I read an article this week about the fears of famous people. The article pointed out that Jennifer Aniston, John Madden, and Whoopi Goldberg are all aviophobes. They’re afraid of flying. (And I thought Mr. T was the only one.) Tyra Banks admits to a deep-seated fear of dolphins; Scarlett Johansson has a fear of birds. Johnny Deep is coulrophobic, which means he is afraid of clowns. But the celebrity with the most phobias might be Woody Allen. He’s afraid of insects, dogs, deer, bright colors, children, heights, small rooms, crowds, and sunshine.
What about you? What are some of your fears? I doubt “sunshine” is the first thing that comes to your mind (unless you’re a vampire). But do you have any work-related fears? Any financial fears? What about fears related to your family or a close friend? Maybe you’re facing a major life decision that has you really worried and fearful. These are the kinds of fears that are more likely to be in our hearts today.
Fear is an incredibly powerful force — one that will truly wreck our lives when we give in to it. That’s what makes the word of God to Isaiah so important for us, too. In this ancient prophecy, we find a word that speaks directly to our present fears, a promise that our anxieties can be transformed in the dawning light of God’s new day.
For the past few weeks, we have been walking through Isaiah 40 — what we’ve been calling Isaiah’s “Comfort Trilogy.” In the midst of all of these words of comfort, God repeatedly talks about the importance of not being afraid. In fact, from Isaiah 40-55 — the middle section of Isaiah — God says this on ten different occasions. Ten times God says to the people, Fear not. Here are all ten of these references if you’d like to take a look at them.
The most repeated command in the Scriptures is not a command about sex or money or hatred or taking part in some religious practice. Rather, it’s the command to not be afraid. That’s because fear is the greatest obstacle to pursuing the will of God.
Over these next few posts, I want to look at three of Isaiah’s Fear Not statements. In each of these three statements, you’ll see that God gives us a reason not to give in to our fears. I hope we’ll find these ancient words from Isaiah to be relevant to our fears today.
But you, Israel, my servant…fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.Isaiah 41:8-10
Reason #1: Fear not, for I am with you.
This is what God says to His people who are a long way from home. These words apply to the people of Isaiah’s day, who had strayed into the “foreign land” of idolatry. They certainly apply to the people of the next generation who would find themselves living in exile in Babylon. And I believe we can apply them to our situation today as we live in a land that seems to grow more worldly with each passing day.
And in the midst of these circumstances, God says, Fear not, for I am with you. We touched on this idea a few weeks ago — the power of that little word “with.” When the right person is with us, we feel as if we can do anything. And in the Bible, when God tells His people not to be afraid, it is almost always followed by this promise: for I am with you. The basis for the biblical injunction against fear is always the promise and presence of God.
Life’s circumstances are not the ultimate barometer of God’s presence with His people. We don’t measure God’s presence based on whether things are going well or going poorly. We measure His presence on the basis of His promise. That’s it. What proof do we have that God is present with His people? We have His faithful promise. We have the promise we discussed a few weeks ago — God says I will never leave you nor forsake you. That’s His promise. And if Isaiah 40:8 is true — The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever — then this means God’s promise is just as valid today as it was on the day He spoke it all those centuries ago.
God tells His people not to be dismayed, but instead to trust in His promise. The word “dismayed” means “to dart glances this way and that” as if not knowing where to look for safety. It is the action you take when you don’t know who to trust. But God says, “You don’t have to do this. Stop looking around; look instead to me for your deliverance. I am here. I am with you.” This is the promise of God to His people.
I am starting to believe that promises are the most important things in life. Nothing else really matters outside of the promises you make to others and the promises God makes to us. God promises to be with His people, therefore we need not fear.
Are you dismayed?
Do you find your eyes darting to and fro, looking for someone you can trust?
Hear again the promise of God:
Reason #1: Fear not, for I am with you.