For the week of June 5, 2010 / 23 Sivan 5770
Torah: Bemidbar / Numbers 13:1 - 15:41
Haftarah: Joshua 2:1-24
Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them. (Bemidbar / Numbers 14:9; ESV)
A few years ago I wrote a TorahBytes message entitled The Fear Is Real, where I proposed that it was understandable that the Israelites who spied out the land of Canaan would be afraid of its inhabitants. I mentioned at that time that their real problem was not that they were afraid, but that they gave into their fears. I have heard courage explained as not the absence of fear, but rather doing what needs to be done in spite of fear. There may be some truth in that, but I don't know if that is the way God sees it. For I cannot think of a scripture that says "It's OK to be afraid, as long as you do what is right". Rather, what we read over and over again is "Don't fear."
When the people of Israel were afraid because they were told how big and powerful the inhabitants of the land were, Joshua and Caleb confronted their fear. They told them not to be afraid and why. The reason they gave was that God was with them and would work on their behalf. God had said he would give the inhabitants of the land into the hands of the Israelites, and Joshua and Caleb believed him.
God was real to these two. God's word was true as far as they were concerned. The inhabitants of the land may have been big and numerous, but God was more powerful. If God said he would give Israel victory, he would give Israel victory. There was no reason to fear.
There is a fascinating story about Yeshua, where a synagogue official asked him to heal his daughter. As Yeshua arrived at the place where she was, she died. The people who informed the official of this also suggested to him that he needn't take any more of Yeshua's time. But hearing this, Yeshua said to the official, "Do not fear, only believe." (Mark 5:36; ESV). Yeshua didn't say, "Don't doubt, just believe", he said "Don't fear, only believe." Was the official scared? Maybe not in the way we might think. He wasn't afraid in the same way the people of Israel were afraid of losing their lives in battle. In the case of the official, his was a fear of quiet acceptance of something quite normal, a child dying after an illness. Understandably to believe that there was still hope for his daughter would make him a laughing stock, something many of us have fear of being, and more so for someone of this man's stature as a synagogue official. As it turned out, Yeshua was laughed at when he said to the mourners, "The child is not dead but sleeping" (Mark 5:39; ESV), viewing her condition from God's perspective. To be called by Yeshua into living life this way can be very frightening.
So whether we are the Israelites facing the conquest of the Promised Land or a follower of Yeshua being called to trust him for a miracle, fear will prevent us from doing what God calls us to do.
Fear isn't always a noticeable, conscious emotion. At times the reason why we don't feel afraid is because of fear. That's because we tend to avoid what frightens us to the extent that we aren't afraid. We often only become conscious of our fears when we are forced to face whatever it is we are afraid of. The people of Israel were already afraid of big powerful armies before they faced the prospect of taking the Promised Land. The people already didn't trust that God would help them in such a circumstance. They may not have been in touch with their fear until the situation presented itself, but it was there. Yeshua knew the heart of the synagogue official and confronted his fear in the midst of what was, in the natural, an impossible situation. In order for him to walk in the miraculous, he needed to turn from fear and trust Yeshua.
Fear cannot co-exist with faith. Even if our initial state or reaction is one of fear, in order to live by faith we must reject fear. God knows how much we struggle with this. That is why Yeshua confronts it. We don't have to stay afraid, only believe.
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