"The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe." Proverbs 29:25
No words from King Solomon could more accurately sum up the reign of his father's predecessor, King Saul. Anointed by God to be the first King of Israel - to lead the people of God - Saul's decisions, actions, his reign, and ultimately his life would all boil down to the one thing that consumed him more than any other: the fear of man.
Over the last few months as we've explored 1 Samuel at The Brook, we've seen Saul "hide in the baggage", run from the truth, deliberately disobey God, ordain and oversee the murder of priests (and their entire families), and become obsessed with jealousy for the future king - so much so that he made it his life's mission to hunt David down and destroy him. Does this sound like the King of God's people?
During our sermon series we've talked often about Saul being driven by the "approval of man". He was much more guided and swayed by his desire for the approval of the people rather than the approval of the One who made him king. But there's a crucial principle in this that we all need to understand:
The APPROVAL of man = The FEAR of man
Saul feared the Philistines - that they would overtake his army.
Saul feared his own people - that they would choose David over him.
I'm quick to judge Saul because I'm falsely led to believe that history gives me that luxury. I have Saul's life as my own rearview mirror. I'm not at all saying we should condone most of anything Saul did or said; but we also shouldn't get so clouded in condemning him that we miss where he exposes our own blindspots and weaknesses. There are moments of my life and yours where we begin to live more for the approval of man than the approval of God. And when this happens - when I begin to be consumed with what other people think, with whether or not they like me the way I want to be liked, with whether or not they place their stamp of approval over me - I am living in FEAR. The FEAR of man.
The fear of man drives us to doctor up appearances.
The fear of man compels us to say one thing and do another.
The fear of man lures me away from relationship and seduces me into religiosity.
The fear of man says (without saying a word), "Lord, at the end of the day, I simply don't trust you."
The fear of God on the other hand - the assurance and trust and faith that the Sovereign God of the universe is always working for my good - leads me to a different place. To a place of great joy and hope and peace. To a destination that King Solomon describes as "safe". Don't confuse this with earthly safety. This is a safety that is clothed in the righteousness and holiness of God. A safety that only exists in the presence of the Spirit of God. A safety that can be known but can never be seen. That's the safety I should long for - for the approval of the only One that matters.
This safety resides "in the shelter of the Most High".
It exists "in the shadow of the Almighty".
It causes us to say to the Lord, "My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust."
This is what King David proclaims in Psalm 91.
The heartbreaking thing about Psalm 91 is knowing that King Saul could never make this proclamation. He never knew this peace or hope or joy. Saul's whole life was caught in the snare - the death trap - of the fear of man.
Are you wrestling for the approval of man?
Or are you resting in the approval of God?
The greatest news of all is, because of the Cross of Jesus Christ, and because my life is hidden there, God looks at me...and He approves. Paul proclaims in Colossians 3:3, "For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God."
When you live for the approval of man, the wrestling never ends.
When we live for the approval of God, because of Jesus, the resting can begin.
I don't know about you, but I can certainly use some rest.