Why do we not need to be afraid?
Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”— Deuteronomy 31:8 NLT
This protection is not awarded on the basis of our good life or earned favour: it comes out of relationship, and Jesus gives us the invitation when we have nothing to offer in return.
The overriding principle that we learn from the OT is covenant. It is not an everyday term — something unfamiliar to us in daily life, except as ‘restrictive covenants’ or ‘covenanted giving’. This has the sense of agreements that endure, and which cannot easily be broken or changed. This is not far from the meaning of this verse, which also has the sense of being enduring, as expressed in “He will never leave you nor forsake you”.
What is covenant? In a very compact form we have it here. This is a promise, an all embracing promise of God’s provision and protection, a blessing that precedes our circumstances. So whatever happens that causes us to remember His promise, He already has it covered.
It sounds like God making a one-sided commitment for our benefit without us doing anything in return. This is partly true, but it is not completely one-sided — there is a sense of commitment on our part as well. The clue is in the word “Lord”. The promise comes through the relationship
At a time of heightened anxiety and risk, it is comforting to be reminded that God goes before us, to prepare the way for us, as well as being with us, in all the experiences of life. And we can always turn to Him. Even if we haven’t turned to Him before, or may have turned away from Him in a past time of feeling the need to be in independent — that’s where we all start.
In the gospel accounts, Jesus says “Do not be afraid” in one form or another, a lot of times. Angels appear, and say “Do not be afraid”. John, by now an old man, has a revelation of Jesus at the beginning of along recorded prophecy we know as Revelation. What are His first words? “Do not be afraid”. Broadly, He is quoting our verse, which is linked to the Lord being with us with constancy. It goes back further, to the time the Lord appeared to Abram and covenanted with him, saying, “Do not be afraid… I AM your shield“.
Fear is the symptom of the constant attack we are subjected to from the enemy of our souls. It is his tried-and-tested go-to weapon of oppression: first the lie, then the fear that grows from the lie. That is why Jesus constantly says “Do not be afraid!” and why we should should agree with Him in saying ‘no!’ to fear. Why? Because we have the Father’s promise. Whatever it is, He saw it coming, and positioned Himself with us, never to run out on us or be called elsewhere.
The present pandemic is a source of fear and anxiety. In general terms, we can’t see an end to it. We know that epidemics run their course after a period of time, but we can’t see the trajectory of this one. We know its going to be a difficult winter. And personally, there is a fear factor — some are at greater risk of developing a more severe illness needing hospital treatment.
Where do we turn? The world has TV briefings and charts and opinions of people who know science and statistics. It looks for hope in every broadcast, in the distribution map, in the latest medical insight or experience of another country.
We can do better. We have the promise. Our God, who we know through Jesus, goes before us and has promised to be with us and not leave us to our devices. Because of this we can believe Him when He says, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
- When the next tranche of news comes out, about statistics we would rather not know and threat levels we we would rather not understand — how will you process it in the light of the truth we have been studying?
- How will you use it to encourage an anxious friend or neighbour?
For a suggested prayer based on this verse, go over to this page on www.glowweobley.com