The Bible’s Most Frequent Command
A week ago was the terrorist attack on Paris. It was followed by two days of tension and more violence. After a march for unity on Sunday people are finding it difficult to settle back into old routines.
The French government has deployed ten thousand troops to provide extra security. Across Europe there are growing fears of ‘sleeper’ cells and the possibility of more attacks.
It’s not just Europe that faces these challenges; Canada and Australia have also been dealing with violent tragedies. While the media was focusing on Paris over 2000 people died in Nigeria in senseless acts of war. Students in Pakistan are getting ready to return to their school where over 130 died in December. It’s upsetting to read and hear about such horrible situations. The turmoil in our world can seem overwhelming and frightening.
The most frequent command given in the Bible is “Don’t be afraid” or “Fear not.” There is a lot to fear these days. Our fears might have to do with personal safety and the stability of world order. Or our fear might be much more personal. We can fear failure, intimacy, disapproval, unemployment or being alone. There is simply no shortage of things we can be fearful about. No wonder the Bible tells us so often to ‘fear not.’
What does it mean? Jan Johnson writes that “Don’t be afraid” is “Trust me!” turned inside-out. In other words, what God is saying to us is that we need to be actively trusting in him. The 23rd Psalm reminds us that the Lord is our shepherd. He is the one overseeing our care and we really do have everything we need. When we are not afraid we can lay down in the green pastures because we have nothing to fear.
We can’t control the world around us. We can’t force people to be nice towards us and meet all our needs. We can’t protect ourselves from the painful realities of life that might come our way. But we can trust in the shepherd of our souls.
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
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.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Even in the darkest moments the Lord is present to comfort and guide. We do well to remember that and let that truth settle into our spirit.