Fear God. Fear Not.
May 21, 2020 | by: Bill Burns | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
Guest Article by Bill Burns
Back in early March, I’d just begun to teach a new class for Adult Christian Education on Eschatology, which is just a fancy, three-dollar word for “Last Things.” I find that ironic, as it was the last thing I did, on the last Sunday we worshipped as a church face to face before going to online-only. Since then, uncertainty has been, as it were, on our doorsteps.
Lately I’ve thought a lot about just how much this whole business parallels the Christian message at its very core. Let me explain.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And then God made…us.
There is a nearness here. The details of Adam’s creation and placement in the garden depict a paradise, God himself tending to the garden God puts his crown of creation, Adam in the garden to tend it. But, it’s not good for Adam to be alone, He says, and so gives Adam the task to name all the animals, seeking a “helper fit” for him. But none is found. So, God puts Adam to sleep, and from Adam’s very flesh, he creates his companion, Eve. There is a nearness we see here, of God with our first parents.
“And [Adam and Eve] heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day…”
God was with them in the Garden. But something had come between them. They distanced themselves from God now, actually attempting to hide from the One who made them for each other, and for Himself.
There was an invisible enemy now at work in their members. And they felt real fear for the first time in their relatively brief lives. And that distance and fear has passed on from their children, to us, and, tragically, to our own children, and grandchildren.
“…[our] iniquities have made a separation between [us] and our God, and [our] sins have hidden His face from [us]…” -Isaiah 59:2a
Similarly, this plague is an invisible enemy, and has separated us from one another. Many, even those of us who ostensibly put our trust in the Lord, have felt a fear and uncertainty. And no matter our outlook on the seriousness of the situation, we have all experienced the effects of this new threat. Relatively little is known about it. Even our defenses against it are uncertain. Some are literally paralyzed with this fear and uncertainty. Some refuse to believe the threat is real. Who do we trust? And how can we move forward now?
To study our hope from the scriptures, we must go back to the beginning. Even in cursing the serpent, who misled our first parents into ruinous sin, God begins His promise of our reconciliation:
“…he shall bruise your head (speaking to the serpent), and you shall bruise his (i.e. the offspring of Eve, i.e. Christ’s) heel.”
God, who is sovereign over all creation, past, present, and future, has said He…
“…declar[es] the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all My purpose…I bring near My righteousness; it is not far off, and My salvation shall not delay…’” [Isaiah 46:10, 13a]
And in the Gospels, Jesus repeatedly says, “Fear not” to His disciples and those He encounters. In fact, remember His very birth was trumpeted by angels who told the shepherds in the fields, “Do not fear!”
When preparing to send out his disciples, Jesus told them they would face fierce opposition and danger to their liberty, and life itself, but He encouraged them:
“…do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” [Matthew 10:28-31]
Both our sin and this newest threat are insidious and debates rage about how to get the word out, what to do. But I believe I am safe to say to you that I want to exhort you, my brothers and sisters; let us draw near once again, to Christ! He has made the way, in fact IS the Way for us to draw near, to one another, and to our God. O God, let us have ears to hear You say to us, “Fear not!” Give us tongues to say to our friends and relations, ‘let us draw near once again to God, trusting in His goodness!’
Let us recall from our professions of faith that we have used in worship from the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 1:
“Q: What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A: That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by his Holy Spirit he also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for him.”
Our God is good. Let us draw near, once again, to our God.