“Fear not, neither be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 1: 21)
The Oxford dictionary defines “fear” as “an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm”. None is exempt from this feeling of “fear”. Some fear the dark while others fear the unknown future, or even death. Some fear domestic pests like lizards, rats and cockroaches while others fear creepy crawlies like snakes and worms. Many people may also fear losing their health, jobs or family members.
As we face life’s fears, we need assurance concerning the things that threaten or trouble us (II Cor. 7: 5). Our merciful God, knowing our need, has given us comforting words to help us conquer our fears. More than thirty times in His Word, the Lord says, “Fear not” – to those who needed encouragement and cheer. Among those who received these divine words of comfort in the Old Testament were the patriarchs Abraham and Jacob, Joshua, and the prophets of old - Isaiah, Jeremiah and Daniel. In the New Testament, this blessed assurance was given to Zacharias, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, Jairus, the apostle Paul and the apostle John during his exile on the Island of Patmos.
Pastor James Smith elaborates: “Our enemies may be mighty, but our God Who goes with us and fights for us, is Almighty. Our foes may be crafty, but on our side is ‘the only wise God’. If providence should frown, if the Lord does delay to answer our prayers, if our case should appear to be almost desperate, it is only to exercise our graces, try our sincerity, to stir us up to importunate prayer” (Daily Remembrancer).
What lessons can we glean from this phrase, “fear not” in the Bible? Let us consider some of them:
“Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield”
The first “fear not” of the Lord was spoken to Abram: “After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (Gen. 15: 1).
Here the Lord appeared to the patriarch to assure him of divine protection – “I am thy shield”. To understand why Abram needed this assurance, let us look at Genesis 14 when Abram delivered his nephew Lot after the latter was taken captive by Chedorlaomer, the king of Elam and his confederation of kings: “And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan. 15 And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus. 16 And he brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people” (vv. 14-16).
Despite his victory over the four kings, Abram had reason to fear. The defeated kings might rally together and mount an attack in retaliation. Understanding His servant’s fear, the Lord “came unto Abram in a vision” to assure him of protection from His enemies: “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield”.
“and thy exceeding great reward”
After his successful conquest, Abram returned the spoils to the rightful owner, the king of Sodom who, in gratitude, offered the spoils as a reward to Abram: “And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself” (Gen. 14: 21). But the patriarch turned down his kind offer lest the king should later claim glory for Abram’s riches, when glory was due to God alone: “And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, 23 That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich: 24 Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion” (Gen. 14: 22-24).
Having seen Abram’s integrity, the Lord assured His honourable servant that he would be richly compensated: “Fear not, Abram: I am … thy exceeding great reward”(Gen. 15: 1). God promised to give the land of Canaan to him and his seed: “In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: 19 The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, 20 And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims, 21 And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites” (Gen. 15: 18-21).
“And seeing thou didst so honourably and for my sake reject other rewards, taken by thyself, and offered by the king of Sodom, thou shalt be no loser by it; I will abundantly recompense all thy piety to Me, and charity to thy afflicted kinsman Lot, and thy liberality towards others: I will bless thee with all sorts of good things, as well as defend thee from all evil; which two things make a man completely happy” (Matthew Poole).
Brethren, we all have our apprehensions and fears. But we thank our Heavenly Father that He takes notice of His children’s fears, and assures us of His presence, protection and help: “I will be glad and rejoice in thy mercy: for thou hast considered my trouble; thou hast known my soul in adversities” (Ps. 31: 7). The Lord knows how to reward His faithful children. What we give up because we want to please the Lord is nothing compared to God’s “exceeding great reward”. Like faithful Abram, let us “fear not” and look forward to God’s rich blessings as we love and serve Him. (… to be continued)