreme suffering for the sake of that plan!
Like Elijah, we fear what might be asked of us. Much like he was, we feel beaten down by this fallen world. We’re exhausted, broken, and spent, and our trust is just a little bit broken too!
If that’s where you find yourself my friend, I encourage you to stop looking for God to show up in might and listen instead for the whisper of truth. Listen as He reminds you of where His Son sits today.
God’s Good and Trustworthy Plan
Jesus may have suffered, but let us never doubt if it was for His own good… it was!
After He gave His life and was raised from the dead He was given the place of highest honor. At His great Name every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every single tongue WILL confess JESUS as King of Kings and Lord of Lords to the glory of God the Father!!!!
Jesus may have been sacrificed, but He was also elevated. He may have suffered, but He was also exalted!
Our God is wholly trustworthy. He will not ask anything of us that is not for our own good, as well as for the good of the rest of His plan, and for His great glory too.
So ask Him to open your eyes to the armies of angels who fight on your behalf, trust that His plan for you is good, and go forward without fear, friend! Our God is faithful!
1 Peter 5:5-7 – “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time He will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.
For further study, here are some more resources for you:
Hope & Joy in Christ – 14 Promises of God You can Pray to Overcome Fear
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***Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
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