Hey, What’s Fear Doing in the Faith Chapter?

Robert Curry

Robert Curry

Sometimes the Bible Says Something
That Just Jumps Out at You as a Total Surprise

What a surprise to see fear mentioned in Hebrews 11—the faith chapter, also called “The Hall of Faith”!  Verse 7 in the King James Version says “Noah moved with fear.”

Noah moved with fear

Well, this just means Noah had proper respect, reverence and awe for God and accordingly built the ark as commanded, right?  Indeed, the New King James says “moved with godly fear” and the New International Version “moved with holy fear.”

But a closer look is a lot more interesting for those of us who want to labor in the Word and rightly discern it.

The Greek word for this fear [eulabeomai, pronounced you-lab-eh’-om-ahee] is only used twice in New Testament.  You would rightly conclude that these two verses show what this specific Greek word means and therefore how “Noah moved with fear.”

In the other instance, “the commander, fearing lest Paul might be pulled to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him by force from among them, and bring him into the barracks” (Acts 23:10).

Barnes Commentary on E-Sword says “The verb properly means ‘to act with caution, to be circumspect,’ and then ‘to fear, to be afraid.’

Looking (spect) around (circum), the commander saw that the Pharisees and Saducees in the Sanhedrin were getting agitated about Paul and he moved with fear!

Was the commander just being a good watchman—like we should be (Ezekiel 33:3)—and properly observing and assessing?  Was he worried that a riot was breaking out under his responsibility which Rome would not take kindly to and he might lose his job?  This was what apparently motivated Pontius Pilate to act as he did with Jesus.  Was the commander genuinely concerned for Paul’s safety?  All of the above?

Comparing with Acts 23:10’s use of the same Greek word, Barnes Commentary says of Hebrews 11:7:  “It might mean Noah was influenced by the dread of what was coming.”

What did Noah see?

  • God asking him to build an ark right out in the middle of dry land where it hadn’t rained for so long!
  • Crowds of gawkers, jeerers, critics, scorners and mockers
  • Maybe family thinking he was going off the deep end!
  • 120 years of wielding hammer and saw when maybe he had other plans!

Though nothing is said about the commander acting with respect and awe of God, Barnes Commentary says of Hebrews 11:7:  “It may mean that he was influenced by proper caution and reverence for God.  The latter is probably the true sense.”

It’s interesting that the noun form of the Greek word is translated “heard in that He feared” (Hebrews 5:7) and “with reverence and godly fear” (Hebrews 11:27).

So what do we—who find ourselves living somewhere between faith and fear, hopefully more toward the faith end—take away from this surprise verse?

In spite of all the dread over Elul 29 (last Sunday) the closest event to being apocalyptic was when the Broncos could muster no offense and almost lost their opener to the Ravens.

“We must walk by faith not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).  Out of sight, out of mind should be faith in mind.   Noah moved with fear when he was “divinely warned of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:7).  Verse 1 concurs that faith is the “evidence of things not seen.”  Verse 8 honors Abraham for “not knowing where he was going.”  Verse 13 commends all those who “having seen them [the promises] afar off.”

As in the days of Noah

Noah moved with fear!  Shouldn’t we who live “as in the days of Noah” do likewise!

Whatever our level of fear, the bottom line is:  we must keep moving.  Never removing hand from the plow.  Never burying our talent.  Never neglecting so great a salvation.  Be found so doing.

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