Posts Tagged 'fear'

Futility of Fear, 7

What's yours?

What’s yours?

2 Kings 6:16

“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” (2 Kings 6:16 NIV84)

This “don’t be a afraid” is for anybody who feels overwhelmed by any forces arrayed against them. Maybe this describes you sometimes. Have you ever felt stymied by some bureaucracy when all you wanted to do was make a few extra dollars? Or maybe you tried to do something recently that was a breeze a few years ago but now it hurts so much you have to stop. Or maybe your situation is far more serious. God’s Word to anybody facing any “enemy” is simply, “don’t be afraid.”

The incident in 2 Kings where God told Elisha’s servant to not be afraid follows the case of the floating axe head.

The man of God asked, “Where did it fall?” When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it there, and made the iron float. “Lift it out,” he said. Then the man reached out his hand and took it. (2 Kings 6:6-7 NIV84)

Miracles followed Elisha around like a lost puppy. This man of God walked and worked in the power of God. It may seem almost impossible to believe that an iron axe head can float, but with God, nothing is impossible.

This particular miracle has never been repeated, but the incident that follows it is as up-to-date as tomorrow’s headlines.

An age-old conflict

Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel. After conferring with his officers, he said, “I will set up my camp in such and such a place.” (2 Kings 6:8 NIV84)

Aram, or Syria, had been harassing Israel with intermittent warfare and guerrilla raids. Yes, they’ve been going at it for a long time over there. Even during this period of Hebrew history, this conflict was a very old one. What we see happening in the Middle East today – the tension between Israel and the Arab world – can be traced back to the dim days of the Old Testament.

Time and time again the Israelite king and his armies were delivered from these ambushes because of Elisha’s intervention. By divine revelation, Elisha always knew when and where the Aramean army was and what they were planning.

The man of God sent word to the king of Israel: “Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there.” So the king of Israel checked on the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places. (2 Kings 6:9-10 NIV84)

These constant defeats really frustrated the Aramean king and he came to, what was for him, the obvious conclusion: there just had to be a spy in his camp.

This enraged the king of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, “Will you not tell me which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?” (2 Kings 6:11 NIV84)

Unbelievers will never come to the correct conclusion concerning the work of God. They will always try to find “the logical answer” to God’s miraculous ways, and the logical answer is almost always the wrong answer when it comes to God’s miraculous ways.

Danger for Elisha

“None of us, my lord the king,” said one of his officers, “but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom.” (2 Kings 6:12 NIV84)

How about that Elisha! He even had the king’s bedroom bugged! That’s the “logical answer,” but of course we know the truth: God was revealing the king’s plans to His prophet. We’re not told how or why this officer knew the truth, but it may well be that Elisha’s aid to Israelite king Jehoram was not exactly the best kept secret at this time.

What’s the king to do? He’ll eliminate the problem.

“Go, find out where he is,” the king ordered, “so I can send men and capture him.” The report came back: “He is in Dothan.” (2 Kings 6:13 NIV84)

Elisha was staying in Dothan, a strategic town located some dozen miles north of Samaria, and about 60 miles north of Jerusalem. This town was the prophet’s headquarters, so it’s not like he was hiding out. The Aramean king took action and his forces surrounded Dothan. He took Elisha’s ongoing threat seriously, deploying the whole army to get this one man.

When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked. “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” (2 Kings 6:15-16 NIV84)

And who wouldn’t be afraid after seeing the great Aramean army? Elisha and his servant were just two men, by themselves, facing the host of the Arameans. That makes Elisha’s epic answer all the more powerful – the servant had absolutely nothing to fear because, in the prophet’s words, “those who were with them were more than those who were against them.” The question is an obvious: just who was with them?  Who’s my boss talking about?  Can you imagine the servant looking around for those whom Elisha referred to? Of course, there was nobody there.

That’s what it looked like, anyway. But Christians can’t always believe their eyes!

We live by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7 NIV84)

Elisha’s servant was about to learn how true Paul’s statement is!

And Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6:17 NIV84)

What passed through this servant’s mind when he saw the hosts of God all around them? For a moment he was given a glimpse into the spirit world. The Aramean king had planned an ambush but God had planned his own! Again, Paul puts this in perspective for us:

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31 NIV84)

Indeed. Only the most arrogant, ignorant of people would dare stand in the way of a believer doing the work of God! No wonder Elisha told his servant to not to be afraid. Why fear any man when God has surrounded you with the army of heaven?

Standard operating procedure?

When we read stories like this, we naturally wonder: Is this how God always works? You’ve probably met Christians that claim remarkable deliverances like this one in 2 Kings. These Christians experience deliverances from things like poverty when they receive an anonymous check in the mail, or deliverances from an empty gas tank when a stranger offers to fill it up for them, or deliverances from sickness by a miracle. You get the idea. The rest of us who never had these experiences wonder, Are we that out of touch with God? How do we explain the miraculous leadings and deliverances some believers claim to have experienced? The answer lies in Dothan.

Dothan is mentioned only two times in Scripture. The other time is in Genesis 37–

“They have moved on from here,” the man answered. “I heard them say, ‘Let’s go to Dothan.’ ”So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him. (Genesis 37:17-18 NIV84)

It was in Dothan that Joseph was sold into slavery – a fate worse than death. Dr. McGee comments:

It was a living hell to be sold into slavery, yet that is what is happening to this boy of 17.

Seems terribly unfair, doesn’t it? Joseph, a young man, blessed by God with dreams and visions, trapped by his scurrilous, no account brothers and sold into slavery. Where were the chariots of fire for Joseph? Where was God’s army?

Remember, we can’t always believe our eyes. Just because it didn’t look like they were around Joseph didn’t mean they weren’t. When we study the life of Joseph from this point on, we can see the hand of God on it. In fact, in some ways, you can see God working more in the life of Joseph than in Elisha’s! Certainly in terms of the flash and sizzle, Elisha had it all over Joseph. But God did remarkable things in and through Joseph without the flash and sizzle. So much so Joseph was able to say this to his brothers:

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. (Genesis 50:20 NIV84)

No miraculous deliverance for Joseph, yet he kept on keeping on – he stayed faithful to his God despite his sometimes awful circumstances. In the end, though, he prevailed and was blessed mightily.  And because he did, so did the nation of Israel.

So you see, at Dothan God was there with Joseph just as He was with Elisha, just in a different way.

Blinded by the Light

It wasn’t over yet. Elisha prayed for his servant’s eyes to be opened, and now he prayed for the reverse to happen to the Arameans:

As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, “Strike these people with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked. (2 Kings 6:18 NIV84)

We don’t usually think of praying things like that, but Elisha did, and God answered it. He blinded – temporarily – these soldiers and led them in the wrong direction!

After they entered the city, Elisha said, “Lord, open the eyes of these men so they can see.” Then the Lord opened their eyes and they looked, and there they were, inside Samaria. (2 Kings 6:20 NIV84)

God certainly has a sense of humor, doesn’t he? But His ways are not our ways, either. Instead of killing them, as surely as they would have killed Elisha, his servant, and any other Israelite they happened upon, mercy was shown:

“Do not kill them,” [Elisha] answered. “Would you kill men you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.” (2 Kings 6:22 NIV84)

There may be several reasons why these soldiers’ lives were spared. For one thing, Israel didn’t kill prisoners of war, so that’s how Elisha may have seen these men. Or it could be that Elisha was gently reminding the king that it was unlawful to kill soldiers not captured in battle. Or it may be that Elisha saw these men as being under God’s protection for the time being.

Whatever the reason, Elisha made sure these soldiers were well-fed and sent home safely. The result was nothing less than stunning:

…he sent them away, and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory. (2 Kings 6:23b NIV84)

Elisha ended this plague of skirmishes with kindness.

Even though Elisha was Israel’s prophet, he nonetheless showed that he was aware of and able to actually influence events on an international level by actually controlling what people saw.  He controlled their perspective.  His servant was paralyzed with fear until, through Elisha’s prayer, he was able to see God’s army all around them. The soldiers were a deadly threat until, again through Elisha’s prayer, they were blinded and rendered helpless. When, through Elisha’s prayer, they regained their sight, it led to peace.

Fear was a bad thing as far as Elisha’s servant was concerned because it was unfounded – there was absolutely no reason for him to fear. However, fear was a good thing for the soldiers to experience because it led to peace.

The Futility of Fear, 5

Encouragement for the Fearful

Isaiah 43:1

Alfred Hitchock was afraid of eggs.  We're not sure how he felt about showers.

Alfred Hitchock was afraid of eggs. We’re not sure how he felt about showers.

“Fear” is a strange thing, and it’s surprising what people fear. Dr. Samuel Johnson, for example, for all his intelligence and philosophy, was very careful to always enter a room right foot first. He was so obsessive about this, if he walked into a room left foot first, he would step back out, then walk back in right foot first. Strange fear, indeed. It was more than just a phobia. Dr. Johnson was also mortally afraid – terrified, really – of death, and he would forbid anybody discussing the topic where he could hear.

The great Julius Caesar, military genius and renowned warrior, was scared to death of thunder and always hid under a table or bed during a thunder storm! Surprising indeed.

One of the greatest motion picture directors of all time, nicknamed “the Master of Suspense,” whose movies kept spellbound audiences on the edge of their seats for decades, was absolutely afraid of eggs, especially eggs with runny yokes. Alfred Hitchcock, the man who made us all afraid of crop dusters, motel showers, birds, Albert Hall, telephones, and Mount Rushmore, was scared of eggs.

Walt Disney, the man who brought us Mickey Mouse, had an uncontrollable fear of – you guessed it – mice.

Hans Christian Andersen was fearful of being buried alive, so much so that he kept a sign hanging over his bed declaring that he wasn’t really dead, he just looked that way.

Bela Lugosi, who sky-rocketed to fame in the early 1930‘s as Dracula, was deathly afraid of blood. Interestingly enough, so was Bram Stoker, author of Dracula.

Peter the Great would sob and shake uncontrollably when crossing a bride, so fearful of bridges was he.

Yes, there is no shortage of things to be afraid of. The number “13“ frightens some people. Who knows why? It’s a number. Other people are afraid of black cats or of walking under ladder. Of course, these are superstitious fears, but fears nonetheless with no foundation in fact. In truth, most fears, superstitious or not, have no basis in fact. Sensible, right thinking people, should chase these irrational, ridiculous fears out of their lives, especially Christians. To these, the Lord has an encouraging word:

But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. (Isaiah 43:1 KJV)

Faith, not fear!

Fear is a serious issue even though we chuckle when we hear about Hitch’s fear of runny yokes. This is because fear is the opposite of faith. Christians are called to be faithful, not fearful. To restate it another way: Christians are called to be fearless. This doesn’t mean Christians are to live reckless lives in dangerous ways, but it does mean we don’t give credence to irrational fears. They may float into your head from time to time as random thoughts are want to do, but your faith in God should broom them out quickly.

You may have had the strange experience where a free floating fear took hold of your mind out of the blue, and all of a sudden a sense of dread covered you from head to toe. Fears of impending disaster or of coming sorrows or of some unnameable fear took root in your head for no apparent reason. Most of us have had that unwelcome experience, and if we dwell on those free floating fears too long and take them seriously, pretty soon we’re depressed, frustrated, and anxious.

Ever wonder where those crazy thoughts come from? Jesus gives us a clue:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10 NIV11)

Living a full, abundant life means living a fearless life, and that’s just not possible if fear is in control of your mind. The thief – Satan – is determined to make your life miserable, and his best tool is controlling your mind.

But God is gracious, and He understands how our minds work. That’s why He speaks the phrase: “Fear not” so often in His Word to us. Time and again the Lord speaks those quiet, encouraging words to us. It’s up to us to hear them, mind you, but He’s speaking; He’s reassuring us that He is aware of what’s happening in our minds and our lives, and fear is not really an option.

Context and Comfort

Isaiah 43 and 44 are important chapters in Isaiah’s book of prophecy because they are key in understanding Israel’s future. In spite of what some of our theologians teach, God is most assuredly not finished with Israel by any stretch of the imagination. In Romans, Paul posited the question:

Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. (Romans 11:1 NIV84)

God is nowhere near done with Israel, and that’s the whole point of this section of Isaiah. In verse 1, for example, God makes some astonishing claims:

But now, this is what the Lord says–he who created you, O Jacob,he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you;I have summoned you by name; you are mine. (Isaiah 43:1 NIV84)

God is speaking directly to a disheartened Israel, a nation riddled with fear and doubt. The first thing He wanted them to know is that He created them: “…he who formed you…” God is the one responsible for the creation of Israel. Only God could take a sorry specimen of humanity named Jacob and turn his descendants into a nation. Jacob’s name, if you’ll remember, means “crooked.” What God saw in Jacob is a mystery! But in His providence, the Lord took this crooked man’s progeny and made them into a great nation that no tyrant has been able to exterminate.

God made you, too. He took the dirt you walk on, and breathed life into it and it became a living soul. That first human being didn’t appreciate his origins and soon took his life in his own hands and tried to live his own way and he failed miserably. This is Adam’s beginning, and it is also your beginning.

Surely I was sinful at birth,sinful from the time my mother conceived me. (Psalms 51:5 NIV84)

David wrote that about himself, but he could just as easily have written it about you. We’re all born sinners because we possess an evil legacy. We’re no better than Adam. We have his sinful, rebellious nature and there’s not a thing we can do about our dreadfully lost condition.

But now, God makes sons of God out of people like you; people who have put their faith in Jesus Christ. God recreates those who trust in Him. So you see, God is still in the creation business!

Starting with crooked old Jacob, God created a special nation, Israel. But, like Adam, Israel became a rebellious nation and got themselves into trouble. And so God, as He said through the prophet Isaiah, redeemed them; that is, He bought them back from their troubles. He redeemed them from Egypt and put them in their own land and they truly became a nation with a homeland. They belong to Him because He made them and He purchased them.

Jesus Christ, God’s only Son did the very same thing for sinners. He literally purchased us – bought us – from our empty, sinful lives by His very blood.

He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:12 NIV84)

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (1 Peter 1:18, 19 NIV84)

Isn’t it amazing? What God told Israel He would do for them, He also fulfilled in us, the Church. Of course, there are some very specific promises only for the nation of Israel, but there are definite parallels in the ideas of our special creation and redemption. This we share with God’s people. But we also share something else: deliverance.

Divine deliverance

When you pass through the waters,I will be with you;and when you pass through the rivers,they will not sweep over you.When you walk through the fire,you will not be burned;the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God,the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. (Isaiah 43:2-3 NIV84)

In these verses, our Lord gently reminds Israel of how He delivered them out of the land of Egypt. God did this for Israel; He did not do it for you. And yet, these verses do apply to Christians. Think about this:

Deliverance from Death

These verses in Isaiah 43 are most often read at funerals, and for good reason. Fear of death is the one fear most human beings have in common. Death is certain, no matter what kind of food you eat, how much you exercise, how many vitamins you swallow, or how positively you think about things! Nobody can avoid death, but for the Christian, fear should not be attached to the idea of departing this world.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23 (NIV84)

Deliverance from Bondage

Israel was delivered from their awful Egyptian bondage. It wasn’t just the hard work God saved them from; He set them free! The Hebrews were never meant to be living in Egypt on a permanent basis. God had something better for them – a land flowing with milk and honey. They needed to be set free so that they could experience God’s will to the fullest.

Christian, you may feel like the Hebrews did in Egypt. You may feel like God has something better in store for you; you are saved, and yet in your heart of hearts, you know there’s something God wants you to do – a life He wants you to live. If you’re not at the moment, this could be form of bondage to you, but God will lead you out of it into that “abundant life” the Bible talks about, if you’d let Him.

You may be serving the Lord today but are discouraged because there is sin in your life that you just can’t seem to get a handle on. That’s a very real bondage that God can deliver you out of, if you’d let Him!  God is still in the deliverance business just as surely as He is in the recreation business!

Deliverance from penury

When the Hebrews left Egypt, they carried off the wealth of that nation with them, as the Lord told them to! God provided for them in astonishing ways. God provides for you, too. Without Christ in our lives, we were spiritually bankrupt with no prospects and no opportunities in sight. But God came in and met our needs, gave us hope and confidence, and opened doors. Part of redemption is provision, spiritual and otherwise.

That’s a real fear many people have; fear of want or of need. Fear of poverty and of lack. God cares for the whole you; the immaterial you and the material you.

And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19 NIV84)

There are all kinds of fears floating around us. Some could be helpful; they keep us from walking into oncoming traffic or from getting too close to the edge. But most fears are truly futile – a waste of time because they are either irrational, have no basis in reality, or they have already been addressed and dealt with by God on the Cross of His only Son. Why fear when you don’t have to?

egg fear

Futility of Fear, 3



Isaiah 43

Israel, the LORD who created you says, “Do not be afraid—I will save you.I have called you by name—you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1 GNTCE)

The work of Christ on the Cross was for everybody. Now, it’s true that not everybody will benefit for His work – that pesky free will comes into play here – but without regard to our Calvinist friends and our Arminian friends, the Bible clearly indicates that Jesus died for the sins of all sinners. Here is just a sampling of Bible verses that teach this wonderful fact:

For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life. (John 3:16 GNTCE)

This is good and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to know the truth. (1 Timothy 2:3-4 GNTCE)

But we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, so that through God’s grace he should die for everyone. We see him now crowned with glory and honor because of the death he suffered. (Hebrews 2:9 GNTCE)

And Christ himself is the means by which our sins are forgiven, and not our sins only, but also the sins of everyone. (1 John 2:2 GNTCE)

There will be suffering and pain for all those who do what is evil, for the Jews first and also for the Gentiles. But God will give glory, honor, and peace to all who do what is good, to the Jews first and also to the Gentiles. (Romans 2:9-10 GNTCE)

There are many, many more verses throughout both Testaments that teach that our Lord died for the sins of all sinners, bar none. We’ll leave the debate on election and predestination to the theological eggheads and stick to the Biblical text.

The fact that our Lord’s work was done on behalf of all sinners and may benefit “all who call upon His name” ought to be a comfort to all sinners, everywhere. Yet there are those who, for whatever reason, feel as though they are beyond help; beyond redemption. There are some who think they are so bad – or the life they lived so heinous – that God wouldn’t waste His time saving them.

Is this possible? Are there sinners that God wouldn’t waste the time or effort in saving? Is a lost soul correct in thinking that there may be salvation for some, but not for him? The answer lies in something Isaiah said to his people:

Israel, the LORD who created you says, “Do not be afraid—I will save you.I have called you by name—you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1 GNTCE)

One old-time Bible scholar remarked concerning this verse:

The more one ponders over this “fear not,” the more pregnant it seems with meaning.

He lives, “I have found you…”

God was addressing His people, Israel, but the stunning thing about this verse is the very first thing God says: “I have found you.” God was using the personal pronoun: He does exist; He is real and He is alive! A “nebulous nothing” or a cold, impersonal force doesn’t say, “I.” Israel at the time they may have read what Isaiah wrote here, was dispersed, discouraged, and depressed. They needed not only to hear the encouraging message, but they needed to know it was God Himself addressing the PERSONALLY!

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, also speaks personally to all who would hear Him – those with ears to hear:

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never die. No one can snatch them away from me. (John 10:27-28 GNTCE)

Jesus Christ, the God-Man who died for the sins of all men, speaks to us today, and we will hear Him if we are listening to Him. That’s the thing about our Lord: He never forces Himself on anybody. Granted, He works tirelessly in the background calling sinners into a relationship with Himself:

When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to me.” (John 12:32 GNTCE)

There’s that word again: everyone. Our Lord’s call goes out to everyone, but not everyone is listening; not everyone will hear. Only some; only some will hear and respond.

God exists, Jesus is alive, and the Holy Spirit is working in the world today; working on the hearts of sinners, calling them to salvation. He’s also speaking to your heart today, if you are a believer:

God’s Spirit joins himself to our spirits to declare that we are God’s children. Romans 8:16 GNTCE)

He is near, Hebrews 3:15 

This is what the scripture says: “If you hear God’s voice today, do not be stubborn, as your ancestors were when they rebelled against God.” (Hebrews 3:15 GNTCE)

So, God is real and God is alive. God is calling to sinners to Himself; some will respond but many will not. And He speaks to believers all the time. God is speaking to His children. God spoke to the Israelites constantly – through His prophets and His Word. When they paid attention and listened, they prospered. When they didn’t – when they were “stubborn” – they were in a state of rebellion against God and suffered the consequences.

When a sinner refuses to listen to the call of God, he remains a sinner and is lost. When a believer stubbornly refuses to listen to God’s voice, he is, whether he realizes it or not or whether he intended it or not, in rebellion against God! Is that the act of a sane person? Would somebody in their right mind go against the God who pursued them, called them, and died for them? We may excuse the hard-hearted sinner who has never experienced God, but what excuse does a child of God have?

God is near; He speaks, He doesn’t shout or yell or shriek. He simply speaks.

“Here is my servant, whom I have chosen,the one I love, and with whom I am pleased.I will send my Spirit upon him, and he will announce my judgment to the nations. He will not argue or shout, or make loud speeches in the streets.” (Matthew 12:18c-19 GNTCE)

Yes, Jesus is near and He is still speaking, still pursuing saint and sinner alike.

He Knows me, Psalm 139

LORD, you have examined me and you know me. You know everything I do; from far away you understand all my thoughts. (Psalms 139:1-2 GNTCE)

Psalm 139 could be the most theological psalm ever. Read it and you will learn about three of God’s attributes: His omniscience (all knowing); His omnipresence (everywhere, all the time); and His omnipotence (all powerful).

The first few verses of this marvelous psalm speak about the undeniable fact that God knows YOU. God is the great Heavenly psychologist. No problem is beyond His understanding. There is no solution to a problem that God cannot provide to one He knows and loves.

The thing about God’s knowledge is that it is perfect. God knows the words you will say before you do. In fact, God not only knows your words but He knows the thoughts and intents behind those words. He knows your secret thoughts. Does that frighten you? Maybe it should, if you think you are keeping thoughts from Him.

You are all around me on every side; you protect me with your power. (Psalms 139:5 GNTCE)

In the Hebrew, the first part of that verse means that the psalmist saw himself “hemmed in” by God. Moffatt translates it like this:

Thou art on every side, behind me and before, laying thy hand on me.

Indeed. That’s how it is with all believers. By virtue of His Son, we warrant God’s care and concern. Do you know what that means? God knows the real you. He knows your heart. He knows your weaknesses. When you stumble along the way, God still loves you; He is still on your side. He will always comes down in your favor, if you love Him and are loyal to Him. When God looks at you, He sees His Son!

You created every part of me; you put me together in my mother’s womb. (Psalms 139:13 (GNTCE)

Think about what that means. God made all people, and therefore He has a plan and a purpose for all people. But only a believer may fulfill God’s good purpose. This is something that cuts both ways. For you, if you are a believer, God’s purpose is a wonderful blessing, both for you and others. Your purpose includes, ultimately, a place in Heaven with Him. But for the unbeliever, God’s purpose is eternal separation from Him.

I praise you because you are to be feared; all you do is strange and wonderful.I know it with all my heart. (Psalms 139:14 GNTCE)

The psalmist is obviously a believer; he is obviously close to God. Knowing how well God knows him and how much He is concerned with him, the psalmist responds in the only appropriate way: praise. That should be our response, too. We see God everywhere; we experience His grace all the time. But the believer should know something else: he was made by God. Deep down inside, a believer knows how special he is. He is unique in all the universe. He was personally put together by God.

He longs for you, Isaiah 43:4

I will give up whole nations to save your life,because you are precious to me and because I love you and give you honor. (Isaiah 43:4 GNTCE)

Of course, God is speaking to Israel through His prophet. But remember, God’s Word is eternal and there is an application of every passage. God calls us all by name, too; He knows us all as well as He knew Israel. Think about this:

As for you, even the hairs of your head have all been counted. (Matthew 10:30 GNTCE)

He longs for you so much, He knows every detail about you, even the number of hairs you have on your head. He calls you by name. He pursued you and continues to walk with you. He wants to be your friend. He desires to become your chief advisor. He has plans for you and you belong to Him.

“They are my own people, and I created them to bring me glory.” (Isaiah 43:7 GNTCE)

“They,” “my own,” and “I created them” all point to one inescapable conclusion: God has a vested interest in His people. In fact, we could go even farther and say that if you are a Christian, then you belong to Him! Don’t believe it? Here is the apostle Paul said about this very topic:

Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and who was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourselves but to God; he bought you for a price. So use your bodies for God’s glory. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 GNTCE)

What’s true for Israel is NOT always true for the Church, but in this case it is. We who are part of the Body of Christ belong in totality to God. He bought us. He owns us. And yet, in spite of that very fact, some Christians stubbornly refuse to live in fellowship with Him. So His longing goes on.  God called you, sought you out, He pursued you, He saved you, and He has taken up residence in you. What more evidence of His love for you do you need? Who wouldn’t want to have fellowship with a God that did all that for them?

What does God want? He wants sinners saved and He wants to be in fellowship with His children.


The Futility of Fear, 2


Help Is On the Way!

Isaiah 35:2

Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.  (Isaiah 35:4  KJV)

Anybody with a car can appreciate this “fear not.”  No, they didn’t have cars in Isaiah’s day and cars have nothing to do with the context of this, our second “Fear Not.”  If you’ve ever run out of gas or gotten a flat tire miles from home, you know what it feels like when a friendly, helpful person stops to offer you a hand, and thanks to their intervention, you were on your way.  Even in our rushed, paranoid, cold world, there are people who don’t mind helping others, and we who have been the beneficiaries of their generosity are thankful.

We’ll look at the context of Isaiah 35 in a moment, but let your eyes take in verse 2.  Can you appreciate what’s being said in it?  There was no need for Isaiah’s people to be fearful.  On the contrary, they could be strong and courageous because God was on their side.  It was just a matter of time before He would arrive with help enough to save them.

We often grow impatient with our Lord when the rough times persist.  We wonder how He can let us suffer for so long if He loves us so much.  Even though these ancient words were intended for other ears, we can learn something very important that will make our lives a little easier.

A look at context

A promise for the future

This is a prophecy of the future – the far future.  Isaiah paints a beautiful picture of a wonderful future for the righteous in “the day of The Lord.”  That Old Testament phrase refers to two aspects of the future; a time of both judgment and salvation.  For the righteous, the people of God, there will ultimately be salvation.  Isaiah used his considerable talents to encourage a discouraged people by assuring them that one day God’s people would return to their city; that they would be happy and redeemed.  God hadn’t abandoned them nor had He forgotten them.

Even the wilderness and desert will rejoice in those days; the desert will blossom with flowers.  Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy! The deserts will become as green as the Lebanon mountains, as lovely as Mount Carmels pastures and Sharons meadows; for the Lord will display his glory there, the excellency of our God.  (Isaiah 35:1, 2  TLB)

Naturally this is poetry.  The Greeks wrote about “the music of the spheres” and in Job, this is how God described the creation of the world:

What supports its foundations, and who laid its cornerstone as the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?  (Job 38:6, 7  TLB)

Yes, the glory of the Lord causes both man and his environment to rejoice and to sing His praises.  Nothing else; no one else is capable of doing this.  The knowledge and the presence of God is what causes all creation to experience joy.  It’s unfortunate that so many Christians seem to miss out on this joy.  For believers, the source of our joy is in God, yet how much time and energy – not to mention money – do we expend looking for it elsewhere?  We are a restless people; always looking for something we already possess!

Hope for the present

With this news bring cheer to all discouraged ones.  Encourage those who are afraid. Tell them, “Be strong, fear not, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you.”  (Isaiah 35:3, 4  TLB)

This chapter in Isaiah was written with a very discouraged people in mind.  God’s people reading this were strangers in a strange land; dispersed all over the Babylonian Empire.  Some were facing the long trek back to Jerusalem, which was in rubble.

This was the reality.  Yes, the future looked wonderful but what about the present?  How would God’s people deal with the present misery and fear that had gripped the hearts of so many?  Fear is a debilitating affliction. It can manifest itself all over the body:

And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind and unstop the ears of the deaf. The lame man will leap up like a deer, and those who could not speak will shout and sing!  (Isaiah 35:5, 6  TLB)

Everybody’s “real life” falls far short of what Heaven will be like.  Sometimes “real life” obscures God’s promises of our future.  We are not so far removed from these ancient Israelites.  Their problems aren’t ours, but what God promised Israel applies to believers in any age and in any location!  The sense of Isaiah’s words is this:  How can Israel fear since the Lord is near and will defend them and fight for them?  That’s a message for any Christian facing any difficulties:  get your eyes on the eternal, almighty Sovereign of the Universe!  Imagine that!  He is on YOUR side!  As one Bible scholar put it:

Vengeance is His prerogative.  Recompense is His retribution.  Salvation is His deliverance!

He saved Israel; He will save you, too.  It doesn’t matter what your “enemy” may be, God is more than able to deal with it.  Your enemy could be your health, your finances, your emotions, your job, maybe your mind.  God will cause you to be the overcomer you are promised to be.

What deliverance looks like

The beauty and value of these verses is that they show us what Biblical deliverance looks like.  Throughout Isaiah’s big book of prophecy, we read a lot about spiritual  blindness and deafness and the promise that one day, our “spiritual” infirmities will be healed.  That in itself will be a monumental day.  Can you imagine seeing God clearly; unfiltered by the filth and pollution of our sinful world?  Or how about hearing God’s voice with crystal clarity without having to block out all those other voices?  That will be a great day!  Deliverance looks like that.  The great thing about God’s deliverance is that no child of God has to wait until he’s physically dead, or until the Lord returns to experience it!  Right now, in our sin-cursed world, all saints of God are able to experience at least glimpses of our ultimate spiritual deliverance.  And that itself is cause for cheer!

But the New Testament alludes to what Isaiah wrote here and takes it literally.

The two disciples found Jesus while he was curing many sick people of their various diseases—healing the lame and the blind and casting out evil spirits. When they asked him Johns question, this was his reply: “Go back to John and tell him all you have seen and heard here today: how those who were blind can see. The lame are walking without a limp. The lepers are completely healed. The deaf can hear again. The dead come back to life. And the poor are hearing the Good News.  And tell him, ‘Blessed is the one who does not lose his faith in me.’ ”  (Luke 7:22 – 23  TLB)

John the Baptist was in prison and was losing heart.  Freedom for him, John knew, was a thing of the past.  In a moment of doubt he wondered if the Man he heralded as the Messiah really was or not.  Jesus got word back to Him that he was right:  Jesus was truly the Messiah and the Kingdom had come.  Evidence of that fact was all the physical healings and spiritual ones.  But note the last sentence:

Blessed is the one who does not lose his faith in me.

Jesus knows it’s not easy holding onto your faith and that’s why there is special blessing reserved for those who don’t lose it.  Some of you reading this may be feeling like John the Baptist did while he was sitting in his prison cell.  Your prison may not be a literal one, but perhaps your faith is waning; things you used to believe you now wonder about as real life has beat you down with one defeat after another.  God’s Word to you is a simple one:  HOLD ON!  Keep your faith.  Help is on the way!

God makes a way

Isaiah 35:8 is the a jewel; a focal point of the the whole chapter.  Translated from the Greek version of the Old Testament, it looks like this:

There shall be a clean way and it shall be called a holy way, and there shall by no means pass over there anything  unclean, neither shall be there an unclean way.  But the dispersed ones shall proceed upon it, and they shall in no wise be deceived [caused to err].

Remember, Isaiah 35 is a prophecy about the future of Israel.  They are the dispersed ones; they are the ones scattered all over, miles from home.  Essentially Isaiah’s  message was for the Babylonian exiles; the ones who would be making the long trip back home to Jerusalem to resettle it and rebuild it.  But it’s also a far reaching message to the Jews of our future; the ones who, at the Second Coming, will stream back to Jerusalem.

This “clean way” or Holy Highway, will be the route home for the homeless.  It’s a wonderful picture of how the Lord makes a way for His people.  Those believers walking along the Lord’s highway will be safe and secure and surrounded by people of like faith.

But how does this apply to us, today?  Today, we believers belong to the Body of Christ.  We are able to surround ourselves with other redeemed people who believe what we do.  We can belong to a local church and be involved in a local congregation as we walk through our lives.  No Christian needs to feel isolated or alone!  God established His church for many reasons, and this is one of them.

Back to Isaiah’s Holy Highway for a moment, Naegelsbach wrote:

The Lord built it and destined it to lead to His house.  It is a pilgrim way.  Hence nothing unclean, neither unclean person or thing, may come up on it.  Whoever goes on it is a sanctified one, under God’s protection and care.

The message for believers today

These verses were were not written to us.   They were written to a specific group of Jews about a situation specific to them.  Be that as it may, the Holy Spirit thought they were important enough to include them in the canon of Scripture for us to read.  Why?  Why do we, Christians in the 21st century, need to pay attention to promises made to people long dead?

Scripture may only have one meaning or interpretation, but there may also be many applications.  Isaiah’s message to his people is also a message to the downtrodden and oppressed; to people struggling because they have been wronged and experienced injustice.  To those, God’s promise is clear:  Vengeance is the His.  Justice will be meted out.  The broken hearted will be healed and restored.

It’s also a word to all those who see the wrong and the sin all around them and are appalled and frustrated that sinners seem to prosper and that the truth appears to be smothered.  It’s easy to become cold and cynical when wrong prevails and right seems lost.  But God’s Word is to hang on; God sees what’s happening and help is on the way.  God will come and He will make things right.

We can all take heart and be encouraged because in spite of the present, the future is well worth waiting for.

...all sorrow and all sighing will be gone forever; only joy and gladness will be there.  (Isaiah 35:10b  TLB)

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