New Hope Baptist Church
February 25, 2007
When is the last time that you experienced real fear? We usually use the one word-fear-to describe all kinds of dread that we experience. We fear pain; we fear tests; we fear confrontation; we fear discovery of wrong doing; we fear God; we fear people; we fear the unknown; we fear planes; we fear loneliness; we fear poverty; we fear aging and we fear death.
We use the word fear in verb forms to describe things we are afraid of, but we also use the same word, fear, in noun forms, to describe those things that bring us trepidation. We use fear to emphasize terror or panic and apprehensions. We use the word fear to describe worry, concern and phobias.
When we experience reactions to what we perceive as fear, the brain triggers a response that causes the heart rate to increase, blood to pump to large muscle groups to prepare for physical action (such as running or fighting – the flight or fight syndrome), blood pressure to increase, skin to sweat to keep the body cool, and so forth. The body stays this way until the brain signals that it's safe to relax. This is a form of appropriate fear. This type of fear is automatically built into our physical being. When triggered, it comes as easy as yawning. We all need this type of fear at times in our lives along with the proper wisdom to survive. This is appropriate fear. The problem is that we usually use the same word and implied meaning for all types of fear.
Not so in Scripture, especially in the text before us today. The Bible clearly delineates between types, causes and reactions to fear. For example, in the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament Bruce K. Waltke describes 1) the emotion of fear, 2) the intellect of fear that is the intellectual anticipation of evil without emphasis upon the emotional reaction, 3) the reverence or awe of fear, 4) the righteous behavior or piety of fear, and 5) the formal religious worship of fear, all of which are expressed throughout Scripture. What I want to bring to our consciousness today is inappropriate fear; the intellect of fear that depends on and requires the cooperation of our minds and decisions; the type of fear that borrows from the unknown, the unseen and dresses it up in unfounded and whimsical fashion; that makes it palatable to our hungry imaginative appetites and entices us to feast on that poisonous fruit. Inappropriate fear. I believe, in fact I know this morning that this message is perhaps more for me that many of you. I have been and am now acquainted with this type of fear. Oh, we don’t like to admit it. Men want to appear macho on the surface and in total control about situations that come upon them. Many times they harbor the fear within and pre-sent, instead, a hardened shell that they suggest will buffer any attempted intrusions into their world.
Women, on the other hand, usually fall into two extremes: 1) they either fall to pieces or 2) they live in denial of the fear that may be plaguing their lives. Usually, it’s a subtle fear that creeps in over time that gets the best of women. When faced with a flight or fight type of fear, usually both men and women will react quickly. Sometimes, we can walk away from a situation and look back, and realize how we should have feared or how we inappropriately we reacted out of our fear.
Such is the circumstance in our text today. I think it would benefit us if we had a little refresher on the situation of this Jewish nation. The Lord had become tired of the sin and idolatry of the Jews, so He sent foreign troops and powers in to invade the land to force them back to Himself. Their captivity was over but many were still in the land of their captors. The Jews had been in wars and battles, and with the last one behind them, there was now only a remnant in Babylon. The Jews were about to return to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple, and they now pause to look back at their actions and decisions to circumstances. As the remnant in Babylon looked back, they saw failure and sin; the nation had sinned greatly against the Lord, with their idolatry, injustice, immorality, and insensitivity to His messengers and they needed encouragement. Isaiah described them as a people who had given up hope.
Sometimes, we need to just stop and take a look back. We often say we need to remember “where we came from”, but not only that, we need to see just how we came. Some of you came kicking and screaming all the way; others pouted and like a mule, dug your heels into the sand and made your journey quite difficult. You hated to give up the things of the world; you did not want to leave that easy money, that roaring lifestyle; your corral of women and sexual escapades. We need to look back and remember just how we came. We didn’t all walk down the isle to Jesus with a smile on our faces. Some of us, like these Jews, belonged to Jesus but we faltered when we had to go into battle with the pulls of the world on our lives; some of us gave in and returned to our old ways and habits; some of us found more comfort in the things of old than in our new lives in Jesus. We need to look back. We may find, like these Jews, that we too need encouragement. You may even find as Isaiah witnessed, that you have given up hope in some areas of your life, but I want to tell you today that God will not forsake you, all is not lost.
If you take into account the preceding chapter and the one following, you will find that God was well aware of the actions of the Jews during their times of trials. You see, the word warfare that is used here denotes severe trials. They experienced some hard things and they faltered under the trials, but God had four admonitions for them. Yes, He chastened them, for He is a just God and He can not and will not let sin go unnoticed. But His chastening was not without mercy, for Ezra told the people and God that what had happened to them was a direct result of their evil deeds and their guilt, yet, God was merciful and punished them less than their sins deserved. Even in His need to correct, He is merciful. The remnant of Jews heard four voices from God, found in the preceding chapter: even though they had grossly sinned against God, He allowed them to hear of His voice of pardon, for they were still His people, He let them hear of His voice of destiny, even though they now had a rough road ahead of them to go and rebuild the temple, He would go before them and make their way plain; He let them hear of His voice of promise; Assyria was gone, and Babylon was gone, like grass these nations had fulfilled their purposes and now faded away, but the Word of God will remain forever; and He allowed them to hear voice of hope. They had witnessed God’s victory of the enemy Babylon and they could go from the valley to the mountain tops and declare the good news of the captive Jews and their God.
But as they are on the road home, as they contemplate the long road before them, as they determine the many uncertainties that surely lay ahead of them, the children of Israel begin to fear. That’s usually what causes us the most fear in life, isn’t it? The unknown. No matter how much faith we claim to have, no matter how often we read or hear of the wonders of the Lord, no matter how many assurances we may have, if we can’t see it, if we can’t make sense of it, if we can’t alter the perception, we fear. Though this chapter and the succeeding chapter, God tells the Israelites more than seven times, “Fear Not”, yet, they are afraid.
But there is some good news today about our fears. This was good news to the remnant and it is also good news for us today, because God is immutable. He does not change, and we can also benefit from the promises that He gave to the Jews at that time. We often fail to experiences the reality of God’s promises because we have a skewed view of Him and ourselves. In order to realize His promises in our lives, we must have a correct view of God in order to view ourselves and others correctly. Isaiah said that in the year of King Uzziah’s death he saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Then, later, in verse 5 he saw himself and said, “Woe to me!” “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty”. You’ve got to see God and yourselves in His light. We find four promises in our text today: God’s Promise of His Presence; the Promise of His Peace; the Promise of His Power; and the Promise of His Provision.
Promise of His Presence:
Sometimes, we fail to rely on God because His presence is not always evident. As Cyrus moved across the territory east and north of the holy land (41:25), the nations were afraid and turned to their idols for help. They could not see God’s hand in their circumstances. You may not be aware of the people God employs to accomplish His will for His people. Sometimes, they are very unlikely people but God is using them for your good. Cyrus may have thought that he was accomplishing his own plans, but actually he was doing the pleasure of the Lord (44:28). By defeating Babylon, Cyrus made it possible for the Jewish captives to be released and allowed to return to their land to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple (Ezra 1:1–4). God said of Cyrus in (Isa. 45:13) “I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways; he shall build My city, and he shall let go My captives”. Sometimes we forget that God can use even unconverted world leaders for the good of His people and the progress of His work. He raised up Pharaoh in Egypt that He might demonstrate His power (Rom. 9:17), and He even used wicked Herod and cowardly Pontius Pilate to accomplish His plan in the crucifixion of Christ (Acts 4:24–28). Prov. 21:1 reminds us that “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord (Hallelujah!), like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes”.
No matter what your circumstances, no matter how dastardly your enemies and obstacles may appear, they just may be pawns in the hand of our God, used by Him to accomplish His will for your lives. God has promised His presence. He has said that He will never leave you or forsake you. Wherever you are, God is! Sometimes we bring malevolent circumstances on ourselves, but God is still present. Sometimes the load seems unbearable, but God is still present. Where are you right now? Are you indecisive about the future? God is present. Are you burdened with guilt over your past? God is present. Are you at wits end, unable to determine how or what you will eat, where you will live, if you can work, if you will live, or how you will make it? God is still present! It may not look like it, but He’s working it out. He’s not confused, He’s not uncertain; He’s not in the dark and He’s not in fear. He has a plan for your life and it is a plan for your good, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope. Just hold on, there is no need to fear! The Jews asked: “Does God care?” Yes! “Has He abandoned His people?” NO! He cares for you! He will not leave you. “No weapon formed against you – made and formed of a specific design just to cause you trouble – no weapon formed against you shall prosper, or win!
Promise of His Peace:
The Jews felt alone and did not readily experience the presence of God, nor did they gain any comfort from the Promise of His Peace. In the midst of their troubles, their wars and battles, they became weary. God does not get weary. He never tires, He does not get sleepy or worn out; He is not disillusioned or jaded. Those are incorrect views of who He is.
They did not find comfort in His Promise of Peace because they looked to idols first. When you find yourself in the midst of trouble, don’t turn your life over to someone who can not handle it. What can man do that God can not do better? Who can make anything like God? He is the only One who can direct you to the source of help that He has already planned for you.
Secondly, they looked to each other. Listen, man’s words are only good for a while. I might listen to you and offer you some words of advice, but after a while I may get tired of listening and talking to you. So many times you run to Momma, or to the Pastor, you run to your friends, or e-mail Oprah or Dr. Phil. You look to everyone but The One. One of the greatest difficulties recorded in Scripture is that of Job and his great loses. Even Job looked every way but up in, the beginning.
Look up to Jesus. The Psalmist lamented as he was looking at the hills, and he asked, “From whence cometh my help?” and he answered, “My help comes from the Lord”. Look up to where your help comes from. Look up, when troubles come; look up when friends turn away; look up when all the money is gone; look up for your next meal; look up when you need transportation; look up when the doctor gives a bad report; look up, when the nights get lonely; look up, when the days seem to run together. Look up to Jesus. The God of Peace. Look up to Jesus. He will give you rest; He will restore you and supply all your needs according to His riches in Glory. Just Look up!
Promise of His Power:
The Promise of His Presence; the Promise of His Peace; and the Promise of His Power. Nobody but God can take an unwilling and unknowing person and wield them into an instrument for His purpose. Nobody but God can take your enemies and cause them to be a blessing to you instead of a problem. Why? Because there is no power like His.
In order to calm the fears of the people Israel, the Lord explained that He had three servants in His employ who would accomplish His will. One was Cyrus, king of Persia. We have seen how he used Cyrus to conquer Babylon. God raised him up to do His righteous work on earth by defeating other nations for the sake of His people Israel. Just as God led His people out of Egypt and through the Red Sea (Ex. 12–15), so He would lead them out of Babylon and through the terrible wilderness to their home in the holy land. Just as He defeated Pharaoh’s army (14:28; 15:4), so He would defeat Israel’s enemies, and snuff them out “like a wick”. Nobody has power like our God.
In effect, He was showing Israel Roman 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good, to them that love the Lord and are the called according to His purpose”. God will perform His perfect purpose for your life, by any means necessary. I don’t know about you this morning, but I love the Lord. Why? Because He has given me the promise of His presence, the promise of His peace and the Promise of His power. Why? Because:
He work me up this morning, clothed in my right mind; He gave me a good portion of health and strength; he gave me sanity; he put a roof over my head, he put a little money in my pocket; my kids are living and healthy; I have a change of clothes; even when I think I don’t feel like it, he puts a little pep in my get up; I may not be able to see tomorrow; I may not know what lies ahead, but this one thing I know, I know the One who hold tomorrow and I tell you, He’s alright! He’s alright! He’s alright!
Promise of His Provision:
I don’t think I can unwrap all I would like say about his Promise of provision, but its right there in the text. He says, “I will uphold you with my righteous right hand”. I tell you, you can depend on Him this morning. He will provide all your needs. You can count on His promises. He is the Great I AM. Whatever you need, He IS. The greatest need of your life was for a Savior, and you didn’t even know that you needed one. Yet, while you were yet sinners, Jesus died for your sins. He has already paid the price for your sin debt; he has already provided for your salvation. I believe Paul said in Romans, that since God has already given you the very best he had, His Only Begotten Son, what other good thing will he withhold from you? Hey! Hey! I tell you, He’s all right!
God has given us these promises, promises that we can count on. The promise of his presence – I was not raised in the country, but I seem to remember stories of how after playing at a friends’ house most of the day, and it was time to go home, the friend would be allowed to walk with you, but they could only walk a “piece of the way”. Today, we don’t’ even do that. We have become so mechanically inclined, we just say call me when you get there. But Jesus, He’ll go all the way. He will not leave you alone. You can count on The Promise of His peace. He said it Himself, “Peace I leave with you, not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” It’s the Peace of God that passes all understanding. In the midst of trials; in the midst of troubles; in the midst of lack and need, we can experience peace that will confound the world. Peace that we can not explain. Peace that only God can give. He will not only bring peace in your hearts, but he can and will control your surroundings. He is the God of all Peace. The promise of His Power is alive and well. Jesus declared that all power both in heaven and earth are now in His hands. God will sustain us by the power of His right hand. No one can control the right hand of God and we are seated there. The same power that raised Christ from the grave is living within you today, if you are God’s child. The Holy Spirit has been given to the church to help us remain steadfast in the peace and power of the living God. And the promise of his Provision. Hebrews 13:5 says we are to keep ourselves free from the love of money and be content with what we have because God has promised never to leave us or forsake us. In other words, because he is always with us, whatever we need, He will provide. That’s good news! All we need to do is wait on the Lord. Wait in obedience to His word and His will. It’s time out for being wishy washy. For Him today, and acting like you don’t know Him on tomorrow. God wants all of you all of the time. Just like he tired of Israel’s flip flop, He will tire of yours. Stop playing with God and trying to use Him for your gain-only when it’s profitable for you. Walk humbly and in obedience to the Lord, then you can be excited about the God you serve. Excited about the sureness of His Word and His promises!
You know what I like about trusting God? You know why is makes no sense to have inappropriate fear about life today? You know why I am so excited about the hope I have in Jesus Christ? Look at other religions and their organizers and gods: Buddha, the founder of Buddhism was born in 624 B.C. and could not attain the status of a god until after his death; Charles Taze Russell, founder of Jehovah’s Witnesses was born in 1852 and died in 1916; Muhammad of Muslim fame lived from 570 – 632 A.D.; Confucius the great thinker lived from 551 – 479 B.C.; Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon’s lived from 1805 – 1844; and L. Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology lived from 1911 – 1986. Each and every one of the founders and/or gods of these religions is D-E-A-D.
But Jesus Christ, born sometime during the first century, is the only one who came into the world born of a virgin; though he had a legal and hierarchal right to a kingdom, he had no formal place of abode; he sought no fame or status, rather, he laid down his heavenly prerogatives; he was tempted in all points as man, yet without sin; he was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities; he was tried unjustifiably; sentenced to hang upon a cross and became a curse for mankind; he died one Friday of his own will and accord; he died because he came into the world for such a purpose; he died for your sins and my sins; he died and never said a mumbling word; he was buried in a borrowed tomb; and he stayed in the grave for three days and three nights, for his body was not to see decay; he stayed all day Friday; and he stayed all day Saturday; but early, on Sunday morning, after having gone into the earth and taking captivity captive; early on Sunday morning, after having ushered the captives into the very presence of God; early on Sunday morning before the sun even thought about rising; early on Sunday morning He got up from the grave and today He lives, making intercessions for us before God, He lives to carry out His will and testament for our futures; He Lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today. He walks with me, He talks with me along life’s narrow way, He lives, He lives, salvation to impart. You ask me, how I know He lives? He lives within my heart!
e is not disillusioned