Between studying the Tree of Knowledge and Jesus being a high priest like Melchizedek in the Book of Hebrews I saw a verse on the “fear of death” that tied the two ideas together. Hebrews 2:15 – To free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death (NIV). The verse is addressing Jesus as our High Priest but the “fear of death” is what caught me by surprise.
Where is this fear of death first mentioned or talked about? This topic of fear and death (yes, I replaced of with and on purpose) made me look through the verses with the word fear in them. (NOTE: This is a study blog, not a theology blog you can argue this elsewhere.). Fear is associated with death and punishment in most of the verses in the Bible. Well, what about “the fear of God” that just means we are to reverence Him, not be afraid of Him. Back to this later.
The first place where the “fear of something” and death are together is in the Garden. No, not when Adam and Eve were afraid because they heard God and they were naked – that is the second time. You may call it another phobia but Eve wanting the fruit, I believe, is associated with the fear of not knowing what God knew about death. It is clear that Adam and Eve were superior, intelligent humans but I am not sure that everything made sense to them. They had never seen death or anything die, not that we know of. The first recorded death is their son. So, MAYBE the serpent mixed her not knowing death with a nice-looking piece of fruit and his assurance that nothing would happen and we now have FEAR. I know most preachers call Eve’s action stemming out of lust, but lust is really fear that someone has something you do not have. This still makes me wonder how long those three had been talking together and did all of the animals talk. Talking to the devil about a fear instead of walking with God, could be a problem.
Adam expressed their fear of God because he was waiting for the “you will die” to happen. With the knowledge of good and evil came what we call fear. You can fear for good reasons and you can fear for evil reasons.
So, back to the fear of God. Do you fear Him for good reasons or for bad? We know we should fear God. Is the softening of the word fear by calling it reverence, really a good thing? We need to hold God as important but in my Strong’s Concordance reverence is part of the definition of the word fear and it still means “fear”.
This line of thinking will quickly lead to the argument of “once saved always saved” or “God never unsaved someone”. No matter your thoughts on that topic we are still to fear God. What about 1 Corinthians 13 and 1 John 4:18 where perfect love is casting out fear. That is true, perfect love will cast out fear, and Jesus, our perfect love, will cast it out. If I may, as an example of softening the thought of fearing God for good reasons. 1 Corinthians 13: 10 “when perfection comes” has been misused to be talking about the King James Version of the Bible, and not Jesus. Grace is given to us by Jesus, our perfect love, to help us not live in fear of what God could be doing to us because of our sin.
Hebrews 2:15 and Proverbs 14:27 – The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death (NIV), talk about death holding us or being a snare. That fear was put into humans in the Garden by Satan and we pass it on to our children.
My thoughts of the Tree of Knowledge are changing. We know what eating the fruit did for mankind. What about touching it? How about the branches, trunk, and roots? The whole conversation between Eve and the snake now seems even stranger. Was the snake talking about the “touching” part when it said, “You will not die” and then slipped in the eating phrase to finish off his lie and deception?
In Eve’s mind even touching “knowledge” would bring death. When she did not die why not taste it and see what happens. The immediate “death” that happened was they now knew there was a “good” and an “evil”, that is why they hid and made “religious” or fig leaf clothes. They could finally see that God was holy (good) and now they were not (evil). The whole time when He would walk in His garden, and they enjoyed perfect fellowship with a perfect God they had no fear of Him. For them to see a difference must have been horrible. Sorry for such a simple thought – The rest of the Bible is about bringing man back to walk with God and enjoy perfect fellowship again.
Branches and Roots
The root of Jesse, the root of David, the branch of David is taking on new and different meanings for me now. Paul says we are grafted into the stem so we can enjoy the life-giving sap. I will pass on the roots of the Tree of Knowledge but will marvel that Jesus is the root, the fruit, the branches, and the leaves of the tree they should have eaten from.
I can see fear sitting in the branches of the Tree of Knowledge. It is waiting to jump on the knowledge you have chosen to focus on. Good fear will bring you to obey God and want to follow Him because He has the power to do mighty things. Fear of evil will have you blaming God for things that do not fit in your paradigm. Is fear a neutral thing? Does it depend on what we do with it?
Solomon said it best in Ecclesiastes 12: 13 Fear God and keep his commandments. (NIV). Through the Tree of Knowledge, we got the fear of death but the fear of God was not far away. Fearing God is not bad and is needed in today’s society.