Tag Archives: fear

Spying On Our Fears

As Resurrection moves quickly through the Old Testament, many wonderful stories must be skipped. This Sunday we will jump to the book of Deuteronomy which is Moses’ final sermon to the Israelites before they entered the Promised Land (recounted in the book of Joshua).

But this was not Israel’s first attempt to enter Palestine. The book of Numbers recounted a previous attempt to invade the land (chapters 13 and 14). Moses selected twelve spies from the twelve tribes to spy out the land of Canaan. They were selected leaders and instructed to be bold and observant. The spies returned with a huge cluster of grapes suspended on a pole. Their report emphasized a land flowing with milk and honey and with abundant fruit.

However their report also stated that the occupants of the land were many and strong, their towns fortified and very large. Caleb, one of the spies, countered “We can take the land.” The other spies disagreed, saying, “We cannot go up against this people for they are stronger than we.” Their fear overrode their trust in God’s promise. The fear of the leaders/spies also infected the people.

The whole congregation said to Moses, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us into this land to fall by the sword, would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” (Exodus 14:2-3)

Fear can destroy a family, a congregation or a nation. We see a potential danger and magnify it beyond reality. We feel threatened and we either seek to fight or flee. The people of Israel wanted to flee.

Caleb spoke again to the people, trying to turn their focus to God.,

The land that we went through as spies is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only, do not rebel against the Lord; and do not fear the people of the land, their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.” (Exodus 14:7-9)

The people did not listen to Caleb that day. Their rebellion against God resulted in God’s declaration that this generation which yearned for Egypt must die so that a new generation of hope can arise. The story has a Christian connection: the fearful “old Egyptian” in each of us must die so that the new Christ can rise up within us. Baptism is a reminder of our being joined to Jesus’ death and resurrection.

I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives within me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:19-20

When has fear diverted your trust in God? When has your faith in God overcome fear?

Lord Jesus, today, kill the fear within me and reignite my trust in you.

Water Thoughts

Elwah River in Olympic National Park

Water images have dominated my thoughts this week.  Gary Bailey’s funeral (see 1/5 post), the Life of Pi,  and my Sunday sermon all have strong water themes.   The Life of Pi centers on a sea survival story; my sermon will be on Jesus’ baptism.   Water evokes both fear and hope, death and life.

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I saw a lot of water.  On a clear day my family home had a view of the Puget Sound, but I also experienced plenty of clouds and rain.   The abundant rain kept everything green and alive, but when I had to deliver the afternoon newspaper, rain could make the load and route miserable.  While backpacking in the  mountains I would marvel at how glaciers of ice carved such spectacular landscape.   Yet when it became necessary to cross glacier-fed rivers, I realized that with one wrong step I could easily become one of boulders tumbling towards the sea.

In the Bible water is a symbol of the chaos and destruction as well as life.  In Genesis 1:2, the water is part of the dark void before God’s creative Word is spoken.  In Exodus the Red Sea destroys the Egyptian army while providing a means of escape for the Israelites.   In I Kings  17-18, a drought is a sign of God’s displeasure with King Ahab, but later Elijah demonstrates God’s power to bring healing rain.  Jesus calms the stormy sea that threatens life in Mark 4 while in John 4 Jesus offers the Samaritan woman living water.  Water can destroy or give life.

What water image brings you life or hope?