For the week of August 14, 2010 / 4 Elul 5770
Torah: Devarim / Deuteronomy 16:18 - 21:9
Haftarah: Isaiah 51:12 - 52:12

Who Are You?

I, I am he who comforts you; who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, of the son of man who is made like grass, and have forgotten the LORD, your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth, and you fear continually all the day because of the wrath of the oppressor, when he sets himself to destroy? And where is the wrath of the oppressor? He who is bowed down shall speedily be released; he shall not die and go down to the pit, neither shall his bread be lacking. (Isaiah 51:12-14; ESV)

A couple of months ago, I began a new journey in my spiritual life. It started as I was struck by Yeshua's words to a particular synagogue official. Yeshua had been on his way to heal his daughter, but she died before he arrived. When the official heard the tragic news, Yeshua said to him, "Do not fear, only believe" (Mark 5:36; ESV). It surprised me to read that it was fear, not doubt that was the potential obstacle to faith and restoration.

Fear is a common human emotion and one that I am greatly familiar with. I know that as a believer in the Messiah, it is not appropriate, but seeing it addressed in this way shed new light on it and has helped me to confront fear more effectively.

This week's Haftarah provides us with yet another angle as to the inappropriate nature of fear in the lives of God's people. The wording here again took me by surprise. Maybe it's just me, but the way God confronts fear here is not what I expected. In this context the people of Israel are afraid of "the wrath of the oppressor." When God confronts Israel's fear one would expect him to say something like, "Who is this oppressor that you are so afraid?", but instead he says, "...who are you that you are afraid...?"

The presence of fear in this case is due not so much to how threatening the enemy was, but because of a lack of correct self awareness. They were reacting to their situation as if they had been abandoned by God and therefore had reason to fear. They had forgotten who they were as God's own children.

Having a correct understanding of God is essential to having a correct understanding of our relationship to God. But it is not enough to understand how great God is if we don't grasp the nature of what it means to be his children.

As followers of the Messiah, we are assured of God's presence, love, and provision. And yet we often find ourselves intimidated by fear as we face difficult people or situations. At those times we may justify our fear for one reason or another. We really do feel threatened. We try to remember how capable God is, but for some reason, we still fear. Perhaps the reason is we haven't really accepted what it means to belong to God. We have forgotten who we are. As we read in the New Covenant writings:

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" (Romans 8:15)

This suggests that what God has done for us through the Messiah has affected a fundamental change in our hearts. Yet some of us still struggle with fear. If we do, then we need to stop and ask the same question God asked Israel through Isaiah: "Who are you?" If we are not God's children, we can become so through repentance and faith in Yeshua as Messiah. And then once we realize that we truly are God's children, the fear that was once so prevalent will begin to disappear.

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