“Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord.”
There are several places in the Bible where God’s prophets were commanded to not be afraid of the faces of those who resisted their message. I believe there is some application to be made for us as believers who are called to witness? Consider first the experience of Moses, Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
Moses was one of God’s servant leaders who was told not to be afraid of the faces by those in opposition to his leadership. One of the instructions God gave to Moses as they prepared to occupy the promised land included these words: “Ye shall not respect persons in judgment; but ye shall hear the small as well as the great; ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God’s: and the cause that is too hard for you, bring it unto me, and I will hear it.” (Deuteronomy 1:17) It was true in Moses’ time as well as ours. The rich and powerful expected special consideration that would not be shown to the poor. They could and would show that by frowns and threats. The Israelite leaders were not to be awed or intimidated by them when practicing justice.
Jeremiah was warned of the same problem. “Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord .” (Jeremiah 1:8) These are the words of Jeremiah in the account of his call to the prophetic office God had for him.
Ezekiel was commissioned to be a prophet to Israel and he was forewarned of the things he would face. He knew what he would face from a disobedient and rebellious people. Twice in this verse he was commanded to not be afraid of their words. He could expect scoffs, jeers, reviling. They would make all kinds of threats with their weapon of words. Their looks could be the most confusing, and so God told Ezekiel to not be dismayed at their looks: “And thou, son of man, be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns be with thee, and thou dost dwell among scorpions: be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house.” (Ezekiel 2:6)
When these verses made an impression upon me the first thing that came to mind was the old idiom: “If looks could kill…” I could only think of it as the result of the way someone looked with facial anger. Based on the way someone looks at you, if looks could kill you would be dead. Since looks or words do not actually kill, but we are still warned against them, what do they do? Why be afraid of their faces? Looks and words are closely associated in the face. In an age of persecution we can expect much of what the prophets did. In different areas of our world persecutions may be by words. In the worst areas opposition to Christians means beheading, execution, imprisonment and being driven from home. We like to think of America as the land of free speech. That is often expressed in public opposition to Christians in the media with no constraints and no similar treatment of other religions. We can expect more of that with a culture, education system and anti-christian government controlling our lives.
But this is where we live. Be not afraid of their faces! We do not run away from our mandates to change the culture and win the world to Christ. We expect scoffing and ridicule for our Christian beliefs. The presence of a believer disturbs the ungodly and makes them uneasy. A good man is an offense to a bad man. Expect the cold look.
The Christian leader or pastor can expect the worst looks. He is in the limelight. By his ministry he is influencing others in many different ways. A message that deals with sin can produce that hard cold look. The position on contemporary issues can do the same. Opposition to the pastor’s program will register the ice in the faces. The wealthy often expect favoritism to their views. I have witnessed it. I’ve been there, done that, and it is not a happy experience. As a pastor I lived by this verse in Proverbs: “To have respect of persons is not good: for for a piece of bread that man will transgress. (Proverbs 28:21)