Powerful Words for Times Like These

Have you ever experienced something that absolutely knocked you off your feet? Have you ever been so terrified that you completely froze?

I think of recent events in Paris and California. There were people in both incidents who were so terrified that the only thing they could think of to do was to pretend they were dead. They played “possum” as their only means of survival.

The apostle John had this very experience himself. As the book of Revelation opens, the apostle John turns around to see a rather terrifying vision of “someone like a son of man” that caused him to fall down and become motionless as though he were dead.

The vision was a vision of Jesus in all his power, with all his authority, and all his holiness in full evidence. The thing is, no one can stand in the presence of such glory — not even “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” In reality, John was blessed to be only “as though dead,” and not really, truly dead.

But what happens next is absolutely wonderful, and perhaps a bit unexpected given the vision John is seeing. Jesus’ next action makes explicit the kind of relationship he wants to have with his people. The powerful, authoritative, holy Son of God places his right hand on his apostle, and he says four very powerful words to him: “Do not be afraid.”

What amazing words! And what an amazing act that Jesus placed his right hand on John. The significance of Jesus placing his right hand on John — a significance that can easily be missed — is incredible. In ancient times, a person of very high rank would place his right hand on a person to indicate that he is giving him equal honor with himself and recognizing him to be a person of equal dignity and authority.

The beautiful symmetry of this is that Jesus himself stands at the right hand of God the Father, even as he places his right hand on John. This shows that the one granting such mercy to John is the Messiah to whom is given the power and authority to subdue his enemies. Psalm 110:1 says, “The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”

This is the Son of God who is rightly terrifying to sinners. This is also the Savior of all mankind, who in grace and mercy looks at a sinner like me (and like you) and tells us in mercy and grace, “Do not be afraid.”

Jesus says to each of us, “Do not be afraid of me. Do not be afraid of beginnings or endings. Do not be afraid even of death. I have my hand on your shoulder. I give you equal honor to myself. I assure you that you possess the same dignity and authority as I do. By faith, you are mine, and all I possess is now yours.”

Do not be afraid. Just four simple words. But, what powerful words for times like these!

“When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Revelation 1:17-18, NIV).

Jesus, help me to hear your voice speaking to me, “Do not be afraid.” I repent of the times when I have allowed my life to be driven by fear, and my heart splintered with terror. Allow me through your promises and your Spirit’s power to be fully confident that your right hand is also on my shoulder.

Our Bible reading for Wednesday, December 9, is Zechariah 9:1 – 11:17, Revelation 1:1-20 and Psalm 140:1-5.

Header image based on "Paris" by Moyan Brenn, CC By 2.0

Should We Fear God?

What does it mean to “fear” God? The verb, in the Hebrew language, which is the original language of the vast majority of the Old Testament, is an interesting one.

The basic meaning of the Hebrew word is actually “to be afraid of, to be aware of a threat, to be in terror.” Certainly, God does provoke fear in this sense. As we see throughout the entire Bible, those who are about to incur God’s wrath because of unbelief and unrepented sin have every reason to be afraid.

The book of Hebrews reminds us, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31, NIV).

But this is not the best definition of the word for the believer who has learned of God’s grace and forgiveness, who knows Jesus as their Savior and who is in a loving relationship with God through faith in Jesus.

Within this relationship, to “fear” God is to be respectful and reverent toward him. It is to esteem him who is our Creator, our Redeemer and our Counselor — to treat him with the honor he deserves. It is to submit to his will, recognizing in trust and obedience that his ways are true and correct.

It is to be confident that his ways are “what’s really best for me.”

This fear starts with hearing the gospel and having our hearts and minds transformed by this beautiful message of forgiveness of sins. It continues with listening to the laws of God and loving those laws because we now love the Law-giver.

The fear of God is more than an emotion or an attitude. Fear of God leads us to walk in his ways and be obedient to him. It’s putting God’s law into practice (even the ones that seem impossible for us, or unreasonable to us).

It’s living with the purpose — the very purpose that God has given us. To fear God is to actually live in the wisdom that goes far beyond the wisdom of this world. Never perfectly, of course. We are still way too sinful for that, and always will be in this life.

The “fear” of God, put simply, is to really believe that what we believe is really real.

Such fear of God has its rewards. And those rewards are pretty sweet. Solomon writes about a few of those rewards in the book of Proverbs:

“Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death” (Proverbs 14:26-27, NIV).

Lord, I repent of all the times in life when I fail to fear you. I know that you love me. I know that I am forgiven through the blood and the merits of Jesus Christ. Send me your Holy Spirit and give me the love and wisdom to fear you every day of my life.

Our Bible reading for Saturday, June 13, is 2 Samuel 20:1 – 21:22, Acts 8:4-40 and Proverbs 14:25-35.

Header image based on "Commandments" by Charles Clegg, CC By-SA 2.0