The Fear of Man & Willful Ignorance

The fear of man causes God’s people to ignore the truth about the condition of their own souls.

Willful Ignorance (noun) – The practice or act of intentional and blatant avoidance, disregard or disagreement with facts, empirical evidence and well-founded arguments because they oppose or contradict your own existing personal beliefs.

I recommend a short prayer to you…

Lord Jesus, your Word says that you require me to embrace truth inwardly.  Your Word says that it’s wise for me to understand the consequences of my actions, the motive behind my actions and the impact my actions have on other people.  Lord Jesus, release me from the fear of men and give me the power to face the condition of my inner soul in light of the Word of God.

Bless you and thanks for taking time to read this blog.  Today’s article will no doubt contain tough subject matter.  However, if you read the bible with the intent of growing in your relationship with God, you’ve encountered tough subject matter before.  My prayer is that each person would read this article with the condition of their own soul in mind.  By condition of our soul I mean how in tune we are with what Jesus requires of us right now.  Not ten years ago, not ten days ago…but right now.

Before we dig into the Word of God, I have a question I want you to consider.  You can find the definition of willful ignorance at the top of this article.

How does God feel about people who are willfully ignorant?

Let’s take a look at the life of King Saul.  Before we do that, let’s look at some principals concerning willful ignorance.

Brethren, do not be children [immature] in your thinking; continue to be babes in [matters of] evil, but in your minds be mature [men].

I Corinthians 14:20 (AMP)

The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception.

Proverbs 14:8 (NIV)

Indeed, I was born guilty. I was a sinner when my mother conceived me.  Yet, you desire truth and sincerity. Deep down inside me you teach me wisdom.

Psalm 51:5-6 (GW)

As I evaluate my own spiritual development and look across the landscape of the Christians in my immediate environment, I am astonished by the number of people who willfully ignore the reality of their internal and external circumstances.  As though ignoring the reality of the circumstance will somehow make it go away.  We even attempt to convince ourselves and others that NOT acknowledging the reality of a circumstance is somehow a demonstration of great faith.  Our look at the life of King Saul will reveal that one reason God’s people willfully ignore reality is the fear of man.

The verses I chose above clearly give witness to the fact that God does not expect us to ignore reality and only present him with a positive version of reality.  Actually on the contrary, it’s crystal clear that God wants us to be transparently honest about our circumstances when bringing them to Him.

The challenge I want to address in this article is how God handles those who choose to be willfully ignorant of their own spiritual condition and the circumstances they find themselves in.

Now let’s take a look at the willful ignorance of the very first King God placed over His people; Israel.

God Calls Saul

  • When Samuel caught sight of Saul, the LORD said to him, “This is the man I spoke to you about; he will govern my people.”  1 Samuel 9:17 (NIV)

Saul Doubts His Self-Worth

  • Saul answered, “But am I not a Benjamite, from the smallest tribe of Israel, and is not my clan the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why do you say such a thing to me?”   1 Samuel 9:21 (NIV)

God Anoints Saul

  • Then Samuel took a flask of olive oil and poured it on Saul’s head and kissed him, saying, “Has not the LORD anointed you ruler over his inheritance?   1 Samuel 10:1 (NIV)

God Transforms Saul

  • As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day.  1 Samuel 10:9 (NIV)

God Uses Saul

  • When he and his servant arrived at Gibeah, a procession of prophets met him; the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he joined in their prophesying.  1 Samuel 10:10 (NIV)

Saul Hides from God

  • So they inquired further of the LORD, “Has the man come here yet?” And the LORD said, “Yes, he has hidden himself among the supplies.”  1 Samuel 10:22 (NIV)

Saul Operates Under the Anointing

  • When Saul heard their words, the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he burned with anger.  He took a pair of oxen, cut them into pieces, and sent the pieces by messengers throughout Israel, proclaiming, “This is what will be done to the oxen of anyone who does not follow Saul and Samuel.” Then the terror of the LORD fell on the people, and they came out together as one.  1 Samuel 11:6-7(NIV)

Saul Takes Credit for a Victory Won by Jonathan

  • Jonathan attacked the Philistine outpost at Geba, and the Philistines heard about it. Then Saul had the trumpet blown throughout the land and said, “Let the Hebrews hear!” So all Israel heard the news: “Saul has attacked the Philistine outpost, and now Israel has become obnoxious to the Philistines.” And the people were summoned to join Saul at Gilgal.  1 Samuel 13:3-4 (NIV)

Saul has 2,000 Men

  • Saul chose three thousand men from Israel; two thousand were with him at Mikmash and in the hill country of Bethel, and a thousand were with Jonathan at Gibeah in Benjamin. The rest of the men he sent back to their homes.  1 Samuel 13:2 (NIV)

Saul’s First Act of Disobedience (highlighting emphasis mine)

  • Some Hebrews even crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear. He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter. So he said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.” And Saul offered up the burnt offering.  Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him. “What have you done?” asked Samuel. Saul replied, “When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Mikmash, I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the LORD’s favor.’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.”   “You have done a foolish thing,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time.  But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the LORD’s command.”  1 Samuel 13:7-14 (NIV)

Saul’s First Act of Disobedience Causes a Split in His Defense Forces (highlighting emphasis mine)

  • Then Samuel left Gilgal and went up to Gibeah in Benjamin, and Saul counted the men who were with him. They numbered about six hundred.  1 Samuel 13:15 (NIV)

God Gives Saul an Opportunity for Obedience

  • Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’ ”  1 Samuel 15:3 (NIV)

Saul Disobeys God Again Because of Fear and the People Follow His Example

  • But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.  1 Samuel 15:9 (NIV)

God Rejects Saul

  • Then the word of the LORD came to Samuel: “I regret that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” Samuel was angry, and he cried out to the LORD all that night.  1 Samuel 15:10-11 (NIV)

Saul Is Willfully Ignorant Concerning His Disobedience

  • When Samuel reached him, Saul said, “The LORD bless you! I have carried out the LORD’s instructions.”  1 Samuel 15:13 (NIV)

Saul Is Willfully Ignorant of Why He Disobeyed God

  • Saul answered, “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the LORD your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.”  1 Samuel 15:15 (NIV)

Saul Denies His Disobedience a Second Time

  • Why did you not obey the LORD? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the LORD?” “But I did obey the LORD,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the LORD your God at Gilgal.”

Saul Acknowledges His Sin of Fearing Man (highlighting emphasis mine)!

  • Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated the LORD’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the men and so I gave in to them.  Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship the LORD.”   1 Samuel 15:24-25 (NIV)

Samuel Reveals the Will of God Concerning Saul’s Kingship

  • But Samuel said to him, “I will not go back with you. You have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you as king over Israel!”  1 Samuel 15:26 (NIV)

Saul’s Request Reveals That the Fear of Man, not His Relationship with God, Drives His Decisions (highlighting emphasis mine)

  • Saul replied, “I have sinned. But please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel; come back with me, so that I may worship the LORD your God.”  1 Samuel 15:30 (NIV)


Self-Evaluation Questions

  1. When confronted with wrongdoing, do you immediately get defensive?
  2. Are you free to admit the mistakes you make in the presence of others?
  3. Do you regularly evaluate your actions, your motivations and their effect on others?
  4. Do you avoid confrontation when the topic of conversation is something wrong that you did?
  5. Do you regularly talk with God about your weaknesses?
  6. Does correction cause feelings of pain?


Saul’s kingship was a tragic series of willfully ignorant acts by Saul all driven by what other people thought about him.  In the eyes of King Saul the praise of men was more important than God’s approval, which is the ultimate goal of the demonic spirits that promote this type of fear.  The only solution to this type of fear is a willingness to allow the Holy Spirit of God to identify issues in our soul instead of willfully ignoring them.  He never stops to evaluate his own behavior in light of God’s instruction.

Please notice the fact that Saul seemingly could not see the sin he was committing even though the Spirit of Truth was on him.  In addition, even after he admitted the sin, his priority was still focused on what the elders and others thought about him, not how he offended God through his disobedience.  I encourage you to pause for a second and embrace the impact of this truth.  Even though we are called, anointed and maybe even appointed by God, if we choose to willfully ignore the operation of the fear of man in our lives, we run the risk of being rejected by God.

It’s funny, even though the average Christian will tell you Jesus died for their sins, they still find it hard to go boldly to God when convicted of sin.  Why is this true?  The answer is simple and profound.  In I Samuel 15:30 we see Saul reveal truth concerning the fact that even though God called him, God anointed him and God appointed him as King, Saul never cultivated his personal relationship with God.  He only knew God through Samuel’s relationship to God.  The fear of man was the barrier keeping Saul from knowing the God the called him.

Think with me for a moment.  If the fear of man is a work of darkness, and it is, what would be the most successful strategy to keep people locked in this cycle?  I suggest constantly attempting to “DO” things to ensure people are happy with us is the very strategy the enemy uses to keep God’s people bound in the same cycle King Saul was locked in.

In my walk with God, I’ve discovered there’s only one way to break free of this type of bondage.  That one way is facing the fear by willingly looking into our own souls, through the mirror of the Word of God, with the full intent of allowing God to reveal the darkness within us.

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;  2 Timothy 1:7-8 (KJV)

I recommend a short prayer to you…

Lord Jesus, your Word says that you require me to embrace truth inwardly.  Your Word says that it’s wise for me to understand the consequences of my actions, the motive behind my actions and the impact my actions have on other people.  Lord Jesus, release me from the fear of men and give me the power to face the condition of my inner soul in light of the Word of God.