What Do You Fear?

What Do You Fear?

November 1, 2021 | Jim Micheff | President

 

What do you fear? What challenges are you facing? There is one challenge that all of us share and that is the pandemic. COVID has been the source of sorrow, pain and tears. It is also surrounded by chaos, misinformation and the absence of a universally accepted source(s) for truth. 

The confusion surrounding the prescribed solution of masks, isolation and vaccines, accompanied by mandates, adds to the uncertainty of the future. For many years there has been an attack on the credibility of those in positions of authority. Occupations such as ministers, judges, doctors, nurses, teachers, policemen or politicians were at one time looked upon as trusted authorities for guidance and security in times of uncertainty. We have reached the point however, where no one trusts anyone anymore and “men’s hearts are failing them for fear and the expectations of those things which are coming on the earth.”[1] Fear is a cruel motivator and seems to be the impetus behind many of the things we are experiencing. 

Thankfully God has foreseen all of the challenges the pandemic brings and has sent us this message. “We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history.”[2]

I can’t think of a time where God demonstrated His power and presence to lead more visibly than when He bought Israel out of Egypt. It was so widely known by the surrounding nations that, years later, the Philistines recalled the hardening of the Egyptians’ and Pharaoh’s hearts toward Israel’s God. 

Under God’s direction, Moses had asked Pharaoh to let the Israelites go into the desert to worship their God. It was a reasonable request, because the animal sacrifices required were not possible in Egypt. 

The real issue was over authority. God’s claim on them was above Pharaoh’s. By letting the Israelites go worship as God directed, Pharaoh would be recognizing the authority of the Hebrew’s God and this he refused to do. His response was, “Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice and let the people go?” In the events that followed, God demonstrated supreme authority over Egypt as well as the Hebrews. Pharaoh represents all those who are in rebellion to God and refuse to acknowledge Him as the source of all authority.

The Hebrews had expected to obtain their freedom without any special trial of their faith or any real suffering or hardship. They didn’t realize it, but they were not ready to receive the deliverance God had promised. They had little faith in God and were unwilling to patiently endure their afflictions until He should see fit to work for them.

Many were content to remain in bondage rather than meet difficulties. They wanted to be freed from forced labor but the habits of some had become so much like the Egyptians that they would have been happy to remain in Egypt. Because of this, the Lord did not deliver them by the first demonstration of His power before Pharaoh. He overruled events to more fully develop and expose the tyrannical spirit of the Egyptian king and to reveal Himself to His people. 

Under Satan’s delusions the pagan priests mimicked the first two plagues, but God did not permit them to deceive Pharaoh any longer. Each plague grew in severity until the last and final plague – slaying the firstborn. Pharaoh finally recognized God’s authority and was anxious to rid Egypt of these Israelites. 

At Moses’ direction, the Israelites claimed compensation for their unpaid slave labor and the Egyptians were all too eager to be freed from their presence to refuse them. This was no longer just a 3-day trip to worship their God! They were not coming back. Everything was turned upside down. They were treated with respect and given whatever they wanted. 

In their excitement, the Israelites didn’t think about the details or logistics of how and where they were going. After all, they had the manifestation of God’s presence with the cloud by day and pillar of fire by night to guide them. 

The direct route to Canaan led through the land of the Philistines. The Israelites were poorly prepared to encounter that powerful and warlike people. Israel had little knowledge of God and little faith in Him, and they would have become terrified and disheartened had they come into direct contact with them. They were unarmed and unaccustomed to war, and their spirits were depressed by long bondage. They had the defeated mindset of slaves. 

In leading them by the Red Sea, the Lord revealed Himself as a God of compassion, as well as of judgment. God who knows all things, intentionally led them to a place with no escape. God had demonstrated His power and ability to take care of them and now He would test them by providing an opportunity to exercise their faith in Him. They were completely dependent on Him – only He could deliver them.

Someone spotted the Egyptian army in hot pursuit. Pharaoh had decided to take back his slaves. Instead of trusting God, whose visible presence was with them, Israel exhibited the attitude of defeated slaves and fear overcame them. They failed the test. In desperation the terrified leaders ran to Moses and bitterly blamed him for putting them in this vulnerable position. Because Moses had followed God’s directions, he had no fear of Pharaoh or his army. Moses’ reaction was a direct reflection of his relationship with God, “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord,” and, with complete trust in God, he added, “The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”[3]

            God’s plans know no haste or delay. At God’s appointed time, the cloud moved between the Israelites and Egyptians. The Egyptians, unable to proceed, postponed the attack to the next day. The Israelites did not remain inactive while the Lord brought about their deliverance. They prepared to move forward and, as they did, they witnessed the mighty power of God. Moses stretched out his rod, the sea parted, and Israel was able to go over on dry ground. 

God lifted the cloud and allowed the Egyptians to see Israel crossing on dry ground. They chose to pursue. Stupidity and blood thirstiness urged them forward into danger. God gave them a choice; they didn’t have to pursue. Willingly forgetting the judgments of God so recently experienced, and infatuated with confidence in themselves, they defied to the last the God of Israel. 

The entire army shared the attitude of the king, and once they made the commitment to pursue the Israelites through the Red Sea, God rendered judgment on them. The cloud of darkness changed into a pillar of fire. Lightning and thunder with heavy rain engulfed the army. The ground shook and their chariots had difficulty moving. In fear, the army tried to retreat but it was too late. Moses stretched out his rod and the pathway through the sea closed. The entire army fell under the judgment of God.  

Israel’s reaction to this amazing deliverance is perhaps like ours when we experience a first-hand answer to our prayer of need. The people feared the Lord and believed God. In Proverbs 1:7, Solomon reminds us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. Israel was just learning to trust God. Their faith was dependent on sight! They needed miracles and divine manifestation; belief followed, but it was founded on sight. To trust God no further than our natural sight can see, is not faith. Faith connects the visible with the invisible.

Because Moses had obeyed the Lord in everything, fear had no power over him. His eyes were on God. True obedience is a form of love. Total, complete, absolute, surrender and submission are words that help describe our love for God. The Bible is referring to this description when it says, “perfect love casts out fear.”[4] When we truly trust God in everything, knowing that nothing can happen to us outside of God’s will, then fear has no power over us.

Yes, it is true that COVID has caused frustration, division and even death. Throughout our lives each of us has experienced the constant miracle of God’s providence and power. Is it possible that, like the Israelites, our focus is on the perplexities of this earth rather than on Heaven’s assurances that remove fear from our hearts? 

As you think back on how God has led in the past, what is it that you fear today? As we face the uncertainty of the future, let us always remember, “If God be for us who can be against us?”[5]

 


[1] Luke 21:26.

[2] White, Ellen. G., Selected Messages, vol. 3, p. 162.

[3] Exodus 14:13-14.

[4] 1 John 4:18.

[5] Romans 8:31