Monday, April 11, 2011
Today’s Topic: Faith Conquers Fear
Today’s Text: Isaiah 41:5-7 The islands have seen it and fear; the ends of the earth tremble. They approach and come forward; 6each helps the other and says to his brother, “Be strong!” 7 The craftsman encourages the goldsmith, and he who smooths with the hammer spurs on him who strikes the anvil. He says of the welding, “It is good.” He nails down the idol so it will not topple.
Yesterday some serious storms went through our part of the world. Tornadoes touched down within twenty miles of our home. We had strong winds and hail and heavy rain, but no damage. Some people in our church had trees uprooted and they crashed into their home. Neighbors of theirs had cars destroyed. One rural residence lost a garage and a barn. Further east a tornado destroyed portions of a town. The weather can evoke fear and cause trembling.
No sooner had the skies cleared than pictures of the damage started to show up on Facebook. Then the local television stations had video. People were already coming together to start the clean-up. Men with chain saws were cutting fallen trees into manageable chunks. Kids were hauling branches off the streets. Everyone came together to help their neighbors. That’s what community is all about.
At first glance, the verses above appear to be a solid statement on the importance of community. Something has caused the people to fear and tremble. They come together with a plan, they encourage each other, and they work together to bring about a solution. The problem is that they are looking for the answer to their fear from a false God.
Let’s look at the context of what’s happening. God is informing the people of Israel that He is empowering a new king from the east (verse 2) to be a part of the fulfillment of His plan for Israel. His name was Cyrus, the King of Persia, who overthrew the Babylonians and gave permission to Ezra to take a contingency of people back to Israel to start rebuilding after the captivity. But the nations of the world were scared. They saw the ferocity of the Persians, and they trembled in fear.
They knew they had only one chance – supernatural intervention. So they started making idols to their false gods. They came to together nicely as a community, with a completely erroneous focus. They were putting all their eggs in a rotten basket and the bottom was about to fall out.
That’s when we reach verse eight. God says to the people of Israel, “But you, O Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend, I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. All who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced; those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish. Though you search for your enemies, you will not find them. Those who wage war against you will be as nothing at all. For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”
What a contrast. People in fear who put their faith in what their own hands can accomplish versus people in fear who conquer their fear by putting the faith in the One and Only God who eliminates all enemies and gives strength and hope.
The choice is yours.