To Fear or Not to Fear? By Asher Intrater Mar 6, 2022
When Moses came down from the divine fire and smoke of Mount Sinai the first time to give Israel the Ten Commandments, the people shook in fear from the presence of God and the holiness of the commandments. He told them not to fear, yet at the same time, to fear.
What?! That sounds like a contradiction.
“Do not fear, because God has come to test you, in order that the fear of Him would be upon your faces, so that you would not sin.” (Exodus 20:20)
To resolve this apparent contradiction is not that difficult. We are not to fear God as if He would hurt us for no reason, or as if He does not have perfectly beneficial desires for us. Yet at the same time, we need to know that He does indeed punish sin; and the healthy fear of the punishment of sin is one of the motivations not to sin.
The Torah was the first stage of bringing us to recognize that we all have sinned, that we need to repent, and that we need to find atonement and forgiveness. In this way, the knowledge of perfect moral law brings us to the need for salvation. That forgiveness and atonement we find in Yeshua’s sacrifice on the cross. Thus, the Torah of Moses leads us to the cross of Yeshua. The Torah explains the law; the cross provides forgiveness for our transgressions of the law.
The double issue of “fear and fear not” is explained more fully by Yeshua in Luke 12, in which He says, “fear not, yet I tell you whom to fear…”
Let’s look at this dynamic a little deeper. The Bible often repeats the encouragement not to fear. God is all powerful; beneficent; and for you. His grace gives us confidence. His promises to protect us provide a foundation for our overcoming FAITH.
The Bible also often repeats the charge to maintain the fear of YHVH. That fear is pure and eternal (Psalm 19:10). We can base our dedication to HOLINESS on these exhortations to fear the Lord.
Obviously, God wants us to have both faith and holiness. Faith without holiness degenerates to worldliness and carnality. Holiness without faith degenerates to religious coercion. Faith and holiness together transform us into the image of Yeshua. These two streams of thought are interwoven throughout the Scriptures. We are to consider both the mercy of God and His severity (Romans 11:22). There are promises and warnings. We are to shine as glorious lights, yet to know that darkness is covering the earth (Isaiah 60:1-2).
Scripture often deals with different sides of the same issue. Truth seems to be paradoxical because God is both holy and gracious. It is hard for us as human beings to deal with complex or paradoxical truths. Yeshua is the living incarnation of truth; and He is both gracious and holy.
The love of God grants us free will; that in itself creates a paradoxical situation. He is sovereign, yet we have to choose. The dual dynamic of truth is found in the interfacing of grace and holiness. The tension between the two is seen repeatedly in Scriptures.
There are many questions with tension. Do we pay taxes to Caesar? Do we stone a woman caught in adultery? How can an infinite God dwell fully in bodily form in a human being? Is the kingdom of God in heaven or on earth? Are we left wing or right wing politically? Are we for medical vaccinations or against? Do the righteous suffer? What is the nature of grace and works? We are saved “not by works” (Ephesians 2:9) yet “unto good works” (Ephesians 2:10).
There is a dual dynamic of truth. Yeshua displays the perfect integration of the God-Man paradox.
We follow Him as a person. The principles of God’s Word contain different aspects of applying God’s truth.
We are called into a real relationship with God. Relationship deals with the wonder of a person having different aspects to his personality. Our faith is not a one dimensional doctrine but a dynamic relationship with a living God who interacts with us.
Our faith seems to have paradoxes because God is a real person, not a robot. THE Truth is a living person, not a list of formulas or a fact sheet. To walk with God, we have to deal with a multifaceted relationship with a real Being.
Messiah on a Donkey FFOZ
As Yeshua prepared to enter Jerusalem for His final Passover, He gave His disciples the following task:
[He] said to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here.” (Mark 11:2)
Up until that point in His life and work, Yeshua had tried to keep His messianic identity quiet. He warned His followers and disciples not to tell anyone who He was. He hushed up the eerie voices of the possessed, which tried to declare His identity. When Simon Peter confessed, “You are the Messiah,” He told him not to reveal it to anyone. By sending for a donkey, however, He indicated a shift in public policy. He was ready to declare to Israel that He was her long-awaited Messiah King. He prepared to enter Jerusalem as predicted by the Prophet Zechariah:
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9)
If not for the messianic enthusiasm frothing around Him, His ride on a donkey would not have attracted any attention. Donkeys provided a common mode of travel in the land. The disciples themselves missed the allusion to Zechariah 9:9. Not until Yeshua had risen did they realize that He intended the donkey ride as a messianic claim: “Then they remembered that these things were written of Him” (John 12:16). Rabbinic literature unanimously interprets Zechariah 9:9 as a messianic prophecy. Another prophecy about the Messiah’s donkey appears in the Torah, where the patriarch Jacob predicted, “He ties his foal to the vine, and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine” (Genesis 49:11). Together, the two prophecies forged a link between Messiah and His donkey. The rabbis interpreted almost every donkey reference in the Bible as a subtle allusion to the coming of the Messiah:
“His foal” and “his donkey’s colt” [in Genesis 49:11] refer to that time when he will come of whom it is written [in Zechariah 9:9], “Humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Genesis Rabbah)
Jewish thought so firmly connected the image of a donkey with the coming of the Messiah that the Talmud says, “If a person dreams about a donkey, he may hope for salvation, as it is written, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you … endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey.’” The Master’s donkey colt was unbroken—no one had ever ridden it or sat upon it. Animals used for certain ritual purposes needed to be in a similar “virgin” state. For example, an animal designated for sacrifice could not subsequently be used for some other purpose. A suitable red heifer could not have ever worn a yoke. The colt “on which no one yet has ever sat” signifies that no one before our Master (nor since our Master) could fulfill the messianic prophecies such as Zechariah 9:9. Only Yeshua could “fill those shoes.” The words “on which no one yet has ever sat” also remind us of the tomb “where no one had ever lain” (Luke 23:53). Those who have experience with foals and unbroken steed animals realize that one does not simply climb up on a colt on which no one has ever sat. As with horses, a donkey has to become slowly and carefully accustomed to the idea of carrying a rider. By most accounts, donkeys are even more difficult to train than horses. Under ordinary circumstances, an unbroken donkey would have quickly bucked his rider from his back, regardless of the messianic implications of the auspicious occasion. Yeshua’s ride into Jerusalem on an unbroken donkey, therefore, represents another miracle of the Master. The Talmud interprets the Messiah’s entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey. In an important talmudic passage, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi points out a contradiction in Isaiah 60:22:
I, the LORD, will hasten [the redemption] in its time. (Isaiah 60:22)
Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said, “It is written [in Isaiah 60:22], ‘In its time [the Messiah will come],’ and yet it also says, ‘I will hasten it.’” He explained the contradiction to mean that if the generation of the Messiah is found worthy, God will hasten the appointed time of redemption and bring it early. If the generation of the Messiah is found unworthy, however, He will not hasten it. Instead, the Messiah will come at the due time, “in its time,” the deadline for the final redemption. This interpretation explains the Messiah’s proclamation of the kingdom and His mission to the last generation before the end of the Second Temple Era. He came to attempt to “hasten” the redemption. If the nation had repented, they might have attained the kingdom and the revelation of the Messiah: “I, the LORD will hasten.” Since the Messiah found them unworthy, however, the redemption will come later, “in its time.”