The amygdalae are two almond-shaped clusters of nuclei located deep inside each cerebral hemisphere, involved with the experiencing of emotions. With a fearful stimulus, information about that stimulus is immediately sent to the amygdala, which then send signals to areas of the brain like the hypothalamus to trigger a "fight-or-flight" response. Danger causes a rush of adrenalin, a hormone and chemical messenger in the brain, which in turn triggers these anxious reactions in a process called the “fight-or-flight’ response. There is a pathway that runs from the thalamus to the amygdala, and sensory information about fearful stimuli may be sent along this pathway to the amygdala before it is consciously processed by the cerebral cortex. This can give us a reflexive response before we are even consciously recognizing the danger. God gave us this to protect us. We may not have time to cognitively perceive, assess, analyze and make choices when we are in immediate danger.
"The amygdala also seems to be very important in forming memories that are associated with fear-inducing events... While fear is considered a response to a threat that is present, anxiety involves the dread that accompanies thinking about a potential threat—one that may or may not ever materialize. A number of studies suggest that the amygdala is involved in experiencing anxiety, and that it may be overactive in people with anxiety disorders. However, as is the case with most human behaviors, anxiety likely involves a network of brain areas, so activity in the amygdala doesn’t tell us all we need to know about the emotion." - NeuroscientificallyChallenged
Anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome; an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure
When facing something potentially harmful or worrying, it triggers feelings of anxiety which are not only normal but necessary for survival. Incoming danger sets off alarms in the body and allows evasive action. Again, this is God-given as a protection.
Let's imagine life without the builtin alarm systems that God gave us. Would we become so bogged down in decision making and analyzing that we are frozen and therefore easy targets? Would we jump into any high risk action because we no longer have fear to balance us and give us commonsense? It might mean we all are jumping off buildings because we have no fear. Or it might mean we see a car coming down the street and we have to think about it before we jump out of the way?
I would like to ask you to stop here and journal about the things that you fear and that cause you anxiety. What are your triggers? What is it that is really driving your fear? When you are done, you can continue this study.
As we know, many of us get stuck in fear and anxiety. There are fear and anxiety disorders where we experience the same psychological and physiological responses for no real reason. People with phobias have intense fear over something that is normal and not a real danger such as fear of flying. I know some planes fall out of the sky but it's such a small percentage and thousands of planes fly everyday without a problem. Although there is a degree of risk involved, it's pretty small when taken into perspective. We have a lot more car accidents than we do airplane accidents but they can drive, or ride, in a car without a panic attack. So why do we have such an intense fear reaction to something that is, in most cases, not a threat? I have a fear of snakes and spiders. A lot of people do. I immediately go into flight mode. Why do I automatically jump, scream and run away at the sight of one or the other? In one case, the snakes, I have no experience that makes me fear them. I've never been bitten, never touched one, never had a bad experience, yet I can't stand them. Even seeing them on TV makes me react in shudders and fear. On the other hand, I've been bitten by spiders and have had some severe reactions to the bites so I have bad experiences that would make me afraid of them. My reactions of fear don't seem to be based so much on experience since I react in fear to both snakes and spiders. Not being a doctor, it's probably above my paygrade to understand this.
People with anxiety disorders usually have recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns. They may avoid certain situations out of worry. They may also have physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, dizziness or a rapid heartbeat. Anxiety disorders involve repeated episodes of sudden feelings of intense anxiety and fear or terror that reach a peak within minutes (panic attacks). If anxiety and panic interfere with daily activities, are difficult to control, are out of proportion to the actual danger and can last a long time, you may have an Anxiety Disorder. If you avoid places or situations to prevent these feelings you may have an Anxiety Disorder. Symptoms may start during childhood or the teen years and continue into adulthood. In my case it started as a child, went into my teen years. Then I got better in my late teens and early to mid 20's. I began to have panic attacks again at the age of 28 that continued for a couple of years. Then I got better again. But it started back up in my 40's and I still have problems. I didn't have medication for it, or my depression, until my 30's so I'm not sure what that says about my early years versus my later years. I still seem to cycle in and out of both depression and anxiety disorder. Some of us just seem to be hardwired, maybe by DNA, to fear and depression.
In my case, I was raised in a wonderful family. My parents were married and very much in love. They loved their three daughters and were very proud of us. I had good relationships with my sisters who I still consider to be my best friends. All my extended family loved us and were good to us. I never had to be afraid to be around any of them. So I had no abuses in my family life. All of my family, immediate and extended, were Christians and tried to walk the walk. So I was raised in a godly home.
I did have health issues all my life with a major surgical procedure when I was 11 yrs old. I've suffered from autoimmune syndromes, fibromyalgia, etc throughout my life. Is this why I have depression and anxiety issues? Could be. I exhibited fear in the baby and toddler stage with separation anxiety. Mom and Dad were my security blanket. Going to kindergarten was a real challenge for me as I was afraid when not with Mom or Dad. As I progressed I was a worrier and a very sensitive child. I was high strung and had panic attacks if asked to do things such as play the piano at a recital or being asked if I wanted to go spend a week at camp in the summer or go to a new church. So there was some social anxiety. I was shy and terrified of new people and new situations. I experienced my first deep depression at the time of my surgery at 11 yrs old. I prayed to God that I would die. I was disappointed when I woke up from surgery and was still alive. I went through another deep depression in my teens. I became suicidal. Ever since then I have suicidal ideation where I think about it a lot and it soothes me to think I could end the pain.
As a Christian, I was deeply distraught that I couldn't seem to get a handle on my depression, fears and anxiety. I felt so guilty. Thankfully, I had good counsel and good commonsense. Eventually, in my 30's, I went on antidepressants which helped a lot. I absolutely believe that you have to learn how to deal with it WITH God! That means praying about it, praying during it, reading the Bible, meditating and memorizing scripture, even chanting scripture or prayers. It means praising God when you have a victory. It means learning about Him and His goodness so you can trust in Him and His lovingkindness. It also means learning coping techniques that help you. I learned to take my meds, some vitamins, to get rest, to avoid overstimulation (when a situation bombards all of your senses constantly with no break, it exhausts you and makes you more liable to fatigue induced anxiety), to get some exercise, etc. You can learn coping techniques too but
my advice is use them WITH the Lord not INSTEAD of the Lord. And, in my case, despite all of this I have to fight it nearly every day.
The Bible talks about the "fear of the Lord". This is not abject terror, unless you are unsaved then you should be afraid. This is holding God in high honor, respect, realizing how awesome He is and how much He has saved us from. You see, we all are born with a sin nature and we sin. It's our human condition. Sin and God don't go together. Therefore we are separated from God because of sin. Sin brings about death and judgment. We should be judged due to our sin and face eternal punishment. But God loved us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to pay the price for our sin. If we accept Jesus Christ's work of righteousness on our behalf, we are saved and have a right relationship with God again. No more separation from our Heavenly Father. We are forgiven, cleansed and righteous because of what Jesus did and that means we don't have to be punished and damned to hell. We can have the benefits of being a child of God and spend eternity with Him in Heaven. Because He loved me that much, I am saved and I am a child of God. My response to this gift, and love, is to love Him, praise and worship Him! For all He did for me, I hold Him the highest place in my affections and respect. I worship Him and Him alone! This is the "fear of the Lord". I know where I rightfully would have wound up, but because of His love, mercy and grace, I've been saved from it and have been given the gift of eternal life with Him!!!
The other fear is the one we are all familiar with. The fear we were talking about earlier. We mentioned that fear is God-given to act as a protection. But when it grows into an all-absorbing lifestyle, then, "Houston, we have a problem".
Satan loves to use depression, fear and anxiety to keep us immobile and ineffective.
If we are unsaved, he uses it to keep us unsaved.
We are too afraid to go to church.
We are too afraid of what other people think.
We are too afraid to humble ourselves before God.
We are too afraid to make a public confession of faith.
We are too afraid we will be rejected by others.
We are too afraid we will be ridiculed, mocked, made fun of.
We are too afraid to be baptized.
We are too afraid we can never understand the Bible.
We are too afraid we will never measure up to God's standard of holiness so why try?
If looked at objectively, all of these fears are silly.
We go into new buildings all the time, start new jobs, etc, why are we afraid to go to church? Just because it's different and you feel out of place? You do when you go to a new school or start a new job too.
Who cares what other people think? Why does their opinion matter more than your eternal spirit? God knows we aren't perfect and sinless, it's why He sent His Son, Jesus, to save us. We don't have to be afraid to go to Him. We should be afraid of going to satan! It's not like God doesn't already know us and our every thought. But He still loves you and calls you to come to Him.
Why would we be afraid to go to church and walk down to the altar when every Christian has done the same thing and you are surrounded by Christians? It's not like we haven't been at that altar talking to God ourselves.
As for being rejected by others, or made fun of, what does that matter when you have the God of the Universe loving you and providing for you? That's like deciding to be friends with the homeless, crazy person or the President of the United States. Do you want to be friends with satan and his cronies or with the God of the Universe? Would you worry about what the crazy guy on the street has to say about you when the President of the United States gives you a glowing recommendation? Of course not, so why do you care what they say?
As for reading the Bible, nobody was born knowing how to read, we had to learn. Once we learned how to read, we had to practice and study to be able to comprehend grownup books. It's the same with the Bible. Once you are saved and have the Holy Spirit living within you, you have a tutor and teacher builtin. You just have to focus and pay attention and read it.
Can you go swimming? Then you have nothing to fear about being baptized. Was Jesus so afraid of being crucified that He refused? No, He went through every painful, humiliating and degrading moment of it to save us. So why would we be hesitant about making a public profession of our faith in Him and being publicly baptized? Even children get baptized so how hard can it be?
And if you are afraid you won't measure up. Get over that fear. None of us do! It's why we had to have a Savior. It's why God went to all the trouble. We could never measure up, pay our own way, save ourselves. We were doomed but God made a way.
You see, if you look at it objectively and logically, you realize satan is the one that has bound you up and made you too fearful to take that step of faith.
Satan also likes to immobilize and make Christians ineffective too. He can get in our heads and render us about useless in working for God because we are too afraid. We don't feel worthy enough, smart enough, knowledgeable enough, blah, blah, blah. I know. He does it to me too. He does it to all of us and we have to learn how to overcome fear and anxiety and learn more about trusting God.
We all have weaknesses in the area of sin. A particular sin, or sins, seem to be our weakness. Some people can't seem to control their anger, or their tongue, or their jealousy, or their sexual desires or their addictions, etc. None of us are sinless so we all experience sin and each of us has some particular weaknesses that plague us. One of mine seems to be depression and fear. Not that feeling sad or afraid is necessarily sinful. Like we've said earlier, fear can be a good thing and feeling sad is normal. It's when it runs our lives that we realize we've lost control.
Just because I have a weakness in this area does not give me the license to just live with it, make it a lifestyle and even celebrate it. Homosexuals demand that every single human being not only accept their deviant lifestyle choice but celebrate it with them. They have their rainbow parades and parties and gay organizations, etc. They delight in bullying and hating heterosexuals into an acceptance of their sexual perversions. Now take that and put it into the perspective of my weakness to depression and fear. Am I suppose to quit struggling against it and just accept that this is who I am? Am I suppose to just go ahead and check myself into the looney bin because it's just how God made me and I need caregivers? Am I suppose to force other people into accepting my problem and even celebrating it? Have some depression parades or fear parties? Should I force others into my lifestyle of depression and fear so I won't feel alone? Are the taxpayers suppose to pay for my care because it's just how I was made?
I can understand homosexuals because I have my own sins just like they do. I should have compassion for them because I also have sin weaknesses and I understand how hard it is to overcome and have to fight it all your life. I don't hate them just like I shouldn't hate those who have weaknesses for jealous rages, theft, raping, child abuse, gossip, maliciousness, lying, etc. We should be understanding of one another because we are basically all in the same boat of sin. But, we don't help ourselves, or anyone else, when we don't fight against our sinful natures. We could say a murderer was born that way and his/her choices to murder are lifestyle choices that should be accepted and celebrated. But we don't. Because it allows for a murderer to continue murdering innocent people and makes the whole situation worse rather than better. We try to stop the murderer from murdering. I would hope someone would help me with my depression and fear so I don't have to get worse and worse, until I do lose my mind or commit suicide. We need to help each other fight our natural inclinations to sin.
Why does God allow these weaknesses towards sin? Not being a professional, I'm thinking it's the struggle that is important. God knows we must struggle in order to achieve His purpose. Maybe it's to strengthen us. Maybe it's to give us empathy with someone else who needs help with the same struggle. Maybe it's to build our spirit up like building our muscles up. It takes resistance, practice and effort to build our muscles and maybe it's the same way with our spirit? Maybe it's to help us realize who is really in control and to teach us how to trust Him. But if we don't struggle against something, we become weak, ineffective and then we begin the downward slide into much worse.
If you look at a drug addict, you see where they start taking drugs due to whatever reason: fun, escape, acceptance, etc. They are making wrong choices and they think they have control over it. But it weakens them and soon they don't have a choice, they have to have the drugs. They continue taking the drugs and they lose all control and are completely absorbed by the drug lifestyle. They become unable to function, unable to hold a job or have normal relationships. They become leeches to whoever can provide for their drug need. They become liars, manipulators, thieves and even murderers to get their drugs. And, despite all this, the drugs kill their minds and end up killing their bodies. So yes, it goes in a downward spiral of utter annihilation.
The same can be said of my depression and fear. If I give into it and never struggle against it, fight it, where will I end up? So it's important to recognize something as sin and to struggle against it. But let's be clear, I can recognize it and become very knowledgeable about my condition, but that gets me nowhere and may even make it worse. I become a navel-gazer. I study myself all the time but without any resulting change. That's just self idolatry. No, we need to have God's help. Only He can help us in our struggles. We cannot do it alone or we risk all the things I've been talking about. How does He help us? First we must become aware of our need and realize we can't save ourselves and reach out to Jesus Christ. When we ask His forgiveness, we are cleansed from that day forward. And God instills His Holy Spirit within us to help us begin our journey of sanctification, a lifelong project where we should be getting more and more like Jesus. Baby steps but movement forward. We have to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, but He is there to teach, lead, empower and strengthen us. He has also given us His Word, the Bible. It's a manual on how to have a relationship with the only Being who can help us and change our lives!
Think about it. We can try to read self help books and it gives us knowledge but no change. We can go talk to a counselor and they can help us get a better perspective but they can't change our life. We can take medications that help calm us down but they can't pay the light bill or save our child from the bully at school. But we can go to God who not only listens to us, but gives us good advice and has the power and wisdom to change the heart of that bullying child or can send you a check in the mail to pay the light bill. He is the Miracle Worker on top of being our Wise Counselor, our Father, our Life Changer. He can change our thought patterns or He can change the circumstances or He can arrange for a miracle,... whatever He knows is best for us! Only He can do whatever we could ask or need!
I have come to the realization that He knows my every thought and my every fear trigger and depression trigger. I am His Child and He loves me but He still allows for some of those triggers. Maybe He wants me to learn how to let those triggers work FOR me and not AGAINST me. I.e. those triggers send me straight to His Arms of love rather than into abject terror. I'm 60 years old and I should have learned this by now but it's still a daily struggle. It's my "thorn in the flesh" as the Apostle Paul called his.
2 Corinthians 12:7-9 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
The intent was to keep Paul from conceit on account of his visions and revelations which otherwise may have given him a reason to boast. What was this "thorn in the flesh"? There are a few theories.
Was it Jewish persecution? They had persecuted him in many ways: hunted, imprisoned, whipped, beaten, beaten with rods, stoned and left for dead, shipwrecked, ultimately beheaded. Maybe it was even PTSD due to the persecution. Or it could have been an illness caused by the persecution and deprivation he endured.
2 Corinthians 11:23-28 – “... in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often.
24 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one.
25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep;
26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;
27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness
Was it a physical problem. He evidently had problems with his eyesight because he used an amanuensis to write his epistles (letters). Paul would then sign the letters with his own signature so the churches knew it came from him. Tertius was one letter writer for Paul.
Romans 16:22 22 I Tertius, who wrote this epistle, salute you in the Lord.
2 Thessalonians 3:17 17 The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write.
Galatians 6:11 11 Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand.
Galatians 4:15 15 Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me.
Was it the false teachers who claimed to be Apostles infiltrating the church? All of the Apostles worried about the false teachers and false doctrines. It was a great concern and their letters, to the churches they had started, revealed their concerns. They were not only letters of greeting and encouragement, but of true doctrine to combat false teachings.
Maybe it was depression and anxiety based on what was going on around him. It would be natural, given what he faced and endured, to have anxiety issues. It would be natural to worry about the health of the new churches and would they survive given the persecution and false teachings.
2 Corinthians 11:28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.
"The thorn of which Paul speaks gives us an understanding of God's perspective concerning physical infirmities. Sometimes God uses illnesses for his purposes. Paul experienced many sufferings outside of his thorn (2 Corinthians 11:22-28), yet God used him mightily for the furtherance and advancement of His Gospel. The existence of illness or suffering in a believer's life does not necessarily constitute a sinful life or a life that lacks faith. Paul pleaded with the Lord on three separate occasions for the Lord to remove the thorn, yet God's grace was enough for the apostle and His power is made perfect in Paul's weaknesses." - BlueLetterBible.org
Pride is our primary sin and it's the most dangerous. Anything God gives us to keep us humble and prayerfully dependent on him is a gift — even when that gift causes us pain. God disciplines His children with affliction in order to protect them from being destroyed by the sin of pride. To understand how pain can protect us from pain let's think about it. If I stumble over a rock and sprain my ankle, I am in pain. I sit down and begin to massage my ankle and remove my shoe and sock to attend to it. I will then hobble to the doctor and treat it. How does this pain protect me from pain? Because I stopped before I walked into the road and got hit by a car. The pain of the sprained ankle is a lot less than the pain of being killed by being run over by a car. God used the sprained ankle to save my life. Another example would be touching a hot stove. A child learns touching something hot burned his little fingers. From now on, he will be careful around anything hot so that he doesn't get burned again. God can use pain to stop us from experiencing worse pain. It may be physical, emotional, but God is usually more concerned with our spiritual lives. He will allow pain to keep us from falling into worse sins, into spiritual destruction. Pride is so easy to fall into and so hard to overcome and so destructive to our spirits. Pride usually becomes idolatry of some sort even to worshiping ourselves. So God may use a "thorn in the flesh" to keep us humble, dependent and safe from pride.
Remember Joseph's story in Genesis? He was his father's darling and his older brothers were so jealous that they despised him. They were going to kill him except Reuben stopped them and told them to just throw him in a pit. Reuben meant to eventually go back and rescue Joseph but the other brothers took advantage of Reuben's absence to sell Joseph into slavery. They thought they were well shut of him and Reuben was distressed when he came back. But he didn't go after Joseph. That's the funny thing about the story. Reuben could have taken money and gone after the caravan and bought Joseph back from the slavers. He didn't. Joseph was sold as a slave. He was so good his master promoted him over everything he had. Later he was falsely accused of attempted rape by his master's wife, throw into jail, forgotten. Joseph had a lot of reasons to feel unloved, forgotten, abused, angry, afraid, anxious, depressed, bitter. Yet, the Bible never indicates that Joseph allowed all those natural emotions to overwhelm and destroy him. We don't know his every waking thought so I'm sure he faced all these emotions at one time or another. He was human. But he evidently didn't let these emotions rule his life and form his existence. He didn't wallow in them, accepting them as being who he was. He fought them and walked away from those destructive thoughts. It may have been a battle all his life, but he was walking in freedom from unforgiveness, anger, fear, depression. He didn't let them rule his life and make his decisions for him.
Joseph is one of my most favorite Bible figures. In the South, we would say, "He lived above his raising." I know Joseph was raised in the the ancient world's idea of the "lap of luxury". His father was wealthy, he was well loved by his father, he was educated and he was raised in a godly home. But all the problems with his brothers... then the trauma of them hating him so much that they wanted to kill him and sold him into slavery... would have been a traumatic event in his teens. He went from being his father's darling to being a young slave in a strange world, knowing no one around him. It had to be traumatic, a culture shock, a stress that would have normally shaped everything in his life from then on. That's not counting what he endured later. But he rose above all of it to have a very successful life in the end. He lived above all the things satan had used to try and destroy him. How?
When he finally meets his brothers again, many years later, he is so changed they don't recognize him. At this point he is an adult, healthy, wealthy far above his family's wealth, famous because he's Pharaoh's 2nd in command, and has immense power because of it. They have no idea that the teenage boy they hated and sold into slavery could be this affluent, powerful man. And they are totally under his power. He could have them killed without a second's hesitation. But that would be lowering himself. Here is what he says when he tells them who he is and sees how afraid they are of him.
Genesis 45:1-8 1 Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, “Send everyone away from me!”
So none of them were with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. 2 But he wept so loudly that the Egyptians and Pharaoh’s household heard him.
3 Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?”
But they were unable to answer him, because they were terrified in his presence.
4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come near me.” And they did so.
“I am Joseph, your brother,” he said, “the one you sold into Egypt! 5 And now, do not be distressed or angry with yourselves that you sold me into this place, because it was to save lives that God sent me before you. 6 For the famine has covered the land these two years, and there will be five more years without plowing or harvesting. 7 God sent me before you to preserve you as a remnant on the earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. 8 Therefore it was not you who sent me here, but God, who has made me a father to Pharaoh—lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt.
After Jacob's death:
Genesis 50:15-21 15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph bears a grudge? Then he will surely repay us for all the evil that we did to him.” ... When their message came to him, Joseph wept. 18 His brothers also came to him, bowed down before him, and said, “We are your slaves!”
19 But Joseph replied, “Do not be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, what you intended against me for evil, God intended for good, in order to accomplish a day like this—to preserve the lives of many people. 21 Therefore do not be afraid. I will provide for you and your little ones.” So Joseph reassured his brothers and spoke kindly to them.
He forgives them.
Just take a moment and ponder that. He forgives them.
He lives above his raising. He lives in God's family and he has the luxury of being free from destructive emotions that would cripple any human being. He has the luxury of forgiving and living free of all the toxic emotions that we can stew in. He lives above his earthly raising and is walking in his true Father's raising. His Father God has raised him to be better than all that and to live free. He doesn't have to lower himself in the septic tank of unforgiveness, anger, hatred, bitterness, fear, depression, pride, self righteousness, revenge, etc. He walked above all that and lived a better life for it. And the only way he did it was by God. We cannot do it if we walk alone. Only God can raise us above our earthly raising and help us walk free and live a worthy life.
As a Christian, we are God's children. He may allow thorns and attacks by satan, but not to destroy us. Rather He allows them to save us and for our betterment. He uses all things to our good, even thorns from satan. (By the way, notice the prick of a thorn is not a mortal wound. It may feel like it, but it's not.) Thorns weaken us and they may not be visible to others. It is mostly our private battle. It is something we have to fight. These weakeners can actually strengthen us. You see, if we didn't have thorns we might think we can do just fine without God. We would live in our own strength and miss God's strength in us. Our weakness does not stop God’s strength. 2 Corinthians 12:10 "For when I am weak, then I am strong". Paul would rather be weakened by his thorn so he may have the power of Christ which is far superior to his own strength.
Hebrews 11:11 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
God is constantly working behind the scenes in every area of our lives. Believing and trusting in this is faith. Faith means we believe God loves us, has our best interest at heart, has a purpose and plan, is in control and doing what is right. When everything seems to be going to hell in a handbasket, we are trusting God knows all about it, is in control and loves us enough to be working in our best interest. This is faith.
Faith does not come naturally to us. Our whole human problem is wanting to do everything ourselves and be in control. We want to be God and do things our way. We want to hold tight control and we only feel secure when we are in control and things are running the way we think they should. Which would include no pain, sorrow, sickness or hardship. I'm like you and you are like me, we all have problems trusting an unseen God.
How do we get this faith? It is a gift from God.
Ephesians 2:8 (KJV) For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Ephesians 2:8 (NLT) God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.
I believe God has planted a seed of faith, or a measure of faith, in every human heart. It is a gift of faith. That seed is dormant in every heart. How is it activated and brought to life? God sent the Holy Spirit to work in the world. He has a job to the unsaved and He indwells in the hearts of the saved.
John 16:5-13 (NLT, Jesus speaking) 5 “But now I am going away to the one who sent me, and not one of you is asking where I am going. 6 Instead, you grieve because of what I’ve told you. 7 But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. 9 The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me. 10 Righteousness is available because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more. 11 Judgment will come because the ruler of this world has already been judged.
12 “There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now. 13 Then the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future".
The ministry of the Holy Spirit to the unsaved: The Holy Spirit works in the world to convict the world of sin. If we don't know we are sinners and are in danger of judgment then we are lost, never knowing our need of a Savior. The Holy Spirit convicts the world of God's righteousness. If we don't know there is a a standard of perfection, God's righteousness, then we won't realize we are far below perfection and in need of a Savior. The Holy Spirit convicts the world of coming judgment because we are sinners and unrighteous. If we don't know there will be judgment then we won't know we need a Savior. The Holy Spirit is working to bring the knowledge of our sinfulness to our attention and awaken the desire for God. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to appeal to that seed of faith within us. But it will only come to life when we believe and say, "Yes, I'm a sinner. I cannot save myself. I need Jesus Christ". That is repentance.
Romans 3:23-26 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
John 3:14-17 (NLT, Jesus speaking) 14 "And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.
16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him".
Romans 5:1-2 1 Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. 2 Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.
Romans 10:9-10 9 If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.
Romans 10:16-17 (NLT) 16 But not everyone welcomes the Good News, for Isaiah the prophet said, “LORD, who has believed our message?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.
Hebrews 12:1-2 (NLT) 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.
In the King James Version, it says Jesus is "the author and finisher of our faith". Can you begin to see that even our saving faith is not us but a gift from God. God instilled that dormant seed (or "measure") of faith in each of us. It was a gift. God sent His Son to provide the way to salvation. He is a gift from God! God sent the Holy Spirit into the world to convict us and show us our desperate need for a Savior and to point us to Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit was a gift from God. God gave us His Word to help awaken our hearts, to bring us the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ, the Gospel message! It was a gift from God. The only thing we bring to the table is ourselves and our need.
The ministry of the Holy Spirit in the believer: Once we are saved, and our spirit is born, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us as our Helper. He comes alongside our baby spirit and begins the teaching, training, and revelation experience. He helps us know God better.
1 Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
1 Corinthians 2:10 These are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.
John 16:13-15 (Jesus speaking) “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you”.
He also enables and empowers us to live in obedience to God. God calls us to a higher way of living, a way that we cannot live in our own strength. We are unable to live this better way in our own strength because we have no strength against sin. We are naturally weak towards sin. But God gave us the Holy Spirit to live within us, giving us strength where we have no strength. If we submit to Him and rely on Him, He will aid us in living free of sin. God didn't just tell us to "go and sin no more" knowing that we are incapable of doing that. God didn't set us up for failure. But rather He gave us the ways and means to live the way He calls us to live. Our problem is we don't cooperate with the Holy Spirit and still try to do things our way. But God doesn't give up on us. We are His Children now and He will never give up on us. The Holy Spirit will continue to work on us throughout our life. It's a process of learning called "sanctification" and it goes on throughout our lives. We never get it all right. But God provided for that too! Our Savior Jesus Christ forgives ALL our sin and we haven't lost our standing with God because of our sin. Jesus' work on the cross guarantees that all sin has been forgiven: past, present and future. Our salvation is based on His work and not our own. Praise God!
It is our unbelief and hardness of heart that keeps us from walking in total faith. It is our human condition. But He has given us the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit that raised Jesus Christ from the dead, dwells in us!!! The power that is available to us if we would but realize it! Trust it! Have faith in it! Cooperate and submit to it!
Romans 8:26-27 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God”
Ephesians 1:14-20 14 The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him.
15 Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere, 16 I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, 17 asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. 18 I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.
19 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.
As we walk with God, our faith can grow. As we converse with Him, praying and dialoguing with Him, our faith can strengthen. As we learn His Word, read it, study it, absorb it, we are strengthened. As we become doers of the Word, obedient and living it, we are strengthened. As we have experiences with God and His faithfulness, we are strengthened. As we spend time with other believers, encouraging one another, our faith is strengthened. It is a process but we must be willing and have a heart to want more of God. And the more of God we desire, the more we get! There is no limit to Him. We will never reach the end of God.
Now to take this discussion about faith into our fear and anxiety. Can you now understand how faith can help us overcome our fear? Faith is basically the opposite of fear. The more faith we have, the less fear. As we can see, not having faith in God and trusting Him is sinful. It's what makes my fear and depression sinful. Having emotions is not sinful. It's letting those emotions run rampant and trusting in my own perceptions, rather than trusting what God says, that is sinful. If I let fear and depression obliterate my faith, it's sinful. If I cannot trust God but can only trust what I see, or feel, around me, it's sinful.
Everyone is naturally going to react with emotion when something happens. It's a gut reaction. But what do you do with that natural reaction? Do you let it flood you with doubt, unbelief, fear? Do you let it run your life? Do you let it ruin you? Or do you fight it? Do you try to combat it with what God says and go to Him and work through the fear and depression?
God knows something has happened. God knows you have a natural, human reaction. God knows everything you are thinking. There is absolutely no reason not to go to Him and work through it WITH Him! Go to Him with your thoughts, your tears, your fears, your anger and lay it all out. God can take it. But don't stop there. Let Him minister to you and use the Holy Spirit in you to bring a new perspective and a fresh revelation of what He can do through the situation. He may not tell you everything but He will tell you that you can trust Him to love you enough to bring you through it. He will show you He is big enough to trust. He will reveal His faithfulness and love.
From my own experience, with my particular weakness in this area, it's a daily struggle and one I don't always win. But that struggle is part of sanctification. I must understand that even if I lose a battle, God can use it to help me in the next battle. As long as I'm with God, then even my losses are usable by Him to help me. He can use all things...
Proverbs 29:25 The fear of man is a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD will be set securely on.
Take some time to think on this and journal your private thoughts. Face your fears. What are you currently afraid of? What is the root of the fear? Why are you afraid? You may be afraid of flying but ask yourself why and what is the root of that fear? Afraid of dying? Afraid of going somewhere you aren't familiar with? Afraid of being a survivor in the event of a plane crash and dying of some other awful way while waiting for rescue? What is really driving your fear? Go down and try to find the root and expose it to God. He already knows about it. He's waiting for you to discover it and show it to Him. Then ask Him to cleanse, heal, and otherwise dispose of the root. It may be immediate or God may use time to slowly draw it out. But trust Him to do it the right way, the least destructive way to you. He knows what you can and cannot withstand.
You may have perfectly reasonable reasons for being afraid. No one is trying to tell you that your fear is unreasonable. But, reasonable or not, real threat or not, you can't live in fear. You have to combat it because fear adds nothing to your life but can subtract from, even destroy, your life. And, because fear is the opposite of faith, it is sinful. We need to be applying our emotional energies into faith, not fear.
We have discussed the topic of fear. We have defined it, learned how it affects us, how God can use it to benefit us but how satan can use it to destroy us. We have discussed the two different kinds of fear in the Bible: fear of the Lord and destructive fear. We have seen how fear can lead to sin and even to bondage; where our whole life is run by fear. We have looked at how God wants to free us with faith, faith in Him. We learned that we have been gifted all we need to walk "above our raising". We have realized it's a process of learning that takes time but we should be moving forward in our walk. We've also learned that God can take even our failures and use them for our good.
Let's look at the times when God tells people, "Do not be afraid".
Exodus 3:1-14,18-21 1 Meanwhile, Moses was shepherding the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian. He led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from within a bush. Moses saw the bush ablaze with fire, but it was not consumed. 3 So Moses thought, “I must go over and see this marvelous sight. Why is the bush not burning up?”
4 When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called out to him from within the bush, “Moses, Moses!”
“Here I am,” he answered.
5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then He said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”
At this, Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
7 The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the affliction of My people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their oppressors, and I am aware of their sufferings. 8 I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites.
9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached Me, and I have seen how severely the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 Therefore, go! I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring My people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”
11 But Moses asked God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
12 “I will surely be with you,” God said, “and this will be the sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, all of you will worship God on this mountain.”
13 Then Moses asked God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ What should I tell them?”
14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”...
18 The elders of Israel will listen to what you say, and you must go with them to the king of Egypt and tell him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. Now please let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness, so that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.’
19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not allow you to go unless a mighty hand compels him. 20 So I will stretch out My hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders I will perform among them. And after that, he will release you.
21 And I will grant this people such favor in the sight of the Egyptians that when you leave, you will not go away empty-handed.
Exodus 4:1-17 1 Then Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to my voice? For they may say, ‘The LORD has not appeared to you.’”
2 And the LORD asked him, “What is that in your hand?”
“A staff,” he replied.
3 “Throw it on the ground,” said the Lord. So Moses threw it on the ground, and it became a snake, and he ran from it.
4 “Stretch out your hand and grab it by the tail,” the LORD said to Moses, who reached out his hand and caught the snake, and it turned back into a staff in his hand. 5 “This is so that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has appeared to you.”
6 Furthermore, the LORD said to Moses, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” So he put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out, his hand was leprous, white as snow.
7 “Put your hand back inside your cloak,” said the LORD.
So Moses put his hand back inside his cloak, and when he took it out, it was restored, like the rest of his skin.
8 And the LORD said, “If they refuse to believe you or heed the witness of the first sign, they may believe that of the second. 9 But if they do not believe even these two signs or listen to your voice, take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground. Then the water you take from the Nile will become blood on the ground.”
10 “Please, Lord,” Moses replied, “I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since You have spoken to Your servant, for I am slow of speech and tongue.”
11 And the LORD said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Or who makes the mute or the deaf, the sighted or the blind? Is it not I, the LORD? 12 Now go! I will help you as you speak, and I will teach you what to say.”
13 But Moses replied, “Please, Lord, send someone else.”
14 Then the LORD’s anger burned against Moses, and He said, “Is not Aaron the Levite your brother? I know that he can speak well, and he is now on his way to meet you. When he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. 15 You are to speak to him and put the words in his mouth. I will help both of you to speak, and I will teach you what to do. 16 He will speak to the people for you. He will be your spokesman, and it will be as if you were God to him. 17 But take this staff in your hand so that you can perform signs with it.”
Acts 7:17-34 17 “But when the time of the promise drew near which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt 18 till another king arose who did not know Joseph. 19 This man dealt treacherously with our people, and oppressed our forefathers, making them expose their babies, so that they might not live. 20 At this time Moses was born, and was well pleasing to God; and he was brought up in his father’s house for three months. 21 But when he was set out, Pharaoh’s daughter took him away and brought him up as her own son. 22 And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds.
23 “Now when he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren, the children of Israel. 24 And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended and avenged him who was oppressed, and struck down the Egyptian. 25 For he supposed that his brethren would have understood that God would deliver them by his hand, but they did not understand. 26 And the next day he appeared to two of them as they were fighting, and tried to reconcile them, saying, ‘Men, you are brethren; why do you wrong one another?’ 27 But he who did his neighbor wrong pushed him away, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? 28 Do you want to kill me as you did the Egyptian yesterday?’ 29 Then, at this saying, Moses fled and became a dweller in the land of Midian, where he had two sons.
30 “And when forty years had passed, an Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire in a bush, in the wilderness of Mount Sinai. 31 When Moses saw it, he marveled at the sight; and as he drew near to observe, the voice of the Lord came to him, 32 saying, ‘I am the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses trembled and dared not look. 33 ‘Then the Lord said to him, “Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground. 34 I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt; I have heard their groaning and have come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send you to Egypt.” ’
Moses' reluctance to take this huge project God was assigning is not surprising. I know myself all too well and know I would be just as scared and lacking faith as Moses evidently was. Remember Moses was born into slavery in Goshen. Not only slavery, but, at a time when Egypt was afraid of the Hebrews because their population was growing exponentially. So the new king passed a law that all Hebrew baby boys were to be killed by the midwives by being thrown into the Nile River! Moses was suppose to be killed at birth! His mother gave birth to Moses without a midwife evidently and was able to conceal him for a time. But it's hard to conceal a baby's cry and someone would notice him soon. So she made a basket and waterproofed it and she laid Moses in the basket for him to float in the river while his older sister, Miriam, was to watch after him. As it so happened, God made sure Moses was rescued. The Pharaoh's daughter went to the river to bathe and found the basket with this beautiful Hebrew baby boy in it. She was allowed to adopt him and raise him as her son.
But Moses reached adulthood knowing he was a Hebrew and he evidently experience deep conflict in his heart about his origins and his birth family versus the luxury he got to enjoy being the adopted son of the Pharaoh's daughter. He got to be well educated and had everything he needed while his people were slaves, oppressed and abused. One day, his conflicted heart gave rise to a rage incident where he killed an Egyptian for mistreating a Hebrew slave. He was 40 years old when he killed the Egyptian and fled. He became a shepherd in the wilderness and married Zipporah, daughter of a priest named Reuel of Midian and they had two sons.
"Midianites, descendants of Abraham by Keturah, worshipped the true God, and seem to have been at this time a religious people. The name Reuel, or Raguel (Reguel), means 'friend of God.' Jethro's sacrifices were 'for God,' and Aaron and the elders eat bread with him 'before God.'" - Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
When God commissions Moses, he was 80 years of age, and some 40 years had elapsed since his flight from Egypt. So let's look at what Moses was probably thinking as he stood in front of the burning bush:
I'm 80 years old, too old to take on this project. I murdered an Egyptian and fled. It was public knowledge that I had done it. There may be a death sentence waiting for me in Egypt. Who will listen to a known murderer? I have a wife and sons. I've been my father-in-law's support. What will the family do without me, or worse, would they become a target? I have a speech impediment and when I get nervous, it gets worse. How can I speak effectively? Nobody in Egypt has seen me since I left 40 years ago. They are going to wonder who the heck I am and what gives me the right, power or authority to lead anything? I'm a stranger to them. My Egyptian connections may rightly hate me after what I did. I lived upon their charity for 40 years and got the best of everything and I paid them back by killing an Egyptian and running away. They must be angry. They must have felt used. They must have been devastated at the betrayal of their kindness and generosity. Maybe what I did made them think worse of the Hebrews and will make it even harder on me to be the one to lead them to freedom. The Egyptian economy is so reliant on slaves that there is no way Pharaoh is going to give them up. It doesn't make any sense in the political or economical world, to let their labor go free. Am I even hearing this right? Maybe this is all a dream. Maybe I'm hallucinating. Maybe the conflict that has always been in my heart and mind is causing me to imagine all this. This can't be real. It's really no wonder at all that Moses was reluctant and fearful. He had some good reasons to question God. But, on the other hand, this is GOD we are talking about. No matter what valid reasons we may have for hesitating, God can overcome them all and do so in miraculous ways. We must be sure God is directing us, but then we must be sure to obey regardless of all the "reasons" that it can't be done. Our little human minds can come up with a host of reasons why something can't be done. But if God says it can, then we must be willing tools so that His power can be displayed to overcome all the "can'ts". As we know, Moses went on to be used by God in spectacular ways and he did lead all the Israelites out of Egypt safely and loaded with treasure just like God had said. God performed such miracles to accomplish this exodus that we still talk about it today, thousands of years later. The plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, bringing water out of rock, manna from heaven, etc.
How did God approach Moses? God certainly knew Moses and knew all the reasons Moses would come up with in his mind. He knew Moses would be fearful. None of this was surprising to God so He knew just when and how to approach Moses.
In verse 1, we see Moses is at Mt Horeb when he sees the burning bush. Mount Horeb and Mount Sinai are almost assuredly the same place. "The Protestant reformer John Calvin took the view that Sinai and Horeb were the same mountain, with the eastern side of the mountain being called Sinai and the western side being called Horeb. Abraham Ibn Ezra suggested that there was one mountain, 'only it had two tops, which bore these different names'". (Wikipedia)
Mt Horeb/Mt Sinai are going to come up again and again in the story of Moses. It must have been a place he knew well from his time as a shepherd of his father-in-law's sheep. It will be the place where Moses strikes the rock and water comes forth. It will be the place where he receives the Ten Commandments and the Laws in Deuteronomy. The exact location of the famous Mt. Sinai, or Mt. Horeb, is disputed. Today, Mount Sinai is a mountain in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt that is a possible location of the biblical Mount Sinai. Mt. Sinai, also known as Jabal Musa or Jebel Musa, is a mountain in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt. It is a 7,497 ft moderately high mountain near the city of Saint Catherine in the Sinai region. It is next to Mount Catherine (8,625 ft, the highest peak in Egypt). No Exodus-related archaeological remains have been recovered in the Sinai Peninsula—through which the Israelites must have traveled out of Egypt around 1200 B.C. Emmanuel Anati conducted more than 30 years of archaeological work on, and around, Har Karkom—a 2,700-foot ridge in the southern Negev and which he theorizes is Mt. Sinai. Then there is the "Midianite Hypothesis". Moses fled to Midian after escaping Egypt (Exodus 2:15). This hypothesis puts Mt. Sinai in Midian in northwest Saudi Arabia. Some think it was Jebel Al Lawz. Wherever it was, Moses was familiar with this area from his shepherding days. Forty years he had lived and worked in this area, a far cry from his 40 years as an Egyptian elite living in luxury.
Notice, in the above maps, the only green area is the Nile Delta and along the Nile River. Moses was born in Goshen which is in the Nile Delta. Green and lush. Now notice all the sand color. That's desert and wilderness areas. That's where Moses had to flee to and live for 40 years. Big difference between the lushness of the Nile Delta with the riches of being raised in Pharaoh's household and living in the desert and shepherding sheep.
But it was God's preparation. Moses wasn't aware at the time, but God had been preparing Moses all those years. First in education and knowledge of the Egyptian culture, especially the elite. He knew both languages and how the Egyptian court worked. Second in the barrenness of the wilderness where the Israelites would one day wander after their exodus. No matter where the Mount was, it was in a wilderness area that would look somewhat like this photo. It is just to give you an idea of what the topography would look like to the wandering Israelites. I didn't pick it for a specific site but to show you what kind of land they were wandering over. It was desert!
Moses lived with his father-in-law, the Midianite priest, and his family. He tended sheep for a living. What a demotion from an Egyptian prince and nobleman to a shepherd in the desert. Moses named his first son, Gershom (banishment, to drive or thrust away); "for," he said, "I have been a stranger in a strange land" far away from his brethren in Egypt, and far from his birth fathers' Promised Land. By the time of the birth of his second son, submission and humility is beginning to change his heart because he named him Eliezer (God is help); for he said, "The God of my father (Abraham, or the three patriarchs) is my help, and has delivered me from the sword of Pharaoh" (Exodus 18:4). He seemed satisfied now with his lot in life; and thus learned humility and contentment at GU (God's University of higher learning). Maybe he was able to overcome the conflict within himself, the bitterness he had felt that had led him to murder. Maybe his father-in-law was able to instill the knowledge of the one true God in Moses... the God of his birth family, the Jewish JHWH (Jahweh, Jehovah). Who knows how much Moses knew about God in his first 40 years as an Egyptian nobleman? He knew he was a Hebrew, but had he learned his Jewish history during those first 40 years or did he learn it the next 40 years as a shepherd living with his father-in-law the priest? Or both? And where, along the way, did the angry young man become the humble servant of God? Knowing sanctification is a lifelong process, I'm sure God was teaching Moses all along the way and he grew in his relationship with God. But the burning bush incident would shape the rest of his life.
Next we see, in verse 2, "the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from within a bush. Moses saw the bush ablaze with fire, but it was not consumed".
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance
There the Angel - מַלְאַ֨ךְ (malak, mal·’aḵ) - Noun - masculine singular construct
Strong's Hebrew 4397: A messenger, of God, an angel
Brown-Driver-Briggs English Hebrew Lexicon says the Angel in the burning bush was a "theophanic angel". Theophany meaning "appearance of god" is the appearance of a deity to a human. Some interpret "the angel of the Lord", who appears in several places throughout the Old Testament, to be the pre-incarnate Christ, which is Jesus before his manifestation into human form.
of the LORD - יְהֹוָ֥ה (Yah·weh) - Noun - proper - masculine singular
Strong's Hebrew 3068: LORD -- the proper name of the God of Israel
him in a blazing - בְּלַבַּת־ (bə·lab·baṯ-) - Preposition-b | Noun - feminine singular construct
Strong's Hebrew 3827: Flame
fire - אֵ֖שׁ (’êš) - Noun - common singular
Strong's Hebrew 784: A fire
from within - מִתּ֣וֹךְ (mit·tō·wḵ) - Preposition-m | Noun - masculine singular construct
Strong's Hebrew 8432: A bisection, the centre
a bush - הַסְּנֶ֑ה (has·sə·neh) - Article | Noun - masculine singular
Strong's Hebrew 5572: Perhaps blackberry bush
Moses saw a fire burning but a fire, among dry bushes, would have consumed the bushes quickly and this fire was not going out. It continued to burn. Moses' attention is captured and he turns aside to check out the phenomenon. It's still burning by the time he arrives in front of the burning bush. This was no ordinary sight!
Exodus 3:3 and 6b So Moses thought, “I must go over and see this marvelous sight. Why is the bush not burning up?”...At this, Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
Acts 7:30-31 After forty years had passed, an Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire in a bush, in the wilderness of Mount Sinai. When Moses saw it, he marveled at the sight; ...
"Fire is an emblem, in Scripture, of the Divine holiness and justice, also of the afflictions and trials with which God proves and purifies his people, and even of that baptism of the Holy Ghost, by which sinful affections are consumed, and the soul changed into the Divine nature and image." - Matthew Henry Commentary
God calls to him from within the flames of the burning bush. Think about this. God speaks to Moses in an audible voice from within the burning bush. How would you react if you were in Moses' shoes at that moment? He was seeing a supernatural phenomenon and hearing the voice of God. Would you believe what is happening and what you are seeing and hearing with your own senses? Or would you question what is happening? Maybe a little of both? God doesn't often appear in a way that our natural senses can see, touch, hear. But He did to Moses for Moses was actually seeing an Angel of the Lord (a theophanic angel, i.e. God Himself in a visible form, the pre-incarnate Christ who is the messenger and High Priest between God and man) in the midst of the burning bush and hearing God's voice. It was so spectacular that Moses marveled, was afraid and turned away. He "trembled and dared not look". God's awesome presence often includes FIRE. Later Moses goes up on the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments and the mountain is covered in fire frightening the Israelites gathered below the mountain. When God leads the Israelites on their journey, He goes before them in a pillar of fire in the night and a pillar of cloud by day. When the Tabernacle, and later, the Temple, are consecrated, God shows up with a fiery presence! God knew Moses needed convincing that the commission was really from God. If Moses was going to be convinced, it would take God's spectacular presence and revelation. God knew just what Moses needed to believe and obey.
Next, God tells Moses to remove his shoes for he is standing on holy ground. Again, stop and think. God doesn't just pronounce a command, He actually calls Moses BY NAME. Our God knows us by name. He knows all about us and where we are and how we think. He is intimately aware of each and every one of His children. The same God who created the Universe and knows every star by name, also created and planned you and knows you by name.
Why did God ask Moses to remove his shoes? According to the commentaries, it was normal to remove one's shoes in Eastern countries. The removal of the shoes is a confession of personal defilement and conscious unworthiness to stand in the presence of unspotted holiness, a token of respect and submission. It was done in reverence, humility, purification, and submission to readily do God's Will as slaves used to be barefooted. Moses was approaching God, not just a burning bush. God is calling Moses not anyone else. God has initiated contact with Moses.
Psalm 65:2-4 2 You who answer prayer,
to you all people will come.
3 When we were overwhelmed by sins,
you forgave our transgressions.
4 Blessed are those you choose
and bring near to live in your courts!
We are filled with the good things of your house,
of your holy temple.
It was holy ground for no other reason than God's presence was there. He is holy and brings holiness with Him. It was not the place, but the Person and we should not venerate a place, an object, a time, but a Person.
There was also a custom concerning removing a shoe that is seen in Ruth. Let's read that.
Ruth 4:7-10 7 Now in those days it was the custom in Israel for anyone transferring a right of purchase to remove his sandal and hand it to the other party. This publicly validated the transaction. 8 So the other family redeemer drew off his sandal as he said to Boaz, “You buy the land.”
9 Then Boaz said to the elders and to the crowd standing around, “You are witnesses that today I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelech, Kilion, and Mahlon. 10 And with the land I have acquired Ruth, the Moabite widow of Mahlon, to be my wife. This way she can have a son to carry on the family name of her dead husband and to inherit the family property here in his hometown. You are all witnesses today.”
The idea of this act apparently is that the man resigns the right of walking on the land as master, in favor of him to whom he gives the shoe. Do you begin to see something here? God was going to ask Moses to resign his rights to God to walk the land as master. God would be the master and direct Moses' steps if Moses accepted and submitted. We will never know what would have happened to Moses if he had refused to yield his rights to God. But we have plenty of examples in the Bible of those who refused and the dire consequences. For instance, King Asa in 2 Chronicles 16 tried to do things his way and ended up with diseased feet that killed him.
2 Chronicles 16:12 In the thirty-ninth year of his reign, Asa became diseased in his feet, and his malady became increasingly severe. Yet even in his illness he did not seek the LORD, but only the physicians.
If you read 2 Chronicles 14-15, you will see that God had helped Asa and Asa had been blessed and preserved for it. But as he got older, he took back his rights and tried taking back control. He made decisions without God and when God sent a prophet to warn him, he had the prophet thrown into prison!
Then He said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” God identifies Himself to Moses as the Covenant God of his forefathers. He was born a Jew, a descendant of Abraham. He was raised as an Egyptian. He had been living in Midian for 40 years with his father-in-law, a Midian priest who was a priest of the only true God. Somewhere along the way, Moses had been taught about the one true God, the Hebrew God. Tradition credits Moses as the author of Genesis, as well as the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and most of Deuteronomy. It was in Genesis that we learn of the beginnings of man and the beginnings of the Israelites. Genesis tells the story of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. So Moses knew it and would recognize what God was saying. God wasn't speaking a language Moses didn't know. Moses knew what God meant.
Next God goes on to say He has seen the affliction of the Israelites in Egypt. This was a subject Moses knew all too well. God is telling Moses He has been aware of their affliction. The Covenant people have never been hidden from Him. God had his purposes in allowing the 400 years of slavery and affliction, but that didn't mean God hadn't been fully aware of what was going on or had forgotten them. It also didn't mean that He wasn't aware of each and every individual. He knew there were those who believed in Him and worshiped him. Those He would have taken care of just as He did Moses and Moses' family (his brother and sister, Aaron and Miriam, help him in the exodus). The remnant He would have picked up and carried in the midst of the affliction. God announces that it is time for Him to rescue them and bring them into the "land flowing with milk and honey", the Promised Land, the land of Canaan which He had promised to Abraham.
Then God commissions Moses and says, "Therefore, go! I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring My people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”
At one time, when he was a young man, Moses had thought he could bring about change in his own power but had ended up a hunted man shepherding sheep all alone in Midian. He is much older now and, with age, comes an acknowledgment of our limitations. So to think of doing such a huge mission in his own power was unthinkable! It had been his dream at one time, but no longer. So he starts trying to excuse himself and get out of the commission.
"He was more forward in the work forty years ago, by reason of the fervours of his youth, his inexperience in affairs, the advantage of his power and interest in the court, by which he thought he could and should procure their deliverance; but now age had made him cool and considerate; the remembrance of his brethren’s rejection of him, when he was a great man at court, took away all probability of prevailing with them to follow him, much more of prevailing with Pharaoh to let them go. Thus Moses falls into that distemper to which most men are prone, of measuring God by himself, and by the probabilities or improbabilities of second causes." - Matthew Poole's Commentary
God has to show Moses that it's not Moses' skill, strength, talents, or abilities that will bring the people out of Egypt. It will be God's power and wisdom that will do it. All Moses has to do is obey God. Go where God says go, speak what God says to speak, leave the results in God's hands and be the tool, not the power behind the tool. If we could but realize this, how freeing it would be!!! I was made to be a tool in God's hands and God is the one who wields the tool and is responsible for the outcome. Does the hammer wring it's hands in worry? Does it fear the house won't be built? No. The builder is the one who is responsible. So why can't I give up and submit to be used as the tool and let God be God? Why do I insist on control? Why can't I be free and easy and let God do His thing through me?
I often think about Jesus when He and His disciples went into the three years of ministry before His crucifixion and resurrection. There is no mention of Jesus having a suitcase with Him as he went from place to place ministering, healing and preaching. There is no mention of a wagon load of household goods being pulled behind Him. No mention of a bag of medical supplies and medicine He kept strapped to His back. He woke up each morning without a care in the world. He started walking and wherever God led Him, He went. Whoever God put in His way, He spoke to, healed, ministered to. He didn't know if He would have a place to sleep or a meal to eat. He just trusted God to provide all that. He didn't worry about being imprisoned or tortured or killed because He knew God was in control and all things were done according to God's plan and for the good. He so completely trusted God that He was the freest of human beings. Think about it. No worries, no concerns, no what-ifs, no fear, no needs. It's almost beyond my imagination but I try. Because that's where we really should be with God. We should be able to so trust Him that we have no worries or fears. We should be able to go where God says go; do what God says do; and say what God says to say and leave it to Him. To have that kind of relationship with God would be so freeing.
As if God would be fooled, Moses attempts to hide behind the fig leaf of false humility. It is one thing to realize your humble estate and your need of God. It is another to use false humility to try and avoid obeying God. Sinful distrust of God crept in under the garb of humility. God reassures Moses that He will be with him and He will be the one doing all the work. Moses doesn't have to be afraid because God is in control.
Moses asks what to tell the Israelites about who is sending him? How will they believe God has sent him? Maybe Moses thought he needed some kind of catchy campaign slogan to rally the Israelites? But God gives him a straightforward answer: "I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shall you say to the children of Israel, I AM has sent me to you."
"I AM the existing Being, or HE WHO IS,... and WHO WILL BE. That is, I am He that enjoys an essential, independent, immutable, and necessary existence, He that IS, and WAS, and IS TO COME. It explains his name Jehovah, and signifies, 1st, That he is self- existent: he has his being of himself, and has no dependance on any other. And being self-existent, he cannot but be self-sufficient, and therefore all-sufficient, and the inexhaustible fountain of being and blessedness. 2d, That he is eternal and unchangeable: the same yesterday, to-day, and forever. For the words are with equal propriety rendered, I WILL BE WHAT I AM, or, I AM WHAT I WILL BE, or, I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE. Other beings are, and have been, and shall be;... He is the fountain of all being and perfection, and that from him all things have derived their existence; so that it is he alone that has life in himself: and no creature, of whatever rank or order, has so much as an existence of its own: For in him we live, and move, and have our being... 3rd he is faithful and true to all his promises, unchangeable in his word, as well as in his nature; and not a man that he should lie." - Benson Commentary
God then prophesies to Moses about what will happen and how He will do mighty wonders and miracles to accomplish this exodus.
But Moses goes on to question, What evidence can I produce of my divine mission? He is still not convinced. It seemed too incredible. Based on human reasoning, it still couldn't be done. He was still afraid to put his neck on the line in case God didn't come through as promised. He was basically afraid of rejection. Not only by Pharaoh but by the Israelites. He was afraid God would hang him out to dry. He was afraid he would get there and make all these fancy speeches, then go before Pharaoh and make an outrageous request and be laughed at, if not imprisoned and killed. He was asking God for some type of guarantee.
Moses asking GOD for a guarantee on His Word would be laughable except we all do it all the time. There was Moses standing before the presence of God in the burning bush, hearing God call him by name and audibly commission him to do what Moses had wanted to do all along. God assures him He will be the one in control and will do mighty miracles to bring about the safe exodus of the people. And Moses is still asking for a guarantee. He is suggesting that the resources (GOD) are inadequate. He is suggesting that GOD may not have looked all round; GOD has overlooked something which only his eyes have seen.
Sometimes I've thought, "Man, if God would just send a piece of paper floating from the sky with my name on it and instructions of what to do, that would help." But I have to laugh because I know myself too well. If God did that I would still find a way to question it: "Oh a wind just happened to pick up a piece of trash and it just so happened to have my name on it. How can I know it's from God?"
God appeared to Moses in a burning bush. Today, God has sent His Holy Spirit to INDWELL in us! He can tell us His instructions any time we will stop and listen! We have a direct line to the Father through Jesus Christ who sent the Holy Spirit to live in us. Dadgum, Sharon, just pick up the phone and ask!?!
Why don't we? Why didn't Moses want to believe? That's what I call a root problem and one we need go to God about. Ask Him to help you uncover the root cause for unbelief, distrust and lack of faith.
God goes on to do some powerful miracles to further convince Moses. But Moses tries to pull out one more excuse, "I am slow of speech and tongue". He may have thought he was not a speech writer or a charismatic speaker. Or he may have literally had a speech impediment. But God cuts this excuse down forthwith. And still Moses begs off...
"But Moses replied, 'Please, Lord, send someone else.' Then the LORD’s anger burned against Moses..."
This is a suggestion that God has made a mistake in choosing him and God should do better in selecting the next person. What arrogance we have to direct God and to assume we know better than God! God was displeased with Moses and could have rightly swatted his belligerent butt. But God knows Moses, past, present and future. He knows Moses is the one and that Moses will evolve into the position God has called him to. God had already known the whole of this conversation before it had taken place because God knows all. God had already arranged for Moses' brother, Aaron, to have begun a journey to come see Moses.
Now let's look ahead and see another example of what fear can do.
After the exodus from Egypt, Moses and the people come to the Promised Land.
Deuteronomy 31:1-8 1 When Moses had finished speaking these words to all Israel, 2 he said to them, “I am now a hundred and twenty years old; I am no longer able to come and go, and the LORD has said to me, ‘You shall not cross the Jordan.’
3 The LORD your God Himself will cross over ahead of you. He will destroy these nations before you, and you will dispossess them. Joshua will cross ahead of you, as the LORD has said. 4 And the LORD will do to them as He did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, when He destroyed them along with their land.
5 The LORD will deliver them over to you, and you must do to them exactly as I have commanded you. 6 Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid or terrified of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.”
7 Then Moses called for Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you will go with this people into the land that the LORD swore to their fathers to give them, and you shall give it to them as an inheritance. 8 The LORD Himself goes before you; He will be with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid or discouraged.”
Joshua 1:1-9 1 Now after the death of His servant Moses, the LORD spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying, 2 “Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore arise, you and all these people, and cross over the Jordan into the land that I am giving to the children of Israel.
3 I have given you every place where the sole of your foot will tread, just as I promised to Moses. 4 Your territory shall extend from the wilderness and Lebanon to the great River Euphrates—all the land of the Hittites—and west as far as the Great Sea.
5 No one shall stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so will I be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.
6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall give these people the inheritance of the land that I swore to their fathers I would give them.
7 Above all, be strong and very courageous. Be careful to observe all the law that My servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may prosper wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law must not depart from your mouth; you are to recite it day and night so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in all you do.
9 Have I not commanded you to be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
Moses had led the Hebrews (the Jews) out of Egypt, through their wanderings and finally to the Promised Land. But it was time for him to go home to the Lord. He would not be crossing over the Jordan River and leading them into possession of the land. His job was over and it was time for a new leader, Joshua, to lead them. The first time we meet Joshua is when he is selected by God to be one of the 12 spies sent into the Promised Land.
Numbers 13:1-16 (NKJV) 1 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the children of Israel; from each tribe of their fathers you shall send a man, every one a leader among them.”
3 So Moses sent them from the Wilderness of Paran according to the command of the Lord, all of them men who were heads of the children of Israel. 4 Now these were their names: from the tribe of Reuben, Shammua the son of Zaccur; 5 from the tribe of Simeon, Shaphat the son of Hori; 6 from the tribe of Judah, Caleb the son of Jephunneh; 7 from the tribe of Issachar, Igal the son of Joseph; 8 from the tribe of Ephraim, Hoshea the son of Nun; 9 from the tribe of Benjamin, Palti the son of Raphu; 10 from the tribe of Zebulun, Gaddiel the son of Sodi; 11 from the tribe of Joseph, that is, from the tribe of Manasseh, Gaddi the son of Susi; 12 from the tribe of Dan, Ammiel the son of Gemalli; 13 from the tribe of Asher, Sethur the son of Michael; 14 from the tribe of Naphtali, Nahbi the son of Vophsi; 15 from the tribe of Gad, Geuel the son of Machi.
16 These are the names of the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land. And Moses called Hoshea the son of Nun, Joshua.
The Twelve Spies (including Joshua)
Numbers 13:26-33 26 Now they departed and came back to Moses and Aaron and all the congregation of the children of Israel in the Wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; they brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 Then they told him, and said: “We went to the land where you sent us. It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. 28 Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites dwell in the land of the South; the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea and along the banks of the Jordan.”
Of the twelve spies, ten were so frightened and overwhelmed by what they had seen that they spread fear with their report back to the people. Only Caleb and Joshua had faith that God could overcome the inhabitants of the Promised Land.
Numbers 13:30-33 30 Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.”
31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.” 32 And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. 33 There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”
The fear spread like wildfire despite Caleb's attempt to reason with them. They were relying on what they could see and it scared them. Despite all God had miraculously done for them, they still were more afraid of what they could see. They didn't have faith in God. The fear swept through the people like a tidal wave and their fear got so out of hand that they were turning, not only against God, but against Moses, Joshua and Caleb! They were ready to blame everything on them and stone them!
Numbers 14:1-12,20-25 1 So all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. 2 And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness! 3 Why has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” 4 So they said to one another, “Let us select a leader and return to Egypt.”
5 Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel.
6 But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes; 7 and they spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: “The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. 8 If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey.’ 9 Only do not rebel against the Lord, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the Lord is with us. Do not fear them.”
10 And all the congregation said to stone them with stones. Now the glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle of meeting before all the children of Israel.
11 Then the Lord said to Moses: “How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them? 12 I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they...” (Moses intercedes)
20 Then the Lord said: “I have pardoned, according to your word; 21 but truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord— 22 because all these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice, 23 they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it. 24 But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it. 25 Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites dwell in the valley; tomorrow turn and move out into the wilderness by the Way of the Red Sea.”
The result of letting their fear take over and losing their faith in God, was that they never entered the Promised Land. For 40 years, the people wandered in the wilderness until the last of that generation died. Only Joshua and Caleb, were left of that generation and they entered the Promised Land and inherited what God had promised. They chose the "safety" of the wilderness and the "security" of wandering rather than faith in God. Going into the Promised Land looked too hard, the people looked too big (there really were giants, but that is another story), the cities looked too fortified and strong. In their eyes, God looked too little to be able to help them overcome all that. Despite all He had done to show them how big He was and how capable He was, they still saw Him as puny, powerless, ineffective, limited. They just couldn't believe their God could overcome those powerful people that inhabited the Promised Land.
Isn't that really the way we are? Do we not also see our circumstance as bigger than God? Don't we think our unseen God is too puny, powerless and pitiful to stand up and be able to change our human circumstances? We get overwhelmed and scared but instead of running to God and putting our troubles into His Hands, we disdain God and think He can't do anything. And if anyone tries to tell us God can do whatever is needed, we are ready to stone them! Do you see now how disgraceful and ungrateful that kind of attitude is? And, yet, it's so pernicious that I think I can safely say every human being has thought the same thing. God forgive us! I'm as sinful in this regard as you are! Yes, may God forgive me for my fear and depression! After all He's done for me, and I think He can't take care of whatever I'm currently facing?!? May God forgive me!
Luke 12:4-7 (Jesus speaking) 4 I tell you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear the One who, after you have been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him!
6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 7 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
The Prophet Ezekiel was called to prophesy to the people of Israel (the Jews, the Hebrews). It was not going to be pretty words and Ezekiel would naturally be afraid to speak God's Words of warning.
Ezekiel 1:1-3 1 In the thirtieth year, on the fifth day of the fourth month, while I was among the exiles by the River Kebar, the heavens opened and I saw visions of God.
2 On the fifth day of the month—it was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin— 3 the word of the LORD came directly to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the River Kebar. And there the LORD’s hand was upon him....
Ezekiel 2:1-7 1 “Son of man,” He said to me, “stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.” 2 And as He spoke to me, the Spirit entered me and set me on my feet, and I heard Him speaking to me.
3 “Son of man,” He said to me: “I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against Me. To this very day they and their fathers have rebelled against Me. 4 They are obstinate and stubborn children. I am sending you to them, and you are to say to them, ‘This is what the Lord GOD says.’
5 And whether they listen or refuse to listen—for they are a rebellious house—they will know that a prophet has been among them.
6 But you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns surround you, and you dwell among scorpions. Do not be afraid of their words or dismayed by their presence, though they are a rebellious house. 7 But speak My words to them, whether they listen or refuse to listen, for they are rebellious.
God commissioned Ezekiel to tell the Israelites His Words. Whether they accepted them or not was not to be Ezekiel's concern. His office, or job, was to be obedient in relaying the Word of the Lord. God warns him that there will be backlash but not to be afraid, only obey. God is perfectly capable of taking care of Ezekiel against the "briers", "thorns" and "scorpions" that will surround him at times. Briers, thorns and scorpions can prick, sting and distress but they are worthless. They are useless and only fuel for the everlasting fire.
God similarly spoke to Jeremiah.
Jeremiah 1:1-8 1 These are the words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the priests in Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin.
2 The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah, 3 and through the days of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, until the fifth month of the eleventh year of Zedekiah son of Josiah king of Judah, when the people of Jerusalem went into exile.
4 The word of the LORD came to me, saying:
5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I set you apart
and appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
6 “Ah, Lord GOD,” I said, “I surely do not know how to speak, for I am only a child!”
7 But the LORD told me:
“Do not say,
‘I am only a child.’
For to everyone I send you,
you must go,
and all that I command you,
you must speak.
8 Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,”
Starting in 1 Kings 11, we see King Solomon, the son of King David, is the last king to rule over a united Israel. After King Solomon, the kingdom divides into Israel and Judah. Israel would have the capital in Samaria and Judah would have the capital in Jerusalem.
1 Kings 11:1-13 (NLT) 1 Now King Solomon loved many foreign women. Besides Pharaoh’s daughter, he married women from Moab, Ammon, Edom, Sidon, and from among the Hittites. 2 The LORD had clearly instructed the people of Israel, “You must not marry them, because they will turn your hearts to their gods.” Yet Solomon insisted on loving them anyway. 3 He had 700 wives of royal birth and 300 concubines. And in fact, they did turn his heart away from the LORD.
4 In Solomon’s old age, they turned his heart to worship other gods instead of being completely faithful to the LORD his God, as his father, David, had been. 5 Solomon worshiped Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech, the detestable god of the Ammonites. 6 In this way, Solomon did what was evil in the LORD’s sight; he refused to follow the LORD completely, as his father, David, had done.
7 On the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, he even built a pagan shrine for Chemosh, the detestable god of Moab, and another for Molech, the detestable god of the Ammonites. 8 Solomon built such shrines for all his foreign wives to use for burning incense and sacrificing to their gods.
9 The LORD was very angry with Solomon, for his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. 10 He had warned Solomon specifically about worshiping other gods, but Solomon did not listen to the LORD’s command. 11 So now the LORD said to him, “Since you have not kept my covenant and have disobeyed my decrees, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your servants. 12 But for the sake of your father, David, I will not do this while you are still alive. I will take the kingdom away from your son. 13 And even so, I will not take away the entire kingdom; I will let him be king of one tribe, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, my chosen city.”
1 Kings 11: 14,23,26,29-36,40 (NLT) 14 Then the LORD raised up Hadad the Edomite, a member of Edom’s royal family, to be Solomon’s adversary... 23 God also raised up Rezon son of Eliada as Solomon’s adversary... 26 Another rebel leader was Jeroboam son of Nebat, one of Solomon’s own officials. He came from the town of Zeredah in Ephraim, and his mother was Zeruah, a widow... 29 One day as Jeroboam was leaving Jerusalem, the prophet Ahijah from Shiloh met him along the way. Ahijah was wearing a new cloak. The two of them were alone in a field, 30 and Ahijah took hold of the new cloak he was wearing and tore it into twelve pieces. 31 Then he said to Jeroboam, “Take ten of these pieces, for this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘I am about to tear the kingdom from the hand of Solomon, and I will give ten of the tribes to you! 32 But I will leave him one tribe for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel. 33 For Solomon has abandoned me and worshiped Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Sidonians; Chemosh, the god of Moab; and Molech, the god of the Ammonites. He has not followed my ways and done what is pleasing in my sight. He has not obeyed my decrees and regulations as David his father did. 34 “‘But I will not take the entire kingdom from Solomon at this time. For the sake of my servant David, the one whom I chose and who obeyed my commands and decrees, I will keep Solomon as leader for the rest of his life. 35 But I will take the kingdom away from his son and give ten of the tribes to you. 36 His son will have one tribe so that the descendants of David my servant will continue to reign, shining like a lamp in Jerusalem, the city I have chosen to be the place for my name... 40 Solomon tried to kill Jeroboam, but he fled to King Shishak of Egypt and stayed there until Solomon died.
1 Kings 11:42-43 42 Solomon ruled in Jerusalem over all Israel for forty years. 43 When he died, he was buried in the City of David, named for his father. Then his son Rehoboam became the next king.
1 Kings 12:3-4 (NLT) 3 The leaders of Israel summoned him, and Jeroboam and the whole assembly of Israel went to speak with Rehoboam. 4 “Your father was a hard master,” they said. “Lighten the harsh labor demands and heavy taxes that your father imposed on us. Then we will be your loyal subjects.”
1 Kings 12:7-14 (NLT) 7 The older counselors replied, “If you are willing to be a servant to these people today and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your loyal subjects.”
8 But Rehoboam rejected the advice of the older men and instead asked the opinion of the young men who had grown up with him and were now his advisers. 9 “What is your advice?” he asked them. “How should I answer these people who want me to lighten the burdens imposed by my father?”
10 The young men replied, “This is what you should tell those complainers who want a lighter burden: ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist! 11 Yes, my father laid heavy burdens on you, but I’m going to make them even heavier! My father beat you with whips, but I will beat you with scorpions!’”
12 Three days later Jeroboam and all the people returned to hear Rehoboam’s decision, just as the king had ordered. 13 But Rehoboam spoke harshly to the people, for he rejected the advice of the older counselors 14 and followed the counsel of his younger advisers. He told the people, “My father laid heavy burdens on you, but I’m going to make them even heavier! My father beat you with whips, but I will beat you with scorpions!”
1 Kings 12:16-20 (NLT) 16 When all Israel realized that the king had refused to listen to them, they responded,
“Down with the dynasty of David!
We have no interest in the son of Jesse.
Back to your homes, O Israel!
Look out for your own house, O David!”
So the people of Israel returned home. 17 But Rehoboam continued to rule over the Israelites who lived in the towns of Judah.
18 King Rehoboam sent Adoniram, who was in charge of forced labor, to restore order, but the people of Israel stoned him to death. When this news reached King Rehoboam, he quickly jumped into his chariot and fled to Jerusalem. 19 And to this day the northern tribes of Israel have refused to be ruled by a descendant of David.
20 When the people of Israel learned of Jeroboam’s return from Egypt, they called an assembly and made him king over all Israel. So only the tribe of Judah remained loyal to the family of David.
We now have 2 kings: King Rehoboam of Judah and King Jeroboam of Israel.
1 Kings 14:7-11,20 (NLT) this message from the LORD, the God of Israel: ‘I promoted you from the ranks of the common people and made you ruler over my people Israel. 8 I ripped the kingdom away from the family of David and gave it to you. But you have not been like my servant David, who obeyed my commands and followed me with all his heart and always did whatever I wanted. 9 You have done more evil than all who lived before you. You have made other gods for yourself and have made me furious with your gold calves. And since you have turned your back on me, 10 I will bring disaster on your dynasty and will destroy every one of your male descendants, slave and free alike, anywhere in Israel. I will burn up your royal dynasty as one burns up trash until it is all gone. 11 The members of Jeroboam’s family who die in the city will be eaten by dogs, and those who die in the field will be eaten by vultures. I, the LORD, have spoken.’”... 20 Jeroboam reigned in Israel twenty-two years. When Jeroboam died, his son Nadab became the next king.
1 Kings 14:30-31 (NLT) 30 There was constant war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam. 31 When Rehoboam died, he was buried among his ancestors in the City of David. His mother was Naamah, an Ammonite woman. Then his son Abijam became the next king.
So, next we have the two kings, Nadab of Judah and Abijam of Israel and so the book of Kings follows the dynasties of the two kingdoms. Until we get to King Ahab of Israel and this is where our next character study of fear will be.
Let's look back at Joshua for a second to see a prophecy that Joshua gave after God helped him conquer the city of Jericho. Remember God told Joshua and the people to walk around the walled city of Jericho once a day for 7 days. On the last day they were to walk around the city 7 times. The Ark of the Covenant was carried by the Priests in front and the people worshiped as they walked behind the Ark. Then the walls tumbled down and the city was taken because God had performed a miracle! After that, Joshua gives this prophecy:
Joshua 6:26 (NLT) At that time Joshua invoked this curse: “May the curse of the LORD fall on anyone who tries to rebuild the town of Jericho. At the cost of his firstborn son, he will lay its foundation. At the cost of his youngest son, he will set up its gates.”
Now look back at the map I inserted earlier of the two kingdoms and locate Jericho. It is a city within the kingdom of Israel (although it should have been in the kingdom of Judah as it was part of what was given to the Tribe of Benjamin). Jericho had not gone entirely uninhabited but it was a village and not a place of importance until King Ahab. Ahab decided that it was a good position to rebuild a walled city, a fortified city, despite the curse of Joshua.
Jericho would be "a city of military consequence, as commanding the pass from the valley of the Jordan to the high ground of Ai and Bethel. Having been assigned to Benjamin (Joshua 18:21), it should have properly belonged to the kingdom of Judah." - Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
1 Kings 16:20-34 (NLT) 29 Ahab son of Omri began to rule over Israel in the thirty-eighth year of King Asa’s reign in Judah. He reigned in Samaria twenty-two years. 30 But Ahab son of Omri did what was evil in the LORD’s sight, even more than any of the kings before him. 31 And as though it were not enough to follow the sinful example of Jeroboam, he married Jezebel, the daughter of King Ethbaal of the Sidonians, and he began to bow down in worship of Baal. 32 First Ahab built a temple and an altar for Baal in Samaria. 33 Then he set up an Asherah pole. He did more to provoke the anger of the LORD, the God of Israel, than any of the other kings of Israel before him.
34 It was during his reign that Hiel, a man from Bethel, rebuilt Jericho. When he laid its foundations, it cost him the life of his oldest son, Abiram. And when he completed it and set up its gates, it cost him the life of his youngest son, Segub. This all happened according to the message from the LORD concerning Jericho spoken by Joshua son of Nun.
"The curse of Joshua against the man who should rebuild Jericho had hitherto been believed and respected. But now faith in the old religion had so decayed, that Joshua's malediction had lost its power. Hiel, a Bethelite of wealth and station, undertook to restore the long-ruined fortress." - Barnes' Notes On The Bible
Hiel lost his firstborn son when he began to lay anew the foundations of the walls, and his youngest when he completed his work by setting up the gates. Some think the wording means he lost all his sons, starting with the first, ending with the youngest, as he rebuilt the city walls. The curse was fulfilled more than five hundred years after it was uttered. The very walls God had miraculously torn down were rebuilt by Hiel in defiance of God. And he paid for his defiance. Either the sons' deaths occurred at those two times or Hiel actually sacrificed his sons as "foundation sacrifices" burying them under the foundation stone and the last gate. Child-sacrifice was a practice of the land, and Israel was adopting it in the worship of Molech and it would be practised in Judah under King Ahaz. So it's a possibility that Hiel did this.
Who is now the King of Israel during this evil time? King Ahab. Who is he married to? Jezebel, the daughter of King Ethbaal of the Sidonians.
"The marriage of Ahab with Jezebel was evidently the fatal turning-point in the life of a man physically brave, and possibly able as a ruler, but morally weak, impressible in turn both by good and by evil." - Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Who is Jezebel (whose name means "Daughter of Baal")? Her father was Ithobaal I (aka Ethbaal and Eithobalus), a king of Tyre who founded a new dynasty. He assassinated Pheles to take over the throne. During his reign, Tyre expanded its power on the mainland, making all of Phoenicia its territory as far north as Beirut, including Sidon, and even a part of the island of Cyprus. Look back at the map again and locate the "Phoenician States" and the city of Tyre. It's on the border of the kingdom of Israel. It was an advantageous marriage to King Ahab and to King Ethbaal. Phoenician influence in Samaria and the other Israelite cities was extensive. Ithobaal had been a priest of Astarte before becoming king. As a Phoenician High Priest of Astarte and Baal, he named his daughter Jezebel. He would have made sure she was educated in the practices of their religion. When she was married to King Ahab and moved to Israel, she almost immediately came into conflict with the religious class by bringing her own priests and priestesses and setting up shrines and temples to the gods of her own understanding and beliefs. King Ahab allowed her to do this and gave her too much authority and power in the kingdom. It was his downfall.
Who is the prophet of God during King Ahab's time? Elijah. God sent Elijah to warn Ahab and when Ahab rejected the warning, God sent a drought.
1 Kings 17:1-7 (NLT) 1 Now Elijah, who was from Tishbe in Gilead, told King Ahab, “As surely as the LORD, the God of Israel, lives—the God I serve—there will be no dew or rain during the next few years until I give the word!” 2 Then the LORD said to Elijah, 3 “Go to the east and hide by Kerith Brook, near where it enters the Jordan River. 4 Drink from the brook and eat what the ravens bring you, for I have commanded them to bring you food.” 5 So Elijah did as the LORD told him and camped beside Kerith Brook, east of the Jordan. 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat each morning and evening, and he drank from the brook. 7 But after a while the brook dried up, for there was no rainfall anywhere in the land.
Later God leads him to the widow at Zarephath where God miraculously provided for the widow, her son and Elijah during the drought. Meanwhile, Jezebel attempted to kill all of the Lord's prophets.
1 Kings 18:1-6 1 Later on, in the third year of the drought, the LORD said to Elijah, “Go and present yourself to King Ahab. Tell him that I will soon send rain!” 2 So Elijah went to appear before Ahab. Meanwhile, the famine had become very severe in Samaria. 3 So Ahab summoned Obadiah, who was in charge of the palace. (Obadiah was a devoted follower of the LORD. 4 Once when Jezebel had tried to kill all the LORD’s prophets, Obadiah had hidden 100 of them in two caves. He put fifty prophets in each cave and supplied them with food and water.) 5 Ahab said to Obadiah, “We must check every spring and valley in the land to see if we can find enough grass to save at least some of my horses and mules.” 6 So they divided the land between them. Ahab went one way by himself, and Obadiah went another way by himself.
1 Kings 18:17-46 (NLT) 17 When Ahab saw him, he exclaimed, “So, is it really you, you troublemaker of Israel?” 18 “I have made no trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “You and your family are the troublemakers, for you have refused to obey the commands of the LORD and have worshiped the images of Baal instead. 19 Now summon all Israel to join me at Mount Carmel, along with the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah who are supported by Jezebel.”
20 So Ahab summoned all the people of Israel and the prophets to Mount Carmel. 21 Then Elijah stood in front of them and said, “How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!” But the people were completely silent. 22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only prophet of the LORD who is left, but Baal has 450 prophets. 23 Now bring two bulls. The prophets of Baal may choose whichever one they wish and cut it into pieces and lay it on the wood of their altar, but without setting fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood on the altar, but not set fire to it. 24 Then call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers by setting fire to the wood is the true God!” And all the people agreed. 25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “You go first, for there are many of you. Choose one of the bulls, and prepare it and call on the name of your god. But do not set fire to the wood.” 26 So they prepared one of the bulls and placed it on the altar. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning until noontime, shouting, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no reply of any kind. Then they danced, hobbling around the altar they had made. 27 About noontime Elijah began mocking them. “You’ll have to shout louder,” he scoffed, “for surely he is a god! Perhaps he is daydreaming, or is relieving himself. Or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened!” 28 So they shouted louder, and following their normal custom, they cut themselves with knives and swords until the blood gushed out. 29 They raved all afternoon until the time of the evening sacrifice, but still there was no sound, no reply, no response.
30 Then Elijah called to the people, “Come over here!” They all crowded around him as he repaired the altar of the LORD that had been torn down. 31 He took twelve stones, one to represent each of the tribes of Israel, 32 and he used the stones to rebuild the altar in the name of the LORD. Then he dug a trench around the altar large enough to hold about three gallons. 33 He piled wood on the altar, cut the bull into pieces, and laid the pieces on the wood.
Then he said, “Fill four large jars with water, and pour the water over the offering and the wood.”
34 After they had done this, he said, “Do the same thing again!” And when they were finished, he said, “Now do it a third time!” So they did as he said, 35 and the water ran around the altar and even filled the trench.
36 At the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command. 37 O LORD, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.”
38 Immediately the fire of the LORD flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench! 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, “The LORD—he is God! Yes, the LORD is God!”
40 Then Elijah commanded, “Seize all the prophets of Baal. Don’t let a single one escape!” So the people seized them all, and Elijah took them down to the Kishon Valley and killed them there.
41 Then Elijah said to Ahab, “Go get something to eat and drink, for I hear a mighty rainstorm coming!” 42 So Ahab went to eat and drink. But Elijah climbed to the top of Mount Carmel and bowed low to the ground and prayed with his face between his knees. 43 Then he said to his servant, “Go and look out toward the sea.” The servant went and looked, then returned to Elijah and said, “I didn’t see anything.” Seven times Elijah told him to go and look. 44 Finally the seventh time, his servant told him, “I saw a little cloud about the size of a man’s hand rising from the sea.” Then Elijah shouted, “Hurry to Ahab and tell him, ‘Climb into your chariot and go back home. If you don’t hurry, the rain will stop you!’” 45 And soon the sky was black with clouds. A heavy wind brought a terrific rainstorm, and Ahab left quickly for Jezreel. 46 Then the LORD gave special strength to Elijah. He tucked his cloak into his belt and ran ahead of Ahab’s chariot all the way to the entrance of Jezreel.
1 Kings 19:1-8,15-16,18 (NLT) 1 When Ahab got home, he told Jezebel everything Elijah had done, including the way he had killed all the prophets of Baal. 2 So Jezebel sent this message to Elijah: “May the gods strike me and even kill me if by this time tomorrow I have not killed you just as you killed them.”
3 Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. 4 Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”
5 Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!” 6 He looked around and there beside his head was some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water! So he ate and drank and lay down again.
7 Then the angel of the LORD came again and touched him and said, “Get up and eat some more, or the journey ahead will be too much for you.”
8 So he got up and ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to travel forty days and forty nights to Mount Sinai, the mountain of God. 9 There he came to a cave, where he spent the night...
15 Then the LORD told him, “Go back the same way you came, and travel to the wilderness of Damascus. When you arrive there, anoint Hazael to be king of Aram. 16 Then anoint Jehu grandson of Nimshi to be king of Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from the town of Abel-meholah to replace you as my prophet... 18 Yet I will preserve 7,000 others in Israel who have never bowed down to Baal or kissed him!”
This remarkable story has so much in it that I wanted you to read it in it's entirety and to know the background details. We have learned that King Ahab was an evil king, even more wicked than King Jeroboam (1 Kings 16:30-31, which is why I added the details about Jeroboam). He made a political marriage with the wicked, idolatrous King of Tyre and Sidon, Jezebel. She was the daughter of a Phoenician High Priest of Astarte and Baal who murdered the king in order to take over as King. He even named his daughter, Jezebel which means daughter of Baal. When she came to King Ahab she brought her idolatrous religion with her and hundreds of priests and priestesses and he let her build shrines and temples in the land of Israel. She became so powerful that she attempted to have all of God's prophets put to death (1 Kings 18:3b-4). She didn't just want religious tolerance for HER religion. She wanted to destroy the Jewish religion and set her religion up as the only religion. And she was willing to do so violently and by murder! And King Ahab LET HER! By then he was complicit in her idolatry, intolerance and violence by letting her do it. I don't think he was weak, I think he was just as evil as she was. It was politically better for him to let her be the point person for the blame. But they were in agreement. Reminds me of President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton. Hillary thought she could rule through Bill but they were always complicit and in agreement. For political reasons he let her take point on the 1993 Clinton Healthcare Plan so that he wouldn't get the blame if it went bad and would get the glory if it was popular. Sure enough, the backlash was so bad that she had to pull back and she took the blame.
What was this religion of Baal that was so bad? Baal is actually an honorific title meaning "Lord" and was used for several deities. For instance, Marduk, the patron god of Babylon, was called “Lord Marduk,” or Bel. In the ancient land of Canaan and Phoenicia, he was worshipped by the inhabitants. Baal was the son of El, the chief god, and Asherah, the goddess of the sea. Baal was considered the most powerful of all gods, eclipsing El, who was seen as rather weak and ineffective. In various battles Baal defeated Yamm, the god of the sea, and Mot, the god of death and the underworld. Baal’s sisters/consorts were Ashtoreth, a fertility goddess associated with the stars, and Anath, a goddess of love and war. He was worshiped according to different attributes in different places. Each locality had its special Baal, and the various local Baals were summed up under the name of Baalim, or "lords." He was worshiped as the fertility god who blessed their crops or their ability to have children. He was worshiped as a storm god, a sun god, weather god, etc. Considering the land and how dependent they were on rain for their crops, it's not surprising that a weather god would be a primary god. Baal's abode was Mount Ṣapān, identified as Jebel el-Aqraʿ ("Mount Baldy") some 30 miles north of Ugarit. Satan was called Beelzebub (Mark 3:22) which is a corruption of Baal-Zebub, Lord of Earth. How was he worshiped? We can see in our passages above in 1 Kings 18:17-46 that the 400 prophets of Asherah (Baal's "mother") and the 450 prophets of Baal:
sacrificed chanted and shouted, “O Baal, answer us!” pacach means to hop, skip over, to hesitate, to limp, to dance indicating they were dancing, whirling and leaping in such a frenzy as to exhaust themselves until it became a hobble or limp "they cut themselves with knives and swords until the blood gushed out" We also know, from biblical accounts, that Baal required human sacrifice. Jeremiah 19:3-5 notes child sacrifice to Baal. They practised ritual prostitution and sacred orgies (Numbers 25:1–11). There were male and female prostitutes at their temples as priests and priestesses. The true God, Jehovah, never required human sacrifice or child sacrifice (the one time was when He asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac but He stopped Abraham before he did it, it was a test that Abraham passed) and certainly never condoned sex outside of marriage. All those were punishable by death. Now we know why. The religions in the land before the Israelites conquered it, had practised this sort of barbarity and licentiousness for centuries and God knew how it would destroy the Israelites.
Jezebel does not accept Ahab’s God, Yahweh. Rather, she leads Ahab to worship Baal. She tried to destroy those who opposed her; most of the prophets of Yahweh were killed at her command. She represents a view of womanhood opposite of the one extolled in characters such as Ruth the Moabite. Ruth was also a foreigner who married a Jewish man. Ruth surrenders her childhood religion and culture; she adopts the religion of her husband. She becomes a believer in the true God of Israel. She converts and accepts JHWH. Jezebel, on the other hand, remains steadfast to her beliefs and belligerently rejects JHWH and true worship. And Jezebel is not tolerant of any other religious view, it is her religion that must be the state religion. She seems driven to eliminate Israel’s faithful servants of God. Evidence of Jezebel’s cruel desire to wipe out Yahweh worship in Israel is reported in 1 Kings 18:4, at the Bible’s second mention of her name: “Jezebel was killing off the prophets of the Lord.” After the competition at Mt. Carmel, her heart is further hardened and she threatens the life of Elijah. She has no fear of Jehovah, even after what happened at Mt. Carmel. She is a blasphemer and has so much hate and venom towards Elijah that she defies him and threatens his life.
“How can all be well as long as your mother Jezebel carries on her countless harlotries and sorceries?” (2 Kings 9:22).
In thinking about this story in today's world, this would be like the religion of Islam. People are being propagandized to think it's just another religion, worshiping the same God, a peaceful religion, etc. This is seriously deceptive. We are not only being told by American leaders that we must tolerate other religions but now to celebrate Islam, giving it preference above Christianity and Judaism. Our schools have been forced to delete any reference to the true God of Christianity but to give allowance for the Muslim god, Allah. They are actually teaching Islam and a politically correct Islamic history in public schools. They are accommodating Islam in our public schools while being hostile and intolerant of Christianity.
Muslims follow the Quran (the Muslim Holy scriptures) and Hadith (the recorded traditions of Muhammad). Islam teaches that anyone who is not a Muslim, is an infidel (Arabic kafir, literally "unfaithful" ungrateful, unbeliever, rejector of the Islamic tenets). The person who denies the existence of a creator is called dahriya. Muslims claim the same God as the Christians and Jews (People of the Book). But Christianity and Judaism reject that claim. Jehovah God is the true God and NOT the same as Islam's Allah. The Quran reproaches the Jews and Christians for rejecting Muhammed's message. Islam rejects the Trinity and Jesus Christ as the Son of God. They see Jesus as a prophet and messenger of God sent to children of Israel but not the Son of God. Other religions, that worship different god(s), are idolatrous and their worshipers are called Mushrikun who practice shirk.
Islamic religious tolerance applied only to the People of the Book, while mushrikun, based on the Sword Verse, faced a choice between conversion to Islam or fight to the death, which may be substituted by enslavement.
Sword Verse "But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, an seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practise regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful." - Quran 9:5–5
A Muslim who has sinned and "failed to repent had ipso facto excluded himself from the community, and was hence a kafir". Muslims who make interpretations that differ from what others believe are declared kafirs, fatwas (edicts by Islamic religious leaders) are issued ordering Muslims to kill them. Apostate ex-Muslims (Murtad) are considered renegades and traitors. Their traditional punishment is death, even, according to some scholars, if they recant.
Islam views itself as the only true religion. The Quran states unequivocally the superiority and triumph of Islam over all religions in three different verses: 61:9, 48:28, and 9:33. The ultimate goal of Islam is to spread the message and ways of Allah around the world because Islam is the gift of God, and superior to Judaism and Christianity. Muslims are to wage jihad against the unbelieving world until Islam is supreme. The promised rewards of martyrdom in a jihad, or holy war, are great in the afterlife. Male martyrs are promised 72 virgins and female martyrs are promised to be beautiful and content with one chosen husband. The word jihad stems from the Arabic root word J-H-D, which means "strive." There are five types of jihad:
Jihad al-nafs (striving against one’s inner self)
Jihad al-Shaitan (striving against Satan)
Jihad al-kuffaar (striving against the disbelievers)
Jihad al-munafiqeen (striving against the hypocrites)
Jihad al-faasiqeen (striving against corrupt Muslims)
All five forms of jihad are obligatory for all Muslims.
Allah's Apostle (Muhammad) said, “I have been ordered to fight the people till they say: ‘None has the right to be worshipped but Allah.’” - Sahih Bukhari Volume 9, Book 84, Number 59
"Fight those from among the people of the Book, who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor hold as unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have declared to be unlawful, nor follow the true religion, until they pay the tax considering it a favour and acknowledge their subjection." - Surah 9:29 (Sher Ali)
"O ye who believe! Fight those of the disbelievers who are near to you, and let them find harshness in you, and know that Allah is with those who keep their duty (unto Him)." - Surah 9:123 (Pickthall)
"Fight them until all opposition ends and all submit to Allah." - Qur'an 8:39
The holy war is a religious duty to all Muslims to convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force. Muhammad attacked surrounding nations for the purpose of spreading Islam. Muhammad repeatedly made peace covenants with his adversaries, only to violate them as soon as he was in an advantageous position. Most of the fighting in the world TODAY is because of Islam, their intolerance and their demand for world domination. In many Muslim countries, conversion from Islam to another religion is criminally punishable even to death. Christian churches are not allowed to publicly operate.
According to Samir Khalil Samir, a Jesuit professor of Oriental studies at the University of Saint Joseph in Beirut, Lebanon, the Islamist plan involves three phases.
The first stage is for Muslim countries reform and “turn Muslim countries into Islamic states governed by sharia (Islamic) law.” Next, Islamize Christians living in Muslim countries. Christians are told to convert to Islam or pay the Jizya (protection money), and accept second-class status. Third, the conversion of Europe carried out by working with young, European-born Muslims through imams teaching radical ideologies in mosques, prisons, bookstores. A fatwa of Ayatollah Khomeini during the last Iran-Iraq War led to the slaughter of thousands of Iranian children. Children, nearly all under 15 years of age, were given plastic "keys to paradise" as they were commanded by the fatwa of Khomeini to rush forward to clear minefields for the tanks to follow.
To get back to our discussion about Jezebel, she married a Jewish king, came into a Jewish country, and proceeded to hijack the country and their religion and force the Jewish people to convert to her religion. She didn't practice her religion privately, she had to make sure she converted the entire country and King Ahab went right along with it. No one was stopping her and she gained more power by violence. She had the prophets of God killed. Obadiah, a governor of a province, was able to rescue 100 of them by illegally hiding and supplying them.
As I was researching for this post I came across some commentators who actually commended Jezebel! I guess this goes to show you how far away people get from truth. They were saying that she was a strong, independent woman who had her own mind and proceeded to use every avenue to gain power and authority. She was politically savvy and knew how to work the system for her own gain. Sounds like Hillary Clinton doesn't it? They even equated Elijah's killing of the 850 prophets of Baal and Asherah to her killing of the prophets. They said he was as bloodthirsty as she was! I'm sorry, but her intolerance of the religion of the country she moved to; her demand that a whole country change their religion and convert to, practise and worship HER religion; her using the country's military to hunt and systematically kill all the Jewish prophets (religious leaders) to violently overthrow their religion is a far cry from Elijah's obedience to kill the pagan priests. Elijah held a public trial, which Jezebel did not. In the trial, Elijah was commanded by God to give the Baal and Asherah priests a chance to prove they worshiped a true god. Elijah gave them all day to do their "voo-doo" in order to prove Baal was god. Nothing they did brought that proof. Elijah then obeyed God in preparing for his defense and to prove God was the true God. When the fire came down, the witnesses (a LOT of Jewish people), had the proof they needed to render a verdict.
1 Kings 18:38 And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, “The LORD—he is God! Yes, the LORD is God!”
It was only then, after the proof, before witnesses, in a fair trial, that the priests were executed. Elijah was obeying God and God, proved before witnesses who rendered a verdict, that He was the only true God. Remember, these priests of Baal and Asherah had participated in everything from child sacrifice, human sacrifice and ritual prostitution. It's not like they were innocent.
It's OK to be a strong, independent person who thinks for themselves. But it's not OK to be so strong and "independent" that you force everyone around you to dance to your tune and your tune alone! And to murder anyone who stands in your way. For another one of her murderous plots read about Naboth (1 Kings 21).
Now let's hook it back to Elijah and fear. Let's break it down on that day when God did a rock-solid miracle but Elijah ends up afraid:
The LORD said to Elijah, “Go and present yourself to King Ahab. Tell him that I will soon send rain!” So Elijah went to appear before Ahab. (This means he traveled by foot.) When Ahab saw him, he exclaimed, “So, is it really you, you troublemaker of Israel?” “I have made no trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “You and your family are the troublemakers, for you have refused to obey the commands of the LORD and have worshiped the images of Baal instead. (He suffers verbal abuse from Ahab.) Summon all Israel to join me at Mount Carmel, along with the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah who are supported by Jezebel. The god who answers by setting fire to the wood is the true God!” And all the people agreed. He repaired the altar of the LORD that had been torn down. He took twelve stones, one to represent each of the tribes of Israel, and he used the stones to rebuild the altar in the name of the LORD. Then he dug a trench around the altar large enough to hold about three gallons. He piled wood on the altar, cut the bull into pieces, and laid the pieces on the wood. (Hard, physical work.) The water ran around the altar and even filled the trench. At the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed. (Spiritual work.) Immediately the fire of the LORD flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench! And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, “The LORD—he is God! Yes, the LORD is God!” Elijah took them (the priests of Baal and Asherah) down to the Kishon Valley and killed them there. (This would have been physically, mentally and spiritually exhausting.) Elijah climbed to the top of Mount Carmel and bowed low to the ground and prayed with his face between his knees. (He had to walk UP Mt Carmel and do some more spiritual work.) A heavy wind brought a terrific rainstorm, and Ahab left quickly for Jezreel. 46 Then the LORD gave special strength to Elijah. He tucked his cloak into his belt and ran ahead of Ahab’s chariot all the way to the entrance of Jezreel. (He runs so fast he outruns Ahab's chariot!) When Ahab got home, he told Jezebel everything Elijah had done, including the way he had killed all the prophets of Baal. Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. 4 Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. (Another trip on foot.) This gives you an idea of the mentally, spiritually, physically draining few days that Elijah had. He had seen mighty miracles but he was exhausted when he gets word that Jezebel intends to kill him. It's surprising, at first, to think of Elijah being afraid after all the miracles the Lord had done and how God had used him. The LORD had spoken to Elijah. The LORD enabled him to do things that normal people, in their own strength, could not. The LORD had protected him. On the other hand, he was so exhausted that he wasn't in his right mind.
How does God minister to Elijah in this state of exhaustion?
1 Kings 19:5-9 5 Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!” 6 He looked around and there beside his head was some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water! So he ate and drank and lay down again. 7 Then the angel of the LORD came again and touched him and said, “Get up and eat some more, or the journey ahead will be too much for you.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to travel forty days and forty nights to Mount Sinai, the mountain of God. 9 There he came to a cave, where he spent the night.
God certainly knows that Elijah is one exhausted tool and he needs some special care. God makes sure Elijah gets some much needed rest, plenty of food and water, and His special touch through angels. He gave him some alone time. He gave him some safe, restive exercise (40 days traveling to Mt. Sinai). The same Creator who created our bodies, knows how to maintain them.
Once our physical bodies are attended to, we need mental rest and spiritual rest. God gave Elijah some alone time, quiet time, safe time. And God touched him with encouragement and gave Elijah an assistant, Elisha. God knows how to take care of our physical bodies, our minds and our spirits.
Elijah knew what God could do. But he also knew Jezebel had killed a lot of God’s people, and God had done nothing to stop her. So he was afraid God would allow her to kill him too. He was doubting God's love and God's all knowing wisdom. Even if it was God's plan to allow Jezebel to kill Elijah, God would have been with Elijah to the very end and would be his strength and help even in the midst of an execution! And then God would take him straight to eternal blessing in Heaven. He was afraid because he didn't know God's plans and he might not like what God had planned for him. Worst case scenario: he is killed by Jezebel and goes to Heaven to live in eternal bliss! But Elijah couldn't see it that way and he doubted God's goodness as it pertained to him as an individual. I've been there. I mean, I know about the stories of martyrdom and how people have been persecuted, tortured, killed just because they are Christians. I've wondered if I could endure and would I be able to handle something so terrible. Even Jesus, God's Son, knew terrible torture and a horrible death on the cross. How do I know I won't be asked to suffer like that? I don't. So I'm afraid. But if I can gain a bit of God-perspective, I wouldn't be afraid because God is working all things for our good and has promised to never leave or forsake us even if it's in a dungeon's torture chamber. Jesus suffered but only for a short time. Within 3 days he had suffered, been crucified, but was raised from the dead and now sits on high beside the Father. He will never suffer again! If I suffer, God will supernaturally aid me and soon I will be with Him in Heaven. Our suffering is so temporary in comparison to eternity!
But Elijah became so afraid that he became depressed and suicidal. He was praying to die. Objectively, looking from the outside in, we can't understand how he won so many victories and then immediately fell into such a low state of fear and depression that he was praying to die. I know, from my own experience, how you can go that far down despite having so many blessings. Someone looking at my life would think I have everything to live for and yet I can get suicidally depressed. And I know full well that I don't have such problems as some people have. So it makes me feel guilty, on top of depressed and anxious, to acknowledge how far down I get. I mean, there are people who have far worse problems than I do and who would give their right arm to have my life. How ungrateful I am for letting myself get so down. When I'm in my right mind, I know how ridiculous it is. But that's just it, I'm not always in my right mind.
For one reason, or another, I can get out of my right mind and into depression and anxiety. I'm ashamed to be a lifelong Christian struggling with something like this. God has been so good to me, why would I lose perspective and faith? But I do. That's all I can say. I don't understand it myself except to say maybe it's a physical, biological, weakness in me or God allows it as a "thorn in the flesh" for His purposes (or both). All I can do is fight it with what God has shown me to fight it with.
Like Elijah, I try to get rest. With my physical problems, I require a lot of rest. I make sure to eat and drink, especially water. I dutifully take my meds every day and I take a vitamin regimen every day. I try to get some exercise. I go to the doctor and do my best take care of my physical body. I try to have quiet time every day to rest my mind. I do logical and creative things every day to exercise my mind. I do my Bible study and prayer every day to keep my spirit refreshed and empowered. These are things I can do to help myself. But, notice those are all things I DO. As in ME. But where does my help come from? It comes from the Lord.
You can do all the right things and still not have physical, mental or spiritual health because you are doing it in your own power and strength without God. God is the only one who can change me. God is the only one who can assure that my body works the way He created it to work. God is the only one who can be the "lifter of my head" and the only one who can maintain me in mind, body and spirit. So the most important thing is to do ALL things in Christ! With Him and not instead of Him.
After God has taken care of his physical and mental needs, He has a talk with Elijah to minister to his spiritual needs.
1 Kings 19:11-13 11 “Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the LORD told him. And as Elijah stood there, the LORD passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.
And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
A lot of times, God asks a rhetorical question to get us to think things through. To make us express what is going on in our heart and mind. Then God showed Elijah His power and then spoke to him in a gentle whisper. He let Elijah know that He was intimately aware of Elijah (mind, body and spirit) and where he was and what he was thinking. He let Elijah know that He had plans for his future. He let Elijah know that he was not alone, there were 7,000 others who also had not worshiped Baal but had stayed true to God. There is always a remnant and God knows each person very well. God let Elijah know that He already had Elisha picked out to be his assistant to encourage him. God let Elijah know that Ahab and Jezebel had limited time.
God's ministry to Elijah was what it took to get him going again and he faithfully served God the remainder of his life. He mentored Elisha to be the next prophet of God. And Elijah did not die!
2 Kings 2:11-12 11 As they were walking along and talking, suddenly a chariot of fire appeared, drawn by horses of fire. It drove between the two men, separating them, and Elijah was carried by a whirlwind into heaven. 12 Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father! My father! I see the chariots and charioteers of Israel!” And as they disappeared from sight, Elisha tore his clothes in distress.
But what happened to Ahab and Jezebel?
1 Kings 21:20-29 20 “So, my enemy, you have found me!” Ahab exclaimed to Elijah.
“Yes,” Elijah answered, “I have come because you have sold yourself to what is evil in the LORD’s sight. 21 So now the LORD says, ‘I will bring disaster on you and consume you. I will destroy every one of your male descendants, slave and free alike, anywhere in Israel! 22 I am going to destroy your family as I did the family of Jeroboam son of Nebat and the family of Baasha son of Ahijah, for you have made me very angry and have led Israel into sin.’
23 “And regarding Jezebel, the LORD says, ‘Dogs will eat Jezebel’s body at the plot of land in Jezreel.’
24 “The members of Ahab’s family who die in the city will be eaten by dogs, and those who die in the field will be eaten by vultures.”
25 (No one else so completely sold himself to what was evil in the LORD’s sight as Ahab did under the influence of his wife Jezebel. 26 His worst outrage was worshiping idols just as the Amorites had done—the people whom the LORD had driven out from the land ahead of the Israelites.)
27 But when Ahab heard this message, he tore his clothing, dressed in burlap, and fasted. He even slept in burlap and went about in deep mourning.
28 Then another message from the LORD came to Elijah: 29 “Do you see how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has done this, I will not do what I promised during his lifetime. It will happen to his sons; I will destroy his dynasty.”
1 Kings 22:34-38 34 An Aramean soldier, however, randomly shot an arrow at the Israelite troops and hit the king of Israel between the joints of his armor. “Turn the horsesb and get me out of here!” Ahab groaned to the driver of his chariot. “I’m badly wounded!”
35 The battle raged all that day, and the king remained propped up in his chariot facing the Arameans. The blood from his wound ran down to the floor of his chariot, and as evening arrived he died. 36J ust as the sun was setting, the cry ran through his troops: “We’re done for! Run for your lives!”
37 So the king died, and his body was taken to Samaria and buried there. 38 Then his chariot was washed beside the pool of Samaria, and dogs came and licked his blood at the place where the prostitutes bathed, just as the LORD had promised.
1 Kings 22:51-53 51 Ahaziah son of Ahab began to rule over Israel in the seventeenth year of King Jehoshaphat’s reign in Judah. He reigned in Samaria two years. 52 But he did what was evil in the LORD’s sight, following the example of his father and mother and the example of Jeroboam son of Nebat, who had led Israel to sin. 53 He served Baal and worshiped him, provoking the anger of the LORD, the God of Israel, just as his father had done.
2 Kings 9:6-10 6 So Jehu got up and went into the house, where the young prophet poured the oil on his head and declared, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anoint you king over the LORD’s people Israel. 7 And you are to strike down the house of your master Ahab, so that I may avenge the blood of My servants the prophets and the blood of all the servants of the LORD shed by the hand of Jezebel. 8 The whole house of Ahab will perish, and I will cut off from Ahab all the males in Israel, both slave and free. 9 I will make the house of Ahab like the houses of Jeroboam son of Nebat and Baasha son of Ahijah. 10 And on the plot of ground at Jezreel the dogs will devour Jezebel, and there will be no one to bury her.’”
2 Kings 9:30-37 30 Now when Jehu arrived in Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it. So she painted her eyes, adorned her head, and looked down from a window. 31 And as Jehu entered the gate, she asked, “Have you come in peace, O Zimri, murderer of your master?”
32 He looked up at the window and called out, “Who is on my side? Who?”
And two or three eunuchs looked down at him.
33 “Throw her down!” yelled Jehu.
So they threw her down, and her blood splattered on the wall and on the horses as they trampled her underfoot.
34 Then Jehu went in and ate and drank. “Take care of this cursed woman,” he said, “and bury her, for she was the daughter of a king.”
35 But when they went out to bury her, they found nothing but her skull, her feet, and the palms of her hands.
36 So they went back and told Jehu, who replied, “This is the word of the LORD, which He spoke through His servant Elijah the Tishbite: ‘On the plot of ground at Jezreel the dogs will devour the flesh of Jezebel. 37 And Jezebel’s body will lie like dung in the field on the plot of ground at Jezreel, so that no one can say: This is Jezebel.’”
Until the very end, Jezebel's pride and self conceit were evident. She either was trying to seduce and fascinate Jehu to preserve her life or she was intent on going out on her own terms, as a queen. Maybe she thought she was going to meet her god and wanted to look the regal part when she did. All that careful grooming and adorning didn't do her much good as she ended up food for wild dogs. How glamorous and regal did she look being thrown out of a window by her own servants and eaten by wild dogs? Until the end, she thought she was in control but she was sadly mistaken.
So many religions make preparations outwardly for death. I think of how the Egyptians would have a big burial place and would put all kinds of things in it to help the dead person in the afterlife. Then they carefully preserved the body so that he/she looked like a king/queen or nobleman/noblewoman in the afterlife. As though these things somehow translate into the afterlife with them! In China, they have uncovered a burial that had thousands of clay soldiers buried with the body, along with implements of war and such, so that the dead person would go into the afterlife with an army! Some religions killed people to bury with the dead person so they will have spouses, attendants, servants in the afterlife. Of course, archaeologists are digging up these things many centuries later. Those things did NOT transfer into the afterlife with the dead person. They are still here, rotting away, useless. All the gold and silver pilfered by thieves. Mummies displayed in cabinets in museums, and all their things are just an oddity to tourists. Today you hear weird stories about how someone is buried in their Cadillac or trinkets are placed in coffins. As if they are going to enjoy those THINGS after death?!?
Jezebel may have thought she had a lot to look forward to in the afterlife after all she had done for Baal. But Baal is not God and she spent her whole life trying to appease and worship a non-entity. She would kill for a lump of stone statue. What a waste! She had the opportunity to know the true God but she refused and rejected all attempts to learn about Jehovah. God gave her every chance and she wasted them.
Do you know how many times God says, "Do not fear"? I have read that it is over 300 times! Depending on the translation and what you are searching for. It could be "Do not be afraid", "Do not fear", "Why are you afraid", "Be anxious not", "Don't be anxious", etc.
But let's not niggle on details. The main thing is God tells us we don't have to be afraid over and over again. I don't care if He said 3 times or 365 times, He still repeats Himself so we will get the point!
We fear for our lives. Faith in Him leads us to acceptance and submission, thus freeing us from fear. While we think we are in control, we have fear because we don't know if we can handle whatever it is we are afraid of. If we learn to give the control up, trust God and believe in His goodness and love, we can be free. No matter what happens to us, God is in control, loves us as His Child and will do what is best. Soon enough we will be in Heaven! Worst case scenario: we die and go to Heaven for eternity. So why fear death or how we will die when our time on earth is limited and so miniscule in comparison to eternity?
We fear rejection. We don't have to be afraid of rejection because someone is not actually rejecting us, but our God! And God can certainly take care of Himself.
In the book of Jonah, we find God commissioning Jonah to go to Nineveh to prophesy to the people there and warn them that their sin is going to bring judgment unless they repent. Jonah is scared to go and refuses to go. He, instead, tries to run away by jumping on a ship. The ship encounters a storm, Jonah is thrown overboard by the sailors and is swallowed by a fish. Jonah changes his mind about going to Nineveh and the whale engorges him on a beach and Jonah goes to Nineveh. He prophesies just as God told him to do and guess what? The people repent and God withholds judgment. Now Jonah is angry at God and depressed because the prophecy didn't come true, God had mercy on the people of Nineveh who repented.
Jonah is feeling like a reject and is angry at God. He still didn't get it. Jonah is a tool in God's hands and God is the one responsible for the effect the tool has and the response and result. It's not Jonah's responsibility. His responsibility was to submit and be used by God. The best case scenario had happened! People were saved from judgment! But Jonah just felt angry that, after all he had been through, his prophecy didn't come true. He had been afraid of rejection. But, in reality, he wasn't rejected, God's message was accepted and it changed lives! He was afraid of failure but, in reality, he wasn't a failure because God's message was a success! Jonah was seeing things upside down. God had to have a talking with Jonah.
We fear failure but we have to come to a complete acceptance of facts: we are human beings and not perfect, we will fail; God is the only one who is perfect and will never fail! We are going to fail. It's part of our growing up, maturing, gaining experience, and learning. God can even use our failures for our good if we submit to Him!
God knows fear will rise up in us, but He wants us to push that fear aside and reach for Him and let Him deal with the situation and with the fear that wells up in us. We may be very visible in a Roman colosseum with roaring lions surrounding us like the first Christians faced, but we can hide in God and let God take over and getting us safely to the otherside, a new life in Heaven!
Bible verses about fear:
Genesis 15:1 – After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.’
Notice, God called Abram (later named Abraham) by name and spoke intimately with him to reassure Abraham!
Genesis 21:17 – God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her ‘What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there.’
God again calls Hagar by name and states that He is aware of what she and her son are going through. It has to be comforting to know the God of the Universe knows you by name and knows what you are experiencing and is reassuring you!
Genesis 46:3 – ‘I am God, the God of your father,’ he said. ‘Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there.’
God is speaking to Jacob (later renamed to Israel) and He is assuring Jacob that it is God speaking and it's OK to go to Egypt. Have you ever worried about what to do? God knows your worries and if you seek Him, He will be found and He will lead you to do what He wants you to do. Even if it ends in, what the world would call, failure - if God led you there, He has a reason and is working through the situation for the better good. In Jacob's case, he, with his family, his entourage and all his livestock and material things moved to Egypt. At first things went well, but eventually his descendents would become Egyptian slaves and be oppressed and mistreated. Was that a failure? No, because God had a purpose and, in the end, He miraculously led them out of Egypt.
Deuteronomy 1:17 – Do not show partiality in judging; hear both small and great alike. Do not be afraid of anyone, for judgment belongs to God.
God is reminding Moses that He is the ultimate judge and Moses doesn't have to worry over whether he made the right or wrong decision.
Deuteronomy 31:8 – ‘The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.’
Joshua 1:9 – ‘Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.’
Psalm 3:6 – I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.
Psalm 4:8 – In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.
Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.
For a shepherd, the rod and staff, was mainly for 2 things: to protect the sheep and to lead the sheep in the right direction. Both reasons are for the protection of the sheep, for their good.
Psalm 118:6 – The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?
Isaiah 43:1 But now, this is what the Lord says – he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.’
Matthew 10:28 – Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
Matthew 10:31 – So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Matthew 14:27 – But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’
Matthew 17:7 – But Jesus came and touched them. ‘Get up,’ he said. ‘Don’t be afraid.’
Matthew 28:5 – The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.’
Matthew 28:10 – Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to to go Galilee; there they will see me.’
Luke 1:26-31 26 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin pledged in marriage to a man named Joseph, who was of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you. ”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 So the angel told her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 Behold, you will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus.
Fear is a pattern that your subconscious mind has learnt. It could be through a series of negative events or traumatic experiences. The process gets reinforced through repetition. How do we re-train our mind?
Romans 12:1-2 (NIV) 1 Therefore I urge you, brothers, on account of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
How do we renew our mind?
First, be honest about your fears. Facing them and putting into words what is going on in your mind. But just naming a fear and trying to expose the root is only the first step. Some people get stuck here. They acknowledge a fear but then live their lives accommodating that fear and letting it control them.
Some people suggest "self hypnosis". Self-hypnosis contains a series of relaxing, imaginative and self-suggestion techniques. For me, this is prayer. I need to go somewhere quiet, sit or lay down, and begin to pray. I remind myself of scripture and verses about how I don't have to be afraid and God is with me. I focus on God and His love for me. I ask Him to take control and calm me. I praise Him and worship Him. I may sing or chant a Bible verse over and over. I may read the Bible until I feel focused and then move into prayer.
The problem can be when I'm in full blown panic attack or I'm somewhere where I can't get by myself and can't shut out the noise and concentrate on God. My husband has been able to calm me in full panic attack. He gives me a nerve pill and keeps talking me down and reminding me of God and eventually I get to where I can take over myself and get into God's presence. So for those of you who are present when someone goes into panic attack, that is what I would suggest. Just use a soothing voice, listen, and constantly re-direct towards God. Some people, especially if it's their first few panic attacks, may need medical attention to assure them they aren't having a heart attack (and not being a medical person, it's best not to take any chances because they could BE having a heart attack and you don't want to come between them and needed medical attention). But if it's something they've experienced before and are aware it's a panic attack, then it's just talking them down and directing them towards the only One who can take care of them and their needs. It's important that they don't depend on you and make you into their god. You must direct them to the one, true God. If they are not saved and not at the point of accepting salvation, there is little you can do for them because they will attach themselves to you as their god and you can't take charge and fix everything for them. You aren't the Holy Spirit and you can't do the miracles they need. Direct them to a Christian counselor if they are open to it.
If I'm alone and it happens, I know to take a nerve pill and find a quiet place or ask for help. Once the nerve pill takes over, I have enough experience that I can usually get myself under control using my known helps. It just takes time.
Then I try to do something to take my mind off of it. Things that are pleasant. I don't need to keep rehearsing the problem. That gets me nowhere but down. I am not in denial because I'm fully aware of the problem and the fear. But I have spent time with God and now it's time to re-direct my mind towards something pleasant. Be careful that you don't re-direct into another problem making your situation even worse. You don't want take drugs, get drunk, sleep around, go gambling, go shopping, overeat or anything else that will just make matters worse. It's more healthy to work on a puzzle, read a good book, turn on a funny movie, use a new recipe, take a walk, work on your hobby, go fishing, go to the gym, dance or sing to your favorite music,... whatever is a healthy re-direct of your mind. Give God time to work.
Be aware that your mind wants to go over and over any problems. In effect, rehearsing it and cementing it in your mind. Overthinking robs us of peace. Same goes with telling everyone the same problem. You go here and vent, then you go there and vent, you explain yourself to this person and that person and you find you are again rehearsing the problem. Every time you vocalize it, you are dancing around the same merry-go-round and making it get deeper and deeper in you, creating new roots. It can also spew on those you are talking to by dragging them down or hurting them. You are trying to release but they aren't the ones you should "release" and "vent" to. God is the only one who can take everything you say, help you, and work out a solution to the problem for you. There is a time and way to verbalize and a time to keep quiet and trust God. Maturity is knowing when to talk and when to shut up. Don't make your problems worse than they already are with your own hands (or tongue).
Some experts recommend facing your fear with Immediate Exposure to what you are afraid of, desensitizing. If you are afraid of flying, get on a plane and take a trip. If you are afraid of swimming or water, jump in a pool. This technique causes a lot of anxiety and panic but for a shorter period of time. Sort of like ripping the bandaid off versus slowly pulling it off. More pain and shock but then it's over in a second. Sometimes, your fear doesn't have this option. If you are afraid of aliens and alien abduction, you don't have the option of facing aliens at a time of your choosing. If you are deathly afraid of solar flares, how do you face that. One of the things I'm afraid of is losing my husband and living alone. Since I'm happily married, facing my fear by walking out the door, turning my back on my husband and living alone is not an option. It would not only be a silly move but probably just make matters worse rather than better. Sometimes we aren't motivated enough to push ourselves to face something with the Immediate Exposure technique. We'd rather suffer and accommodate our fear for the rest of our lives than force ourselves to work through that fear and panic with Immediate Exposure. I saw where it would take 5-10 exposures to begin to change your reaction. There is a warning that if you have a bad experience during these exposures, it could make your fear worse rather than better.
Another technique I read about was the Gradual Exposure technique. You expose yourself in small steps. It takes a lot longer. If you are afraid of swimming it might mean sitting beside a pool for 10 mins. Another exposure would put you in a bathing suit and sitting on the first step of the pool. The next step may be standing in the shallow end. Then playing or exercising in the shallow end (putting your mind on something besides fear of water or swimming). Then gradually moving into higher waters. Spending a lot of time with someone who is helping you in exposure until you can float, dog paddle, swim, jump into the deep end. If you are afraid of flying it may mean reading books or articles about flying. It may mean going to the airport and walking around with someone and watching planes coming and going, seeing the routine of it all. It may mean someone letting you sit in the cockpit of a plane and getting explanations on how things run, and etc. You are gradually desensitizing starting with non-threatening situations and, with education, experiences and information, moving up in the exposure. Someone leads you in this exposure and lets you set your own pace. This can be expensive as you may be paying a trained professional to lead you through a long process. And sometimes there are fears that can't be helped this way either. For instance I was so afraid to lose my parents. There was no acclimating to the thought of their death. Then they died. Talk about the Immediate Exposure! My Mother died of dementia in September, 2018. My Dad was healthy but he died, unexpectedly, just months later. So we lost both of them so close together. It's been a horrible experience but I have survived thus far and I'm hoping, God is using this to show me I can survive in the event of such a loss.
Sometimes your fear may require "interrupting the pattern". Changing your environment, your social set, your job, your education, your career choice, your town. It gives you a feeling of control over your situation. Sometimes that's good and sometimes it's a stupid move and makes matter worse. For instance, if a man is having a mid-life crisis and afraid of his own mortality so he changes things up by leaving his wife for a younger bimbo, then he's multiplied his problems instead of solving them. The other problem is "control". As a Christian, I should want less control and God to have more control. I cannot possibly control every outcome and it's useless and senseless to try. God is the only one who CAN control everything and do it with my best interests at heart. He alone has all the knowledge, wisdom, and power to do it. But, on the other hand, sometimes change is good. For instance, after my parents died, I realized we no longer needed a larger house with the anticipation of caring for our parents. I began to be afraid we had too large a house to maintain, heat/ac, and clean as we are approaching Stan's retirement. It's a big responsibility and a drain on resources when it's no longer necessary. We tried moving into a luxury apartment but, boy, was that a mistake. We aren't apartment people and we still needed a little more room, privacy and autonomy. It made sense when we did it (no maintenance, no yard work, downsizing, community) but we ended up hating it. So next we tried a smaller home and we bought an 1800 sq ft house (versus our 3,000 sq ft house) with a nice lot and shop/storage building. It was very difficult downsizing and making choices, putting the house up for sale, making decisions, looking at houses, moving. Gosh, it was awful! But it did give me something to focus on apart from the deaths of my parents and it changed my environment. I had experienced so much loss in the last few years of living in our old home. I had lost my parents, an uncle, a cousin, a brother-in-law, some friends and 6 pets. I walked through rooms that echoed with the losses. It helped me to let it go and go somewhere new.
Another example, I personally experienced, was a fear of tornadoes, fires, floods and mud slides. I had no idea those things were bothering me so much in my subconscious until I moved to our last house which was on a flat lot nowhere near a water source. Suddenly those dreams that woke me up in a sweat stopped. Then I realized all the fear induced actions I had taken without thought, like having a way to escape from a 2nd story, having survival supplies on hand in case we were trying to survive for a couple of weeks, having taken precautions for those kind of doomsday scenarios. I hadn't even thought about it, just had done it, seeing it as commonsense, except for those dreams. Don't get me wrong, it's good to have some safety plans and survival supplies, especially if you live in a place you can't leave and there are real threats. But I just had no idea how that was in my subconscious until I made that move. When we shopped for this house, I again was looking for a house on a flat lot with no water source nearby and that was one-story with good egress windows in case of fire. We wanted to remain close enough to town to easily get where we needed to get if we had to walk but far enough out of the city limits to not have to worry about city taxes. So maybe you have fears that can be helped by a change. Maybe you are afraid of losing your job and you need to face it by making some changes. Maybe it's just putting more money in savings in case that happens and learning how to save money by doing things differently. Maybe it's attending night school or college courses to acquire more skills in the case your are left looking for a job. Maybe it's making a move to a city or state with more job opportunities. Maybe it's downsizing by moving like we did.
The main thing is to do this technique with God also. Let God lead you to make any changes. He knows whether or not this will help you or hurt you. Ask Him for His guidance. Don't be stubborn and refuse every idea He sends you. "That won't work, God, because...." Remember, you aren't God and only God knows whether this is something He wants you to do or not. So don't shoot down new ideas with all the ways it won't work. (Oh, gosh, this is stepping on my toes.) But also don't insist your new idea (not God's) has to be forced to happen. Ask God what to do. Be open to new ideas as He sends them. Be willing to submit your own desires in order to do what God wants you to do. Listen as best you can to Him. Be willing to move as doors open and wait when doors are closed. He may be funneling you right into the situation He has custom made for you. But if you are refusing to move or jumping ahead of Him, you get into trouble.
Another technique is to imagine, visualize, if you will, the worst case scenario and what you would do in case it happened. I've already said it in this post, worst case scenario I die and go to Heaven for eternity. How bad is that? But there are other fears and sometimes it might help if you imagine the worst thing that could happen and, with God, how you would get through it. For instance, worst case scenario is you lose your job. You ask God how will He take care of you if you lose your job. Begin to visualize God providing for you, opening the doors to another job, etc. Let God run though your thoughts. If you begin to get fearful or have negative thoughts, keep your mind on the miracle working God who loves you and will provide for your every need. You want to re-frame the fearful situation into a situation that God uses for your benefit! You want to know, that you know, that you know that God is in control and loves you and will do everything to your benefit. For instance, you are afraid of rejection. If you have prayed about it and tried to see yourself as successful in making friends, having a support system, maybe finding a spouse because God is working to make that happen but then you ask someone for a date or to go to lunch as friends, and they reject you... don't see that as rejection. Re-frame it as God making sure you get the one He has prepared for you and God is saving you from wasting your time with those who won't be good for you. God is working on your behalf and rejection from one, just means that person wasn't the right one. See it as the glass half full rather than the glass half empty. Try to see it through the lens of faith, rather than as hopeless.
Another way of is to ask yourself hard questions. Am I afraid of success? Is that why I'm letting fear rule me and control my decisions? Am I working harder on fear or on getting free from fear? Is my life revolving around my fears? Do I see clearly that I'm worthy of being free of fear? Am I sabotaging my successes because of fear? Have I enjoyed being a victim; being miserable; having others dance to my fears; being the center of attention even though it is as a pitiful victim? This is not fair to you or to your loved ones. God can heal this low self esteem and this needy clinging. God can set us free to be who He made us to be. This doesn't mean we will have success in the world's eyes. It means God can make us a success in HIS eyes!!! Let's say you felt lead to start your own business and God was pointing you in that direction. But then, despite all your good efforts and much prayer, the business still fails. In the world's eyes, you failed. But you are God's child and in His eyes, you were submitted and obedient and you weren't scared to obey. So in HIS eyes, you were a great success! And, God can use all things to your good. He had a purpose and He's still in control and will be with you all the way through it. Worst case scenario, you are bankrupt but you have God. I.e. you are RICH! You've been obedient to the best of your ability and God knows it and He will take care of you. I actually experienced this very scenario. My Mother was sure God was leading her to open a nice daycare. My parents bought a building downtown and remodeled it and opened a daycare that failed after the first year. They lost everything and were completely bankrupted. My parents went on to live 20 more years after the bankruptcy but they never once went without. They had a home, food, clothing, cars, etc. God provided for them in every way. Not only that, but their situation taught us many valuable lessons such as the worst case scenarios. Worst case, you lose everything but you still have God and God will take care of you. So, if I was afraid of the stock market crashing and losing all our 401k right here at retirement... I can say that my God is with me and He will provide. Either I won't need the money because God will call me home before I have need OR He will provide, as He did my parents, in ways I can't anticipate OR the stock market will recover when I need the money. My parents also taught us that integrity, faith in God and family are what matters and what survives. They practised forgiveness, love, mercy, kindness, goodness, faith even in the midst of losing everything. We had front row seats in the classroom of life and Christian living. Those kind of lessons are invaluable.
I end with my last word. Do all things through Christ. Nothing will really work without God. But, with God, all things can be used to your benefit. I will try to keep working through this with God. I hope you will too. #HolySpirit #God #Bible #JesusChrist