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A Discussion of Messianic Judaism, the Emerging Messianic Jewish Paradigm, and Related Leadership Issues from the Preoccupied Mind of Rabbi Stuart Dauermann, PhD.

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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Having a Fear-Not Faith

(This is a sermon for Parashat Toldot, presented November 25, 2006 at Ahavat Zion Messianic Synagogue, Beverly Hills, California. It concerns the most frequently repeated command in the Bible, and wny all of us would do well to obey it).

The command, ‘Fear not” or “Be not afraid” is the most frequently repeated command in both the Hebrew Bible and the B’rith Chadasha. It is found 122 times in the Hebrew Bible and another couple of hundred times in the B’rith Chadasha.

“Fear Not” can be a potent message of hope. Karol Wojtyla, who would later be Pope John Paul II, while a university professor in Krakow, urged his students living under Communism: "Do not be afraid" and they were enabled to maintain their Christian faith and resist Communist indoctrination. When he became Archbishop of Krakow, he proclaimed: "Do not be afraid!" and strengthened the Polish people to maintain their lives of faithfulness under the Communists.

When he was elevated as Pope, in his first sermon at his inaugural mass on Oct. 22, 1978, he proclaimed to the whole world, "Do not be afraid!" He reprised that sermon in his historic speech in 1979 when he spoke to the striking shipyard workers in Gdansk, Poland, urging: "Do not be afraid," strengthening the Solidarity Movement that had so much to do with unseating Communism in Poland.

He knew that more than anything else, the Polish people were in danger of being controlled by the fear of retaliation, fear of an uncertain future. He called upon all to instead be controlled by confidence in God: by faith, not fear.

“Fear not” is a message we need to hear over and over again. Even people who bury their heads in the sand, cannot escape the reality that we are living in a fearful times.

I have never been more pessimistic and concerned about the world political scene than I am now. How about you? I have never been more apprehensive about a coming presidential election than I am now. How about you? I have never been more concerned about the mounting threats to Israel as I see Lebanon falling under terrorist rule, and Iran forming a coalition with Syria. How about you? I have never been more concerned that politically-motivated and foreign-directed violence will again visit our shores than I am now. How about you?

Health issues threaten us too. People in our congregation have been diagnosed with cancer, and some of us react by drawing our coats about us more tightly, doing what we can to make sure we don’t catch their “cooties,” whatever that might mean to us. To people preoccupied with their health, or their lack of it, the message comes again, “Fear not.”

Some of us are financially fearful. I have tax woes, I have children who need educational monies I cannot provide. And I know I am not alone. I need to hear the message from above, “Fear not.”

I know I am not alone when gnawing fears come knocking on my door as unannounced, unwelcome visitors when I least want to hear from them.

Frankin Delano Roosevelt was right, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself,” because if we succumb to fear, we will be controlled by it, and we will become immobilized, easy victims.

God tells us He is with us,

1 But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. 3 For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you. 4 Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. 5 Fear not, for I am with you [Isa 43].

As Psalm 23 says it, “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.”
Of course, that is the secret of a fear-not faith: the knowledge that a good, caring and omnipotent God is with us, at our side, and on our side, if we are on His.

It is interesting that the Bible includes both the command to not be afraid and the command to be afraid. These come together in Luke 12, where we read this:

4 "My friends, I tell you: don't fear those who kill the body but then have nothing more they can do. 5 I will show you whom to fear: fear him who after killing you has authority to throw you into Gei-Hinnom! Yes, I tell you, this is the one to fear! 6 Aren't sparrows sold for next to nothing, five for two small coins? And not one of them has been forgotten by God. 7 Why, every hair on your head has been counted! Don't be afraid, you are worth more than many sparrows.

The fear we are speaking of here is apprehensiveness, it is anxiety. It is phobia, the kind of fear that can control our lives. Yeshua is telling us to not be controlled by our fear of people, because there is a limit to what they can do to us. Instead, we are to be controlled by our fear of God—He is the one we are to fear, and here I believe the meaning is fearing His judgment, fearing His displeasure, fearing displeasing Him either because of your love for Him or our dread of His chastening rod.

The Luke passage closes with this word of encouragement, “Don't be afraid, you are worth more than many sparrows.” We ought not to be controlled by anxiety about our well-being either. God will look out for us. We are of more value than many sparrows.

When we have a fear-not faith we will always remember, and always remind ourselves, that in every situation, God is greater than the things we fear. This is the key. Corrie ten Boom, that Dutch Christian heroine who saved Jews from the Nazis, said it this way: “There is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still.” She knew the secret of a fear-not faith.

One sign that we have this kind of faith, this kind of hope, is that despite all that life might hand us, we will know what it is to rest in the Lord—to put things into His hands and relax, even if only a little.

The riddle for all of us is this. To what kinds of people does God give the admonition, “Do not be afraid” or “Fear not”? The answer is, to people who are already God-fearing. To people who are flippant with God, who repeatedly play games with Him, who have no respect or proper fear of Him, the message is a different one. And that message is “Fear Him.” That is why we read in the Book of Proverbs, “reishit chokhma yir’at Adonai”---“the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.”

The Book of Revelation, Chapter 12, says this:

6 And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, 7 Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.

That’s good advice for us too—to walk in the fear of God, willing to displease people in order to please Him, yet knowing that the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, As Yeshua told his disciples, recorded later in Luke, Chapter 12,

22I tell you, don't worry about your life -- what you will eat or drink; or about your body -- what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. 24 Think about the ravens! They neither plant nor harvest, they have neither storerooms nor barns, yet God feeds them. You are worth much more than the birds! 25 Can any of you by worrying add an hour to his life? 26 If you can't do a little thing like that, why worry about the rest? 27 Think about the wild irises, and how they grow. They neither work nor spin thread; yet, I tell you, not even Shlomo in all his glory was clothed as beautifully as one of these. 28 If this is how God clothes grass, which is alive in the field today and thrown in the oven tomorrow, how much more will he clothe you! What little trust you have! 29 "In other words, don't strive after what you will eat and what you will drink -- don't be anxious. 30 For all the pagan nations in the world set their hearts on these things. Your Father knows that you need them too. 31 Rather, seek his Kingdom; and these things will be given to you as well. 32 Have no fear, little flock, for your Father has resolved to give you the Kingdom!

Fear not. Be not afraid.

And if you do not fear God, if you are what the Bible therefore calls “a fool,” then, the best advice is this: “Fear Him.”

May all of us walk in the fear of God, and, as often as necessary, may we hear Him saying to our hearts, “Fear not.”