Turn Not Aside – Fear the Lord 1 Sam 12:20-22

Turn Not Aside 1 Sam 12: 20-22 CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO

Samuel told Israel to turn not aside from following the Lord.  

Israel had done wickedly in asking for a king.  They had rejected God [1 Sam 8:7; 10:19].  Even after all that God had done for them, they forsook the Lord and worshipped Baal and Ashtaroth [1 Sam 12:6-10].  The Lord gave them judges to deliver them out of the hand of their enemies and he gave them king Saul to defeat Nahash and the Ammonites [1 Sam 12:11-12].  God was displeased with their request, nevertheless, he granted it. 

So, Samuel told them, “turn not aside from following the Lord.”  To keep from turning aside you must:

Fear the Lord – Samuel told them that if they would fear the Lord, serve him, obey him, and not rebel against him, they would continue following the Lord.  If not, the Lord would turn against them [1 Sam 12:14-15].  To emphasize the point, God sent thunder and rain during wheat harvest and the people feared the Lord [1 Sam 12:16-18].  

They were afraid that God was going to kill them [1 Sam 12:19].  That’s why Samuel said, “Fear not,” [1 Sam 12:20].  He didn’t mean for them to quit fearing the Lord, but rather to not be frightened that they would die.  There’s a big difference between being afraid and fearing God.

To be afraid is to be frightened: to be filled with fear, alarm, or apprehension.  It’s the feeling people get when something terrible happens, when they hear a burglar, when they are in danger, and so forth.  Some people are frightened by going to the doctor’s office or by taking final exams.  It’s how they feel when they’re scared. 

The fear of the Lord, on the other hand, is a profound and reverent fear inspired by God’s deity; it is a fear inspired by God’s authority and power.  It’s not a fear that scares you.  You may or may not “feel” anything in the fear of the Lord.

The fear of the Lord will help you follow the Lord.  You fear his deity, you fear his authority and you fear his power.  So, you are not going to cross him.  You are going to obey him.  That was the whole purpose behind the Lord speaking the ten commandments to the children of Israel from Mt. Sinai [Ex 20:18-20].  He wanted them to fear him.  Yet, instead of fearing him they were afraid of him.  They were scared they were going to die.  

Each time the Jews in the wilderness experienced discomfort, displeasure or homesickness for Egypt, they murmured and complained.  When the Jews murmured and complained, the Lord sent a plague against them.  They would get scared and then they would behave for a little while until they experienced another inconvenience.  Then they would complain again.  They never got straightened out with the Lord because their fear was fright not awe.  People who truly fear the Lord don’t murmur and complain against the Lord.  Paul certainly didn’t complain.

You need to recognize the difference between these two kinds of fear.  When you confuse fright with the fear of the Lord you miss the wisdom and knowledge that comes from the fear of the Lord [Prov 1:7, 9:10].  Let me illustrate.  When you fear the laws, you wisely learn them and obey them.  You’re not afraid of them because you know the law and you’re not breaking the law.  If you don’t fudge on your taxes or your tax returns, for instance, you are not afraid that you might get caught for tax fraud.  You’ve done nothing illegal.  Your fear of the law causes you to obey the law and keeps you from fearing the consequences of disobeying the law.

Conclusion: When you disobey God, he doesn’t usually punish you immediately [Ecc 8:11].  If you are frightened by the Lord, and he doesn’t punish you right away, you will soon get over your fear and you will continue disobeying God.  You will keep on in your wickedness, because it “appears” that you are getting away with it.  Certainly, this is not true, but it seems that way since God is not scaring you back into obedience.   

If you fear the Lord, however, you won’t wait until you get caught to start obeying God.  You won’t wait for adverse consequences to scare you.  You will obey him because you fear his authority and power and you don’t want to face his consequences, at all.  Do you see the difference?

So, to turn not aside from following the Lord it is essential, first of all, that you fear the Lord.