I’ve written a lot of posts about fear and not being afraid. That’s probably because the Bible frequently reminds us not to be afraid! I’ve told our church folks that fear is Satan’s tool – we shouldn’t fall for it, and we should never use it. But Satan certainly uses it! That’s why God regularly reminds us, “Do not be afraid.”
Isaiah, chapters 43-45; 1 Peter, chapter 4
Isaiah 43:1-4 (NLT):
But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.
For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I gave Egypt as a ransom for your freedom; I gave Ethiopia and Seba in your place. Others were given in exchange for you. I traded their lives for yours because you are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you.
The Lord Who Created You
In this portion of his prophecy, Isaiah assures the people of Israel that God will restore them to the land after the Exile in Babylon. Later, in verse 6, he will quote God as saying, “Bring my sons and daughters back to Israel…” More importantly, in verse 25 God says that he “will blot out your sins for my own sake and will never think of them again.” That does not mean that their sin and rebellion “didn’t matter”; it simply reminds them that God is faithful.
Chapter 43 begins with a reference to the Lord who created you. God’s reminder that he created Israel functions on two levels. First, he is the Creator who is ultimately responsible for every individual who has ever walked on earth. He is my Creator. He is your Creator. We are here because God in his providence allowed us to be born and to continue to live.
But when God reminds Israel that he is the Lord who created you, I think that also refers to their existence as a nation. He made a covenant with Abraham that he would make a great nation from him, and he did. He rescued them from bondage in Egypt and established them in the land he had promised to their ancestors. God went to all that effort to create the people called “Israel,” and he would not forget them.
Do Not Be Afraid
In the second part of verse 1, God encourages the people: Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. If they thought back to the ways in which God worked for their good, they would recognize God’s power and faithfulness. God is still the same; do not be afraid! The God who opened a way through the Red Sea would open a way for them! He who caused the walls of Jericho to fall could remove any barrier in their way. Do not be afraid…I have called you by name; you are mine.
But God does not promise that they will not face difficulties. When you go through deep waters…through rivers of difficulty…when you walk through the fire of oppression… Not “if,” but when. God does not promise to put them in a “bubble” to protect them from any problems or challenges. Instead, he promises that whatever they face will not overcome them. I will be with you…you will not drown…you will not be burned up. Do not be afraid!
Do Not Be Afraid
Why does God do it that way? Why doesn’t he put a “bubble” or a “force field” around us to protect us from any difficulties or challenges? Because God knows what is best! “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad – for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world” (1 Peter 4:12-13).
Testing sharpens our faith and strengthens us spiritually, so that we grow and mature in the image of Jesus. After all, even Jesus went through testing! Our great High Priest was tested in every way like we are, yet did not sin (Hebrews 4:15). He understands our challenges because he experienced them too. He gives us the grace and the help we need in every situation.
When you go through deep waters…through rivers of difficulty…when you walk through the fire of oppression – don’t be afraid, for I will be with you! And as our final reminder from today’s passage: You are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you. Don’t be afraid!
Father, thank you for reminding us that you created us, called us, and walk with us. Help us not to be afraid when we face the trials and temptations of life, because you are with us. What a blessing it is to hear you say that we are precious to you! Guide us today in your way, that we may bring glory and honor to you. Amen.