The people of Israel are being addressed by Moses in this verse. They have wandered the wilderness for 40 years due to their disobedience and unwillingness to trust God, and now the new generation is standing on the brink of a new and potentially prosperous time for their people.
Moses has told the people about the Promised Land that God will give them, but there are major roadblocks that they will have to overcome if they are to inherit the land as promised. The main problem is that their enemies already possess the land. As Moses lists off some of their enemies in the previous verses, he then makes the statement in our verse that the Lord will not leave you or forsake you because he goes with you.
He continues a few verses later to say basically the same thing, “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8). Moses wants to drive this point home. He knows the people will face danger and fear ahead and he wants to encourage them with truth of God’s presence.
The people of God were about to take a huge step in their development as a nation and Moses wanted them to be on sure footing. That foundation was based on trusting the Lord in all things, remembering that God would be with them no matter what.
We aren’t getting ready to conquer enemy nations, but we are facing an enemy of our own. For some, it’s simply getting up each morning and fighting depression. For others, it’s battling their own minds in the “what-if” scenarios that play out in their heads. Whatever your personal battle is, trust in the fact that Lord will not leave you in this, your time of need. Prepare for battle knowing that God’s got your back!
Have you ever been commanded to do something? Sure, we all have. Whether it was to put our dishes in the dishwasher, do our homework, or have a report ready for work, we have all been commanded to do something at one point or another. In fact, most of us are commanded to be at work at a certain time of day, so we are dealing with commands on a daily basis.
The problem with commands is that we typically don’t like them. Even if they are good and decent commands, most of us simply don’t like being told what to do or when to do it. We want a sense of autonomy over our own lives and decisions and someone else’s commands don’t fit well within that framework. Just consider how people have reacted to stay-at-home orders during this pandemic!
But in our verse today, the Psalmist says that those who “delight” in obeying God’s commands will be blessed or find joy. The word delight means in the Greek basically what it means in English – to take pleasure in. So are you telling me that we should find pleasure in doing what God has commanded us to do?
The simple answer is yes!
God has laid out his commands in Scripture for us to follow. Granted, we are no longer under the Old Testament Law, but we still have commands and precepts that God has laid out for us. One of those commands is to not fear what the world or our enemies may throw our way.
God has given us the guidance we need to live our best lives following and serving him – when we actually do what he has said, blessings and joy will follow. So instead of rejecting God’s plans for us – rejecting God’s commands – let’s embrace the truths of Scripture and praise the Lord in the midst of our circumstances as we seek to trust and obey him in all areas of our lives.
A verse about wisdom may seem to be out of place in a series of devotions about fear. But wisdom is the trait of utilizing knowledge and experience with common sense and insight. True wisdom, of course, comes from God, and in our times of fear, it does us good to ask God to share his wisdom with us.
When we are in a place of uncertainty, when we are focusing on the wrong things, it is critical that we turn to the Author of true Wisdom to guide our hearts and minds back to the truths of Scripture. In Scripture, as we have studied thus far and will continue to study, we see God over and over telling us to not fear because he is with us. This knowledge comes from Scripture and from our experience with God in the past. When we find ourselves spending time, energy, and mental focus on things that are not in line with what God’s Word has said, we need to ask God to give us his wisdom to get us back on track.
When we ask for wisdom, God has promised to give it to us. What a great promise given to us when we are in need of reassurance about the truth of God’s Word!
The next verse says, “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6). When we ask God to give us his wisdom, we should ask with full confidence that he will answer our request. If we doubt that God could or would give us the confidence of his wisdom, then James says that we are like a wave blown and tossed by the wind. Instead of making us fearful, however, that verse is meant to give us courage and boldness when approaching God’s throne.
And if we still have doubts, then we can do as the man who was asking Jesus to heal his son did, when he cried out, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). When we face doubts of any kind, we need God’s wisdom to pull us through. Relying on God’s wisdom means that we remember the knowledge he has given us in Scripture as well as the experiences we have had with God when he has been faithful to us in the past. When you forget those things, ask God to remind you and believe that he will.
If you fear God, then you should trust him. And why shouldn’t we fear God? There’s a lot of talk about God being loving and caring, and I’m one of the first to describe God that way, but there’s also a part of us that should fear God, meaning we should be in reverent awe of his power and majesty.
God is not like our buddy down the street. He is not like our athletic heroes. He is the Creator of the Universe – the one who simply spoke all things into being. As creator, he has the power to create, but also the power to destroy, all with a word. So when we think of God, love should be part of it, because God is love (1 John 4:16), but God also deserves our awe and respect. It is only by the grace of God that we can even approach him; let us not forget the privilege that it is.
The second part of the verse tells us that if we do fear God, he is our helper and shield. The word shield captured my attention as I read this verse. The history of shields is vast – dating back thousands of years B.C. Shields were clearly around when the Psalmist penned these words. I did some research on shields and it was very fascinating how humankind has changed and modified the shield throughout history. In Bible times it was probably made from animal hides.
What captures my attention, however, is that a soldier was never armed with just a shield. The shield is a defensive weapon which is meant to be carried in the opposite hand/arm from the weapon being wielded. So when we picture the Lord with a shield in one hand defending us, we can also picture him with a sword in the other attacking for us.
God is not just playing defense for us – he is offensively attacking that which seeks to destroy us. When we are filled with fear, remember that Jesus has already fought the battle for us – we just need to stand beside him and be confident (“trust”) in him and his ability to protect us.
The Spirit of God – the Holy Spirit – who lives inside each believer, gives each of us certain gifts. The Holy Spirit also dispels certain things. In this verse, Paul reminds Timothy that when the Spirit of God is in you, the spirit of timidity cannot be. To be timid means “the trait of lacking the quality of spirit that enables you to face danger or pain without showing fear.” When the Spirit is inside of you, as he is for all believers, he gives you the way to face danger and pain without showing fear! When you feel afraid, simply call on the Spirit to fill you with his confidence and power.
In fact, Paul continues to say that the Spirit gives the believer power, love, and self-control! Power means to be capable of manifesting influence over reality. Love is the agape love that describes the love that God has for us, his children. And self-control is the ability to make sound judgements and wise decisions. All three of those traits are in YOU when you are a believer.
Don’t allow Satan to trick you into believing you have no power, love, or self-control. Don’t allow Satan to deceive you by telling you you have to be afraid! The Spirit of Creator God lives inside you and through him you can vanquish the fear and grasp onto the power, love, and self-control he provides!
Don’t be discouraged if you struggle with this, however. Even Timothy had to be reminded in the verse before this to “fan into flame the gift of God” – that is, if you feel timid and powerless, go back to the truth of Scripture and allow God to rekindle the flame inside you!
Psalm 118 starts with this verse, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever” (Psalm 118:1). Verses 2-4 repeat the phrase, “His faithful love endures forever.” And in verse 29, the Psalm ends with, “His faithful love endures forever.”
In the midst of reminding us about God’s love, the psalmist says in our verse that he will not be afraid because the Lord is with him. He then posits the question, “What can mere mortals do to me?” (NIV).
It is important during this time to remember that God’s love is never ending, knows no limits, and is all encompassing. God loves you and God loves me, and nothing will ever change that. He loves us so much that he sent Jesus to die for us. When we face uncertainties – and even if we face certain death – we can rest in the fact that God’s love is with us. He offers to comfort us in our time of need and we can count on him to be faithful.
If we are truly surrounded by God’s love, protection, and grace, then what can anyone do to us? No one can take God away from us. You can make laws that say we can’t gather together, but you can’t take Jesus from our hearts. You can say that churches are closed, but the true Church is the unity of believers from all time and place and it can never be closed!
Be encouraged, dear friends, that as believers YOU are the Church and that God’s Spirit dwells within you. With God literally dwelling inside of us, what do we have to fear? What can a mere mortal do to us? Nothing compared to what God can and will do for those who seek him!
In the verse immediately preceding our verse, Peter says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time” (1 Peter 5:6). This concludes a short section on the value and importance of humility. The sense of the Greek word for humility means “the character trait of valuing and assessing oneself appropriately, especially in light of one’s sinfulness.” I think we all have a basic understanding of what it means to be humble.
But what does being humble have to do with casting our anxieties on Christ?
It’s quite simply the fact that we understand that being anxious for things, particularly things that are outside of our control, is a form of arrogance. You are basically saying to God that you don’t trust that he will work things out. You are putting yourself above his power. It’s the opposite of recognizing your humility in comparison to him.
The anxiety that you have (literally, “cares that bring disruption to the personality and mind”), causes you to doubt the order of creation. Is the Creator God really in control of everything, or do you, in your finite mind, need to worry and concern yourself with the things you have no control over?
Even though Peter is reminding us to be humble, particularly when considering our place compared to God, he emphasizes the fact that God cares for you! The word cares means, “to be relevant or important to; to be of interest to.” God cares about YOU and YOU are interest to HIM. God doesn’t want you to worry or be anxious – he wants you to humbly accept the fact that you have no control and need to rest in his arms of compassion and care. Once we can let go of the fact that we have to try to control everything, we can finally be assured that God is in control and we truly have nothing to fear because he cares about us more than we can ever know.
In this Psalm, David is proclaiming to all the position that God has in his life – the “stronghold” – or in other places translated “refuge.” David says that when the world around him is crumbling, he can count on the refuge of his God.
In God, David sees his light and salvation. The darkness seems to overtake the world at times, but the darkness is no match for the light of God. God’s light shines even into the deepest pit of despair and illuminates the unknown so that we won’t be afraid. And the salvation that is given to us through God is one that cannot be fathomed. Jesus died so that we might live! What a reason for us to be joyful!
When we are overwhelmed with the “what-ifs” in this time, we should recognize that our God is our salvation and our light. In him we should not be afraid! If the God who created the world has also provided us with salvation and refuge, then why would we be afraid of the things that this life throws at us? The simple answer is we shouldn’t be! God’s light has defeated the darkness and in the end the light will shine throughout the world. We can take comfort in the fact that in the midst of this time, when the darkness seems to be winning, we know that in the end light wins; God wins!
In our passage today, Paul reassures us that NOTHING can separate us from God’s love. God’s love is always present in our lives, no matter what else is going on. But before you think that Paul is just writing some platitude to help people feel better, please remember that Paul is writing out of his own experience.
Paul has endured great hardships in his life. He has been beaten multiple times, imprisoned, stoned, faced death, shipwrecked, robbed, faced danger “in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas,” endured sleepless nights, faced starvation, dealt with severe thirst, and was in the cold with nothing to warm him (1 Corinthians 11:23-27). He is a man who has suffered!
Yet in his suffering, he is able to find solace in the fact that God has never left him; more specifically, that God’s love has never left him. What does it mean that God loves us? God’s love was ultimately demonstrated for us when Jesus died on the cross for our sins. What greater act of love can there be than to take someone else’s place in death? John tells us that God is love (1 John 4:8). That means that all that is love is also God and all that is God is also love. And without God’s love, we could not love one another (1 John 4:19).
When you can stop your worry and anxiety long enough to consider who you love, recognize the fact that God loves you even more than you love that person or people. There is no limit to how much God loves you and how much he cares about you. In the midst of our worry, remember that God’s love knows no limits and he loves you more than you’ll ever know. Nothing can separate you from that love!
In this Psalm the writer is remembering a time when the Lord had helped him in the past. The verses right before our verse say:
Unless the LORD had given me help,
I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death.
When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
your unfailing love, LORD, supported me. – Psalm 94:17-19 (NLT)
The Lord has a history with this person – He has protected him (or her) in the past. The writer recognizes that without God’s help, death would surely have been his outcome.
“Doubts” in our verse mean the thoughts that cause a person to be troubled or disquieted. And the “me” in our verse refers to the soul or inner being of a person. When our inner being is being troubled, we can rest in the fact that God will give us relief in affliction (“comfort”). Why is the Psalmist certain of this? Because God has done it for him in the past.
When we face a time of uncertainty or anxiety, it is helpful to hit the pause button and think back to a time in our lives when God did come through for us. That’s one reason why it can be helpful to keep a journal – to keep a written record of when God came through for you. In this time, remember that God has gotten you through everything else that life has thrown at you – he will get you through this as well.