When God told the Israelites, “Do not fear!” they had good reasons for being afraid. A week earlier all the tribes of Israel had triumphantly left Egyptian slavery behind and had walked out of Egypt. But now they stood between the mountains and the sea with the might of the Egyptian army bearing down upon their position. The enemy was bent on doing the devil’s work by overtaking the Israelites. They would seize the booty, and destroy the people before they could reach their promised land. Egypt was the superpower of the day, and with their mechanized army of chariots they were equipped to easily mow down the columns of fleeing refuges. In their fear the people cried out to God. It was evident that their hard won freedom could be easily lost.
Freedom or Slavery
Joshua, David, Nehemiah, and Paul all told the people of God to remember this seminal event in their collective history. Unfortunately, in spite of all the miracles that had been performed to free them, the Israelites were fearful. They did not yet trust in God’s love for them, or his promises of deliverance. In response to the imminent threat, they wailed that slavery in Egypt was better than dying. They accused Moses of bringing them out into the desert to kill them. How quickly they had forgotten. It had only been a week since they had departed Egypt, confident and defiant, as God led them with a pillar of cloud or fire. Yet, they were willing to give up their new found freedom to follow God. They were willing to return to a sin-laden life of slavery under the rule of a polytheistic tyranny.
The slavery of sin and freedom of obedience was a theme in scripture from the very beginning. This was the issue with Cain who did not respect God, and was offended when God warned him. Cain did not appreciate God’s love for him, and ignored his instructions. Defiantly Cain refused to acknowledge his sin. Though it was like a beast crouching at his door, ready to pounce and overcome him. He did not wrestle to conquer the sin that was his master. Rather he acted on his fears and lost his freedom.
Fear and Love
Both Abraham and Jacob, came to know the Lord God, and received his blessing. They refused to fall prey to their fears when the path ahead seemed fraught with danger. They trusted God and their reward was assured. Similarly, Jehoshaphat and his people, though facing a huge enemy army, also listened to God who told them, “Do not fear, do not be discouraged.” They trusted that the battle was the Lord’s and in his love for them he would protect them. Jesus explained God’s love for his people using analogies. God cared for the sparrow, and how much more would he provide for his children. So knowing God’s love we should not be afraid. Rather we stand firm in difficult situations by exercising faith in God.
It is fear that often leads us into sin. And it is love that casts out fear and helps us do what is in the best interest of others. When Israel was facing their moment of decision at the Red Sea, God gave them the practical advice, to overcome their fear and move forward in faith. To their amazement the Lord had made a path in the sea for them. They walked across in safety, while the panicked and confused Egyptian charioteers pursuing them had become mired in the mud, and were destroyed. The Lord God had saved his people then, just as he promises to save his people now.
The Lord is our faithful high priest who lived a human life without sin, In his love for us, he has made it possible for us to overcome our fear and walk in faith. He warned us of the dangers of being trapped by our fears and the deceptions of a sinful lifestyle. And he reminded his followers that it was fear that led their ancestors into disobedience. If we truly appreciate Jesus’ love for us we will be able to conquer fear, and purify our heart and mind to follow him. Our spiritual ancestors faced Pharaoh’s army, overcame their fear, and walked through the sea, for God had intervened for them. So we must be prepared to face our 21st Century Pharaohs and heed God’s admonition. “Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s.”
Learn more about being Free from Fear
Fear Not — I Am with You