I wondered at first whether to include this verse because it didn’t show up in the keyword search for a couple of the versions. But it clearly states, “Do not be afraid…” Moses is speaking here in his farewell address as he recalls all that transpired during his time of leading the Israelites through their desert wanderings. This section’s heading is “The Appointment of Leaders.” God had blessed them and “increased their numbers” so that Moses could not govern by himself. So he took “leading men,…wise and respected men” and gave them authority as commanders and officials over thousands, then hundreds, fifties, and down to groups of ten. What a great model for business, management, the church, etc. Clearly, God’s design for His people is for order and shared responsibility among leaders.
This “fear not” directive, however, was spoken specifically to the judges, to those who handled disputes (imagine camping out with a million unhappy people in the desert with no place to turn, no boundaries or designated homes – inevitable quarrels and arguments!). Because God cares about human relationships, He provided a chain of command for them and wise leaders to help them get along. He also cares about each individual, as evidenced in Moses’ instructions, “Do not show partiality in judging; hear both small and great alike.” Concern for society and concern for the individual, regardless of status.
“Do not be afraid of any man, for judgment belongs to God.” This could be understood as both an encouragement and a warning. As leaders, you answer to God. He is the final authority. And this is also why you need not fear what “any man” has to say. You have an audience of one, so to speak, and He is behind you, supporting you, and directing you. Judgment for all men, leaders and followers alike, ultimately belongs to Him. What a wise and awesome God we serve!