These exhortations were given by me between 1999 and 2005. That was a long time ago, and I have grown a lot since then. They may not reflect my current beliefs.
O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together. I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed. This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.
Psalm 34, verses 3 to 7, is a wonderful passage to start an exhortation with. It is one of those passages that forms an exhortation in itself. “I sought the LORD and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears … The angel of the LORD encampeth around them that fear him and delivereth them.”
The two meanings of “fear” are illustrated well here. If you fear God – if you respect and revere him – then those things that you fear – the things that make you frightened – are taken care of.
Sometimes it is easy to be frightened, and we probably all feel week in faith when we allow something to frighten us. However, God is our maker and knows our feeble frame. The Bible has many passages where we are reminded that we don’t have to fear the things in the world. And because of resurrection, we don’t even have to fear death itself.
Of course, we have to fear God, but that doesn’t mean that we should live in fear of him. We should respect and worship him, but we shouldn’t be terrified of him. God knows that any encounter with his angels is a frightening event, and any encounter with him even more so. In his love and compassion he tells us through the Bible tells us not to be frightened of that either.
I’m going to have a look at some examples of people being reassured that they don’t need to fear either God or man. I’ll be using several references and they will all be quite short, so you don’t have to turn them all up.
We’ll start in the book of Psalms, psalm 3 verses 1 to 6:
Lord, how are they increased that trouble me! many are they that rise up against me. Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the LORD sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about.
This is an absolutely straightforward assurance. “I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the LORD sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people.” Faced with being surrounded by ten thousand real, physical enemies, we don’t have to fear, because God will look after us. And if the outcome is not what we hoped, we can of course still look towards the Kingdom.
“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” wrote David in Psalm 27. If you have the LORD, David is saying, then nothing else matters. He is the strength of life, he is your salvation. These things together will ultimately mean you are safe and secure, with no need to fear anything. In Psalm 56 verse 11 the Psalmist writes “In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me.”
Ultimately, of course, it is because of resurrection that we don’t have to fear what man can do to us. Because of resurrection even the worst that man can do to us can be overridden by God. Luke 12, verses 4 to 7:
And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.
Don’t be afraid, Christ says, of those who can kill you or your loved ones, because that is the most they can do. Don’t fear because you are valuable to God, and he is the almighty.
Consider the ravens: – Luke 12, 24 to 32 – for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls? And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest? Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith? And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
You shouldn’t have to fear physical dangers or discomfort. God will provide all things, and look after us in ways that only he can.
And we shouldn’t have to fear a lack of faith either. Look at who this passage is addressed to: “ye of little faith”. Sometimes calling someone of little faith is to condemn them, but not here. This passage is saying “fear not, ye of little faith. Even though your faith is weak, and you do fear, you don’t have to. God doesn’t condemn us for having little faith. He takes that and works with it. You don’t have to fear, even though your faith is weak.”
We don’t have to fear the things of God either. “But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
Fear not it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
Fear not it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
We don’t have to fear man, because if God is for us, then who can be against us? We don’t have to live in terror of God because it is his good pleasure to give us the kingdom. He is not an ogre who is anxious to trip us up; he is a loving God who wants us to come to him.
I want to fly off on a tangent slightly. There are various incidents where people meet angels, and when the people realise they are with an angel, one of the first things the angels say is “fear not”. Usually in these circumstances, fear is the normal reaction. We are natural creatures, and meeting a spiritual or supernatural being like an angel is bound to be a somewhat intimidating experience. The one passage that stands out in my mind is Luke chapter 2, verses 8 to 14:
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
The glory of the LORD shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. It is a perfectly reasonable reaction. And the angel comforts them. “Fear not” he says. “I bring you tidings of great joy”.
The angel isn’t there to intimidate, he is there to bring a very important message. So that the shepherds can respond appropriately, they are reassured, they are told to fear not.
In Matthew 28, when the Marys visit the tomb of Christ they meet an angel.
In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.
Once again, an angel delivers an important message. It is such an important message that it is delivered with the glory that only an angelic messenger can have.
And because our heavenly Father knows we are intimidated by seeing his glory, the message begins with “Fear not”.
Slightly later on, the Marys meet Jesus:
And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.
Be not afraid. Meeting the resurrected Christ is not something to fear, it is something to rejoice about, just as any time anyone knowingly encounters an angel, or someone who has been resurrected, it is not something to fear, it is something to rejoice about.
In conclusion, I want us to think about our own death, and our own resurrection. I think even the bravest, most faithful, of us fears death. Perhaps if you are very lucky you don’t know about the moment of your death, but most of us will die through illness or accident that gives us some time to know what is happening. We certainly all know we are mortal.
I don’t know who will be the first person we see when we wake from the sleep of death. It may be an angel, it may be a loved one resurrected before us. It may even be Christ himself.
Wouldn’t it be appropriate if the first words we heard were “Fear not”. Can you imagine the contrast. The trauma of death, followed immediately – as far as we are concerned – by the glorious words of comfort “Fear not”.
None of us wants to die. None of us wants to lose a loved one through death. Yet through the resurrection that Christ made possible, through the great love and compassion of God, there are two words we can apply to all our fears, be they about death or some other matter. Fear not.