By Adrienne Crist
As tired as we all are of discussing the pandemic, this topic really is appropriate to our Devotion today. Just as the name implies, the entire world has been affected by this pandemic. It truly is a remarkable thing; we are firsthand experiencing the power of God. I am not stating that God caused it, but He did allow it. People of all the nations have been afflicted and have been forced to reckon their fears for their futures, the future of their families, the futures of their fellow man.
We can argue about whether the fears and the policies related to the pandemic are valid or not, but we cannot dispute that these events have changed this current generation.
The pandemic has given us and our fellow man an opportunity to examine what we believe about God and has a provided an opportunity for the world to see how the church responds to fear. We have also seen how the faithless have responded to fear. This is not a time for us to judge one another as to whether anyone’s response was founded or unfounded, but rather it has been an opportunity for us to examine our faith and to point others to Jesus.
The world has collectively been forced to look to the future. We have been forced to look at our calendars, sometimes glumly. Forced to adjust our plans, and at times forced to sit in wonder and uncertainty about our futures. And in this country, as we do every four years, forced to wonder how the leadership of our country will affect the future.
Proverbs 16:9 states A man’s heart plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps.
This was the case for the nation of Judah when the prophet Jeremiah served the Lord. Jeremiah was chosen in his twenties to minister on behalf of the Lord to Judah. He was called to leave whatever plans he may have desired and follow the steps God put before him, just as the people he served were also about to experience. Jeremiah’s name means Yahweh Throws…it means Yahweh Establishes, Appoints or Sends. God appointed Jeremiah to throw down some difficult truths to his people.
Turn with me to Jeremiah 1:5 where we read about God’s plans for Jeremiah.
Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying:
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;
Before you were born I sanctified[ a ] you;
I [ b ] ordained you a prophet to the nations.”
Jeremiah did not willingly sign up for this, like his predecessor Isiah! He argued with God stating that he was young, he was not good at speaking, but the Lord assured him.
Do not be afraid of their faces,
For I am with you to deliver you,” says the Lord.
9 Then the Lord put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me:
“Behold, I have put My words in your mouth.
10 See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms,
To root out and to pull down,
To destroy and to throw down,
To build and to plant.”
The Lord directed Jeremiah’s steps. The interaction alone is awe inspiring…God touched Jeremiah’s mouth!! He put His words in these young man’s mouth. That was a literal anointing!
God changed the path of Jeremiah’s future with those words. I can imagine that Jeremiah may have experienced fear and trepidation about what his future would now look like.
But Jeremiah needed to experience this very intimate event with God because his ministry was impossible without the deep assurance from The Lord. Jeremiah was unpopular with the people, he was mocked and ridiculed He called out the religious leaders for their hypocrisy, and pit himself against the rulers, their followers, and his fellow citizens. He warned Judah of the impending doom and exile, the same fate that had occurred to the Northern tribes, Israel.
Jeremiah 22:6 For thus says the Lord to the house of the king of Judah:
“You are Gilead to Me,
The head of Lebanon.
Yet I surely will make you a wilderness,
Cities which are not inhabited.
7 I will prepare destroyers against you,
Everyone with his weapons.
They shall cut down g your choice cedars.
h And cast them into the fire.
8 And many nations will pass by this city; and everyone will say to his neighbor, i ‘Why has the Lord done so to this great city?’
And as his ministry dictated, he called out the abominable behavior of the Jews as they practiced Idolatry and child sacrifice. He warned the people to turn from their sin and fear the Lord.
watched as his nation was literally torn apart. Known as the weeping prophet because he was so moved in mourning for his countrymen.
He prophesied to the people in the 40 odd years prior to their exile to Babylon, and He prophesied to Israel also.
He saw the shifting leadership of good kings to bad; He saw the political and financial machinations of the leaders of Judah and their followers. He watched the Babylonians take away his countrymen, including Daniel and his posse. He witnessed the devastation of the Temple, the beloved home of Gods shekinah Glory. He saw the missteps of remaining leadership as other nations continued to decimate Judah and, in the end, he too was carried away to Egypt, left to die in a foreign land.
Jeremiah’s life did not sound very encouraging or hopeful, right?
And in some ways, we can really relate to Jeremiah today. Young people today look to the future and must reconcile whether their futures will look as they may have always imagined. What directions will God take them that may look different from their own planned steps? They and we have been appointed to be the throwers of truth to our generation. We know the impending doom that is coming to this world, and we too have a responsibility to throw down that truth, regardless of the consequences. This the truth that gives us hope, Jesus will return to this earth, and He will return as the conquering King.
After witnessing all the devastation and destruction God gives Jeremiah a word for the exiles in Babylon.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
In one of Pastor Chuck Smith commentaries, he says: His thoughts are to bring you to an expected end. He goes on to say “The Hebrew word translated expected is an interesting word, difficult to translate into English. There is the thought of expectancy but more, you may be expecting something that is bad, or you may be hoping for something that is good. The Hebrew word has the connotation of a hoped for expected end.
It could thus be translated "To bring you to a desirable end.”
We know that ultimately the desired end is to be with Him in Heaven. In this context the desired end was their return to Judah. Jeremiah writes to both inform the Jews that they will be in captivity for 70 years and instructs them to plant themselves and to set about doing what they should have been doing all along, living in Fear of the Lord and following his commandments.
Now let’s talk about this topic of Fear. Fear is directly related to the future. What is the proper place for fear in the life of a Christian?
We find the word fear over 365 times in the word. And in the majority of the uses we find it in two different types of commandments.
- Fear the Lord.
- Fear not
The Fear Not kind of fear is the fear that brings worry and anxiety, causes terror and results in the absence of reason.
There are countless verses that tell us to fear not. Fear is a human condition. Sometimes fear is warranted, it warns us of impending danger, it produces the fight or flight survival mode and can catapult us to life saving action. But the type of fear that causes worry and anxiety is connected to the future, it is the “what-if?” fear. This is the fear that we should be aware of. This is the fear that can overtake us when we take our eyes off Jesus. As Jesus was leaving this earth to heaven told the disciples:
27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So do not be troubled or afraid. 28 Remember what I told you: I am going away, but I will come back to you again.
Jesus left the gift of the Holy Spirit, which brings peace of mind if we find ourselves with absence of reason in our mind, and lack of peace in our heart. The spirit can calm us down and help bring us out of that fight or flight mode. We should be so thankful that God’s word is so accessible to us, we should not forsake, especially in times of fear.
The constant media stream from our devices is one of the hallmarks of our Post-Modern society. Just 30 years ago the news was just something that was aired at 8am, 6 o’clock and 11pm! Now we have news 24/7 on the TV, the internet, and social media. Beware of how the flow of news can affect your sense of fear.
Now, I am not saying we should not be informed about current events, I can be a news junkie and I have to monitor my own intake. I am pointing out that we need to turn the “what-if’s” into “What if I lean into the fact that God really is SO GOOD?” If we truly trust God and His will for this world, for you and your future “what-if’s”, then we will experience His peace. We can look forward into the future with Hope.
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Jesus said that he would give us peace when our hearts are troubled, so Fear Not! I am sure the people of Judah experienced A LOT of fear. I want you to imagine being carried off as a prisoner away from your home. Pause. Now imagine that you are will aware that it was the direct result of disregarding the command to Fear the Lord. The fear of these people must have been very evident, everywhere, all the time. Haven’t we just witnessed this?
Let’s look at Fear the Lord…. So, what happened with Judah? They neglected to Fear the Lord. Judah should be a clear example to us of what happens when a nation neglects God. Not just any nation, but a chosen nation, a chosen people. The plunder of Jerusalem was punishment from God.
How can we find hope in punishment?
For the LORD corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.
Why did I correct my children? Because I love them, and I care about what kind of people they would become in the future. Correction brings repentance and repentance brings change.
Consider how we use the phrase course correction. If we are His, and He loves us, then if we are off course, he will make the correction. Sometimes it hurts and sometimes its disappointing. But we should welcome the corrections. It means God is for us. He says that He knows us, He has numbered our days, He has a plan for us. But if we would like to avoid major course corrections then we must Fear the Lord.
I chose this topic because futures are a big part of the discussions in this season of our household. Parenting young adults now requires a different set of skills than in the past. Of course, now I do not have to chase after them in an instant, but sometimes I must come up with wisdom in an instant!
My son is especially sensitive about his future. We recently discussed his fears about the future… the world is coming to an end! If this all goes down like the bible says then I am not going to experience all the things I want to in life…I want to get married, have kids, what if the Lord comes before then! It’s easy for you to say you’ve experienced so much in life, but I still have plans.
I found myself responding with a few of the scriptures and concepts I have already shared. But I chose this topic so that I could really understand the perspective from the word and then share this with him.
The people of Judah had plans too, but because their plans were not in step with the Lords, because they choose to put their idols before the Living God, the directed their steps towards Babylon.
One of the most profound point I found: When we do not fear the Lord, we will lose hope. As a Christian we have been given Hope from the moment we ask Jesus into our hearts. Remember the beginning of your faith? How were you filled with joy and hopefulness? The assurance of your future with Christ forever?
Failing to fear the Lord is the slipping away, the going backwards. You have hope but it is yours to lose when you are busy looking down or around at your circumstances and not directly up at the Awesome Living God.
After Moses received the first set of the 10 commandments, after witnessing the spectacularly frightening show in the sky of thunder, lightning, and I’m sure deafening trumpet sounds; the people were petrified of God. They thought they would die is God spoke to them. And then Moses said to them “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you so that you may not sin.” EX 20:19
When we fail to fear God, respect, and revere Him and His commands, we sin, and loose hope.
Here’s a few scriptures regarding the Fear of the Lord:
“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,
The greatest commandment.
The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.
The bottom line.
Regarding the future Judgement
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
Jesus was always clear that fear of the Lord is the path to Salvation.
Fear of the Lord in the manner that we live:
By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil.
Just as Moses told the people, fear of the Lord keeps us from sin. Have you ever noticed how criminals are not afraid? They have no fear of authority; therefore, they have no boundary from evil.
Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God.
So, the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.
The early church grew because they walked in the fear of the Lord.
Fear the Lord and here are some the Promises.
My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. ...
You will gain understanding.
Oh, that they had such a mind as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!
You pass along a legacy to be followed by your children.
The fear of the Lord leads to life and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm.
Life and Peace
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Praise from God!
Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack!
We will have all that we need.
Fear of the LORD results in freedom from fear
Of David. The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall, I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
Knowledge and insight provide peace of mind.
Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling.
Judah had to be dragged out of their land and exiled to Babylon so that they would repent, and Jeremiah could then write them to encourage them that they still had a future. I encourage you to read Chapters 30-33, In the most beautiful language Jeremiah shares the future promises for Israel, its entry back into the Land, the plunder of her enemies and then the most important promise, the New Covenant.
Jeremiah 31:33 31 “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, [ h ] though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their [ i ] hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
Just to encourage you, besides heaven the new covenant is the greatest promise in the bible that imparts hope. But we can have no part in the covenant if we do not Fear God. The fear of God is the Hope for our future, when we revere, respect, obey, and awe God, the result is an awareness of His possession of your life. We do not discard possessions that we love dearly, and He will never leave us or forsake us, and that is the best news for our future.
When we Fear God, there is little room for the Fear Not’s. In David Jeremiah’s book Hope, Living Fearlessly in a Scary World, he says Fears Fangs are drawn in because we have over- arching Hope. I love that phrase over-arching hope. It makes me think of a Rainbow. A beautiful reminder that God is good, and we can trust his promises for our future.