Have you ever asked yourself whether you would be able to stand in the face of persecution? Every week we pray for Christians around the world who are suffering for their faith. This week in our Voice of the Martyrs prayer update we read of a pastor who lost an eye when Islamic extremists threw acid in his face for his evangelism efforts. We also read of a church in China that meets outside because the police discourage those who would rent them a space from doing do. Yet they continue to meet outside, year around, facing persecution and inclement weather.
What is the Fear of the Lord? – SERMON AUDIO
For the people of God, facing persecution is nothing new! Since 64 AD and even before it has been going on. Peter tells his readers in Asia Minor exactly this as he writes to them at that time;
1 Peter 4:12-13 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.
Yet even before this, the people of God were persecuted and threatened with extinction. All the way back in Exodus, about 1,500 years bef0re Peter’s time, we see that Pharaoh had very strong ideas about what he would like to see happen to them;
Exodus 1:8-14 Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9 And he said to his people, “Look, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we; 10 come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and it happen, in the event of war, that they also join our enemies and fight against us, and so go up out of the land.” 11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh supply cities, Pithom and Raamses. 12 But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were in dread of the children of Israel. 13 So the Egyptians made the children of Israel serve with rigor. 14 And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage–in mortar, in brick, and in all manner of service in the field. All their service in which they made them serve was with rigor.
Despite his greatest efforts, the children of Israel grew stronger and increased their number. That is when he stepped things up to the most despicable of actions against them.
Exodus 1:15-16 Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, of whom the name of one was Shiphrah and the name of the other Puah; 16 and he said, “When you do the duties of a midwife for the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstools, if it is a son, then you shall kill him; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.”
Pharaoh was the most powerful man in the known world at this time. He was regarded as a god among his people and was king over the mightiest empire in the land. He simply told the midwives what to do and I am certain that he was not used to being ignored. Yet.
Exodus 1:17-18 17 But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the male children alive. 18 So the king of Egypt called for the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this thing, and saved the male children alive?”
These women stood against the most fearsome king in the world and refused to do his bidding. But we read, “But the midwives feared God….” They did not respect the power of the great king when it was compared to the power of their God. They had seen Him multiply His people in the midst of their enslavement. I believe that they knew the promise of God to Abraham, to multiply his descendents. They had been faithful to protect and care for his offspring, faithful to their people and to their God. Fear really comes down to respect of power. We can fear men or we can fear God. With the fear of God also comes honor of His Person.
I believe that these ladies were faithful and feared God (respected His power and His Person) in the small things from day to day. When the day came for them to be tested, by the grace of God, they passed! Their faithfulness to His faithfulness allowed the covenant people of God to continue until the one who would redeem those people was born (See Exodus 3). God’s timing impeccable! So, to answer that question about standing in the face of persecution. If I was the pastor who’s eye was burned out by acid would I continue to preach the Gospel? If I had to go to church outside because the local government refused to allow me a place to worship, would I show up? If the government ordered me to perform an immoral act, could I refuse like Shiphrah and Puah? The Grace of God is at the heart of it, yet, our own faithfulness our “fear of God” will also play a part. If we are not faithful in the little things that we encounter day by day, I do not believe we have much to hope for on that day.
There is much more to be said on the subject. I encourage you to listen to the sermon audio by clicking the link below to hear it. Before I stop typing this out, I need to ask you, how are you doing in the little things? Are you faithful when the world tries to impose itself on you? Do you fear men and their opinions or do you fear the Lord?
What is the Fear of the Lord? – SERMON AUDIO