I’ve always heard that do not be afraid was in the Bible 365 times. It’s not, by the way; but it is repeated many times. According to Hebrew4Christians.com, “fear not” is not the greatest commandment, but it is the most repeated. Why? Why does God tell us to fear not, and what is there for me to learn in reading the fear not scriptures?
While there are multiple words for fear in the Bible, the same website says that root with the meaning of “fear not” is the Hebrew phrase, al tira. Where to start? Why not start at the beginning? The first reference to al tira that I can find is Genesis 15:1.
After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision:
“Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield,
your very great reward.
So, why the do not be afraid? At first, I was perplexed by this very first use of al tira. Why was Abram afraid? Initially, I thought it was his fear of hearing God’s word. Sometimes, that is very scary. But, Abram has heard God’s word before, and he was not afraid. This passage is Genesis 12:1-4.
12 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
2 “I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”
4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. 5 He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.
See, God has spoken to Abram before. There is no sign of fear in this scripture. As a matter of fact, Abram did exactly as God said and set upon his journey fearlessly. So, why does he need to be told to fear not in Chapter 15? I went back and reread Abram’s journey during this time. And, um, I think I’d be afraid, too.
There has been a famine, his wife was almost taken in Egypt, he has a falling out with his nephew and takes what appears to be less desirable land, his nephew has been kidnapped, and he did battle with pagan kings to rescue the nephew who abandoned him. At this point, however, God comes to speak to him to tell Abram not to be afraid.
Here is what I gather from this passage and this encouragement.
- When God asks us to go on a journey, the initial decision to follow him may or may not be stressful.
- Obedience is not a smooth road; sometimes, it is scary.
- Sometimes, on the journey, the plans don’t go as we think they should.
- In fact, we may wonder whether or not God is still with us on the journey.
- God wrote over 80 scriptures to encourage us not to be afraid as we are faithfully following him.
- When we are the end of ourselves, we find God.
- Faith is the enemy of fear; fear is the enemy of faith.
When our daughter was struggling with Lyme disease, it was a time of desperation. It is gut-wrenchingly hard to see your child suffer and not to have the answers regardless of multiple quality medical providers. We knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that we were to travel to Boston, and we were not afraid. We headed out on the journey in full faith that she would be healed. The doctor’s office experience did not go as we had hoped. The doctor did not give us any treatment, and we returned home with a pricey trip bill and no outcome. Amongst the temptation to be afraid, God provided reminders that were on the right journey. Lab work came back differently that the doctor had anticipated, our daughter was treated, and she has remained symptom free. The one thing that sustained us during this time of fear was our faith. I kept telling my husband that we were on the journey for a purpose even though we couldn’t see it with our physical sense. When it appeared that all was for naught, God reminded us that this was His journey – not ours – and that He was in control of the situation. In the end, God strengthened our faith and provided the healing that we had feared would not come.
I’m not sure where this #FearNot journey is leading, but I hope you will journey along with me as I explore the work of God’s word, al tira, in my life. And, I pray that you are not afraid on your journey – regardless of what you see in the physical world. Keep having faith!