Does God know us or what? (Rhetorical question by the way!) Over and over in this book He looks right into the hearts of His people and gives them exactly what they need most. Quite often it seems that what we need is an infusion of faith to quell our fears. That is what unfolds again this day.
In verses 9-11 Israel has cried out to God in the midst of her timorousness. She looks around and all is not well - from her perspective. Is God asleep? She cries out in a desperate prayer "Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake as in the days of old, the generations long ago." She reminds the never-forgetting God of all the miraculous delivering works He has done for her in the past and of all the promises He has made regarding her future. (While the omniscient God does not need to be reminded, we often do and thus these words should serve as a rallying cry for Israel's faith.)
She calls upon God to bear His arm of strength. He answers her by bearing the compassions of His heart. It's a good starting place, for the love and compassion He has for His children undergirds all of His Kingly acts on our behalf.
"I, even I, am He who comforts you, who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, and of the son of man who is made like grass...?" How does God comfort His knocking-kneed children in the midst of their greatest fears? By lovingly pointing out the foolishness of their current wordly fears and pointing them to the great antidote - love for and faith in their God.
The Israelites are consumed by the fear of man. No doubt they are in a serious situation and there is real need for an honest evaluation of their circumstances. However, their evaluation is anything but honest at the moment. It is one-sided and it is bogged down on the side of man. There are two sides to every coin. They have stared long and hard at the "tail" of man. It is time to flip the coin and see the glory of its "head" - their Living God!
Who is this that they are so fearful of? The great man - Babylon. Yet this mighty nation is still made up of mere men - mere dying men! Matthew Henry says, "It is absurd to be in such dread of a dying man. We ought to look upon every man as a man that shall die. Those we fear we must look upon as frail and mortal, and consider what a foolish thing it is for the servants of the living God to be afraid of dying men!"
You know, it really does boil down to a perspective problem. My vision is blurred. My thinking is fuzzy. My hearing is stopped up. How often do I find myself, a "servant of the living God" being absolutely paralyzed by the fear of "dying men"?
My fears are ultimately grounded in my forgetfulness. "Who are you that you are afraid of man who dies and of the son of man who is made like grass; that you have forgotten the LORD your Maker, who stretched out the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth...?" Refocus Lori!! Remember girl!! Look to the LORD your Maker - the Creator of the heavens, the Former of the foundations of the earth. He is for you - who shall be against you?! He is from everlasting to everlasting - they are from ashes to ashes and dust to dust!
God not only mercifully chides His children for their forgetfulness of Him but also for the all-consuming nature of their fears. "Who are you...that you fear continually all day long because of the fury of the oppressor..." "It is absurd to fear continually every day. Now and then a danger may be iminent and threatening and it may be prudent to fear it; but to always be in a toss and to tremble at the shaking of every leaf, is to make ourselves all our lifetime subject to bondage." (Matthew Henry)
Christ came to set us free from this fearful prison. Why are we so prone to flee back into it's dark dungeon? Just as Christian and Hopeful forgetfully wandered off the path to gaze momentarily at "greener pastures" and found themselves suddenly whisked away and imprisoned by Giant Depair in Doubting Castle - so are we. We wander off from the remembrance of our all-consuming God and find ourselves overcome by our all-consuming fears. Christian had the key in his breast during his entire captivity, he had forgotten it. Once he remembered he was able to escape. Beloved - Christ has given us the key that enables us to flee freely from our fears and it is revealed in these next verses.
"The exile will soon be set free, and will not die in the dungeon, nor will his bread be lacking. For I am the LORD your God, who stirs up the sea and its waves roar (the LORD of hosts is His name). And I have put My words in your mouth, and have covered you with the shadow of My hand, to establish the heavens, to found the earth, and to say to Zion, 'You are My people.'"
Here is the covenant promise. He is our sovereign - we are His servants. He is our omnipotent Father -we are His needy children. He is our God - we are His people and our God will do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Our God will provide for us what we cannot provide for ourselves. He will break down the prison bars. He will provide the manna from heaven. He will calm the raging sea and soothe the savage storm. He has told us these things in His Word and it is to that infallible, inspired, all-glorious Word that we need to flee in our times of fear. ("And I have put My words in your mouth, and covered you with the shadow of My hand.") Am I fleeing to the faith which comes from hearing the Word of God (Rom 10:17) or am I floundering in the fear that naturally comes from listening to the howling winds that often surround me?
- "If Thy law had not been my delight, then I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget Thy precepts for by them Thou hast revived me." (Ps 119:92-93)
- "Thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path. I have sworn and I will confirm it, that I will keep Thy righteous ordinances. I am exceedingly afflicted; revive me, O LORD, according to Thy word." (Ps 119:105-107)
- "Establish my footsteps in Thy word, and do not let any iniquity have dominion over me. Redeem me from the oppression of man, that I may keep Thy precepts." (Ps 119:133-134)
- "Trouble and anguish have come upon me; yet Thy commandments are my delight. Thy testimonies are righteous forever; give me understanding that I may live." (Ps 119:143-144)
O my fearless Father, I am prone to falter and to stumble and to find myself bound behind the bars of doubting castle. My forgetfulness of You and of your promises to me often leads me to foolish fears. Lord, faith comes from hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Give me ears to hear, eyes to see, a mind to comprehend, and a heart that beats for the glory and by the grace of God above all else. "'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved." Make me a faithful fearer of You alone and make me to walk in obedience to the light of Your law no matter how dark my days may be.
Thankful to be safe in the Son,