When Peter was writing to encourage the Christians dispersed throughout Asia and neighboring regions, he told them that they would suffer persecution yet not to be afraid. "Do not fear their threats and do not be troubled"(1Pet 3:14). Having said that, he turns around in the next verse (1Pet 3:15). and says that they ought to fear God.
These two verses of Peter compare with a similar two verses in Isaiah. First the Lord says, "Do not fear their threats or be in dread."(Isaiah 8:12),Then he says, "The Lord of hosts shall be your fear"(Isaiah 8:13),
As we read through Isaiah, we keep coming across this theme, "Don’t fear your enemies but do fear the Lord". God was letting the armies of surrounding nations invade Israel and Judah. Even the dreadful armies of the Assyrians from the north were coming. The invasions are likened to a flood that will come up to Judah’s neck (Isaiah 8:7-8).
Understandably, these invasions made the people fearful. God had sent Isaiah to meet king Ahaz when "the people shook, as the trees of the forest shake with the wind". Isaiah’ told Ahaz, Be calm, have no fear, and do not be fainthearted"(Isaiah 7:2-4). Now let us look at places further on in Isaiah where the theme recurs.
1 First study
The Messiah himself will have "the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord, and he will delight in the fear of the Lord(Isaiah 11:1-5) As disciples of the Messiah, we should take this eternal spirit within ourselves.
Isaiah fortells that, after the invasion and captivity at the hands of Babylon, "the Lord gives you rest from your pain and fear"(Isaiah 14:1-7). This is a symbol for us of heaven.
In an oracle about Egypt, Isaiah predicts that it will be the Egyptians who tremble in dread because of the purpose of the Lord of hosts (Isaiah 19:16-17). The same applies to all who set themselves against God.
Isaiah’s prophecy about the end of the world reminds us that "he who flees the sound of fear will fall into the pit"(Isaiah 24:17-22). The sound and fury of the Lord’s coming will terrify those who have not known and feared him (2Thessalonians 1:6-10). Let us live in the fear of the Lord now, so that we need not fear him then.
The hymn "O Lord you are my God, I will exalt you" has the line, "Cities of ruthless nations will fear you... the song of the ruthless is silenced"(Isaiah 25:1-5). We live in a ruthless world, but that world is coming to its judgment. Meanwhile we must be faithful in exalting our God by our different way of life.
Isaiah tells God’s people that they should cast away idols and return to God. He gives them a victory song to sing, in which the princes of Assyria "will be in fear" when they see the standard of the Lord. (Isaiah 31:6-9). Here we may regard the king and princes of Assyria as representative of the spiritual forces of darkness against which we fight (Ephesians 6:10-12).
Isaiah tells us of the final destruction of the Destroyer who seems so invincible, and of the victory of the just and righteous God. The Lord gives us something absolute to trust in troubled times, and the certainty of heavenly reward if we will but fear and obey the Lord. How does God regard such fear? "The fear of the Lord is his treasure"(Isaiah 33:1-6).
Isaiah continually encourages those who are distressed. We finish this first part of our study with one of those lovely passages where God tells Isaiah to encourage and strengthen his people who are fearful, and to tell them, "Take courage, fear not, behold your God will come with vengeance... but he will save you"(Isaiah 35:3-4).