Do Not Fear
There is a phrase that is fairly common in the Bible, and it is a command that is crucially connected to a promise. This phrase can be found in a few different forms, but the most basic is, “Do not fear, for I am with you.” If one broadens the search to include phrases such as, “Fear not” and “Do not be afraid” several passages fit into this category.
If you would like to see some of the passages, check out these references for examples and then consider doing your own searches: Gen 15:1; 26:24; Exod 14:13; Deut 20:1; Josh 1:9; 10:25; 2 Chron 20:15, 17; Isa 35:4; 41:10, 13-14; 43:1, 5; Jer 1:8, 19; 30:10; 42:11; 46:27-28; Matt 14:27; 17:7; 28:10; Mark 5:36; 6:50; Luke 8:50; 12:32; John 6:20; 12:15; Acts 18:10; Heb 13:6; Rev 1:17.
Let’s take Isa 41:8-10 as a key text for the sake of this discussion. The Scripture reads, “But you, Israel, are My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the descendants of Abraham My friend. You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest regions, and said to you, ‘You are My servant, I have chosen you and have not cast you away: Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’”
Isaiah is a prophet of God who preaches in the South, probably in Jerusalem, around the time of the fall of Samaria in the North. The nation of Assyria came down and annihilated the northern tribes of Israel in 722 B.C. In essence, Isaiah says to those living in the South, “Repent of your wicked ways, live according to God’s covenant, or the same destruction will come upon you.” The people never did repent, and Judah was later destroyed and taken into exile. Beginning with chapter 40, there is a shift in the book looking forward to that Exile and the need to return to the Promised Land.
So, it is in this broader context that Isaiah speaks in chapter 40, “Comfort, yes, comfort My people, says your God . . . Prepare the way of the Lord . . . the Lord shall come with a strong hand” and, in chapter 41, “Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God.”
Notice that there is a command which must be obeyed, “Fear not.” The people were not to fear—not to fear abandonment, lack of restoration, a shortage of forgiveness, their enemies, the uncertainty of the future, etc. While we may not be Jews in Exile, we do have doubts about our forgiveness sometimes; we do have opponents occasionally; we can easily get frazzled about an uncertain future. So, this command is just as applicable to us today as it was 2,700 years ago. This is seen clearly in the New Testament commands to all Christians to not be afraid; we have not been given a spirit of fear.
Of course, it is essential to pay attention to the fact that this command is not just hurled out into space with nothing to give it roots. This is not just advice from some self-help guru or positive thinking expert as if all we have to do is push away the negative vibes. No! This command is connected to an important promise, and the two are linked time and time again in the Bible. The people are encouraged by the prophet Isaiah to not fear because God is with them! The Great I Am is their God! Because they belonged to the Lord and had a covenant relationship with Him, there was no need to fear anyone or anything. How much truer is this of New Testament Christians? We were bought with the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ! We have been adopted into the family as God’s children! He will strengthen, support, love, and defend us in every situation. He is our God, and we are His people. He is always with us and will never forsake us. Even when we are weak, He is strong and faithful. The God we worship and serve is the one, true, and living God, the Great I Am, the Everlasting God, the Comforter of His people.
Therefore, be obedient to the command, “Do not fear!” And know that the command is sure and your obedience is possible because we lean on the everlasting arms!