Fearing men and not God
Now it came to pass, when they had heard all the words, they were afraid both one and other, and said unto Baruch, We will surely tell the king of all these words. . . . Yet they were not afraid, nor rent their garments, neither the king, nor any of his servants that heard all these words. Jeremiah 36:16, 24
The context of these verses is the reading of the scroll that contained the prophet Jeremiah's words of warning from God to a recalcitrant nation. In the first instance, these men were afraid of what the king might think of these words. In the second instance, the king and his servants were hearing the words of the scroll read, and yet they did not fear the warning of judgment or heed the call to repentance. In the first instance, the fear was directed toward men, whereas in the second instance the lack of fear was directed toward God.
How inappropriate this is, and yet how easily we all fall into this trap. And it is a terrible trap to fall into because this is the surest way to moral cowardice. This is what happened in Jeremiah's day, but it happens in every age. We are too apt to think that safety is best secured by being as inoffensive as possible with our fellow man. (Not that we are to be purposefully antagonistic! But that is another post.)
Instead of this, we ought to fear, not man, but God. We ought to trust, not man, but God. Let men do their worst; those who are faithful to the Lord will come out well in the end. As Spurgeon put it, at the height of the Downgrade Controversy, "I am willing to be eaten of the dogs for the next fifty years, but the more distant future will vindicate me." God will always vindicate his servants. The prophet Jeremiah himself is an example of this. God blessed him and kept him, despite the numerous and powerful enemies that beset him all around.
Do you truly want to be safe? You will not find it by fearing and pleasing men but by trusting in God. Let us hear the wise words of the proverb: "The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe" (Prov. 29:25).