Do not be afraid: The Lord is our rock, our fortress, our deliverer

Sometimes, when we look to the future, to the challenges of our times or the forces of evil around us, we might feel a sense of foreboding or dread.

May 19, 2017

By Anil Netto
Sometimes, when we look to the future, to the challenges of our times or the forces of evil around us, we might feel a sense of foreboding or dread.

Certainly, there is no shortage of serious issues to leave us unnerved. The outlook for the economy appears to be bleak with national debt and household debt at worrying levels.

The cost of living is soaring — food, fuel, housing, education, healthcare — as budget allocations are cut or funding is removed, while our real incomes appear to have stagnated.

In the longer term, we are faced with resource depletion — especially water, fuel, forests and fish.

And then there is the onset of global warming and climate change, bringing in their wake rising sea levels, flash floods and super-storms. These could affect food production.

During these uncertain times, when many are feeling insecure, certain quarters appear to be stoking ethnic and religious issues for their own gain. The tide of exclusivm and chauvinism seems to be rising.

All this may leave us feeling a sense of dread. How do we deal with this anxiety and even hopelessness?

Perhaps nothing can compare with the anguish and dread and loneliness felt by Jesus as he faced his final hours. How did he deal with it?

Feeling utterly abandoned and desolate, Jesus cried out: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

This sense of abandonment is foreshadowed in Psalm 18: 4 With Death’s breakers closing in on me, Belial’s torrents ready to swallow me, 5 Sheol’s snares every side of me, Death’s traps lying ahead of me, 6 I called to Yahweh in my anguish, I cried for help to my God;...

To the onlookers at the cross, it must have appeared as if the Father had abandoned Jesus as he breathed his last.

But Jesus’ heartfelt prayer was heard in the most expected of ways. Psalm 18 continues, showing us how what seemed like a hopeless prayer on the cross was incredibly answered.

… from his Temple he heard my
voice, my cry came to his ears. 7
Then the earth quaked and rocked,
the mountains’ foundations shuddered,
they quaked at his blazing
anger.

13 Yahweh thundered from the
heavens, the Most High made his
voice heard….

16 He reached down
from on high, snatched me up,
pulled me from the watery depths,

17 rescued me from my mighty foe,
from my enemies who were stronger
than I.

18 They assailed me on my day
of disaster but Yahweh was there to
support me;

19 he freed me, set me
at large, he rescued me because he
loves me.

Faced with the ultimate challenge, the Father confronted our most formidable opponent — Death — and vanquished it. In the process, he vindicated Jesus’ mission to usher in the kingdom of God on earth characterised by love, compassion, sharing, justice, forgiveness and mercy.

So there is no reason to be fearful or anxious if we are promoting the values of the kingdom — truth, love compassion and justice — even if forces outside our control appear to be closing in on us.

Recently someone presented me with a plaque on which was inscribed the following verse from scripture:

“The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust..” (Psalm 18:2)

Another version of the same verse reads: “Yahweh is my rock and my fortress, my deliverer is my God. I take refuge in him, my rock, my shield, my saving strength, my stronghold, my place of refuge.”

These are incredibly powerful words from Scripture and can be an immense source of comfort and consolation during trials and tribulations.

Imagine how fearful the disciples must have felt when Jesus was arrested and executed. They fled and disappeared into hiding.

No wonder when the resurrected Jesus reappeared to the disciples cowering behind locked doors, he kept drumming into them the words: “Do not be afraid… Peace be with you.”

You can imagine Jesus himself drawing comfort from such words from Scripture during his ordeal in front of hasty kangaroo court hearings and in the long dark night leading up to his crucifixion the following day.

Or the early Christians, faced with the oppressive might of the Roman Empire, drawing courage from these words as they preached the good news of justice, love and compassion of a new kingdom from above.

So what do people of goodwill, those promoting the values of the kingdom, have to fear? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

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