Fear is Real, But Fear Cannot Take Charge of Our Lives
Lately, I have heard the phrase “we are in unprecedented times” used repeatedly. This is usually followed by “our communities, our nation, and the world has never faced such dangers.” Though COV-19 is significantly altering our lives, we have been through events in our past that have also greatly altered our lives. In my lifetime, we have lived through the specter of atomic warfare (we use to have school drills of climbing under our desks in the event an atomic blast), the Cold War, and the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Each involved a change in our behavior, our national policies, and our perspectives. Before that, in our history, we have experienced the Spanish Flu, polio, and the Great Depression. Each of these events is unique in their destructive impacts, but they are similar in the fear that they instilled in people’s lives. With each of these calamities, we worried about whether or not we would survive it and what would the new world look like if and when emerged from that particular crisis. We see this same type of fear displayed in the Bible when the Israelites are looking into the Promised Land. Let’s look at Numbers 13:25 – 14:4.
Numbers 13:25-14:4 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The Report of the Spies
25 At the end of forty days, they returned from spying out the land. 26 And they came to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the Israelites in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; they brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 And they told him, “We came to the land to which you sent us; it flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. 28 Yet the people who live in the land are strong, and the towns are fortified and very large; and besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites live in the land of the Negeb; the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live by the sea, and along the Jordan.”
30 But Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” 31 Then the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against this people, for they are stronger than we.” 32 So they brought to the Israelites an unfavorable report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land that we have gone through as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people that we saw in it are of great size. 33 There we saw the Nephilim (the Anakites come from the Nephilim); and to ourselves we seemed like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”
The People Rebel
14 Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. 2 And all the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron; the whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! 3 Why is the Lord bringing us into this land to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become booty; would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 So they said to one another, “Let us choose a captain, and go back to Egypt.”
Notice the fear Israelites were experiencing with the possibility of entering the Promised Land. They began to exaggerate the dangers there were facing. As a result, initially, they preferred staying in the wilderness rather than entering the Promised Land. Ultimately, they took preliminary steps to return to Egypt to be slaves. Their fear paralyzed them, and they could not move forward. However, Caleb and Joshua urged the Israelites to trust in the Lord and to enter in the Promised Land.
We need to be like Joshua and Caleb and exhort our community, our state, our nation, and the world to move forward. We need to let them know that as we begin to emerge into the new normal, God is with us and leading us. We need to pray that our leaders listen to the Lord. We need to ask Jesus to help us to move forward. This does not mean we do not have to take measures for the health and safety of people around us, nor that we should rush into anything. But as we do consider the steps both individually and corporately of coming back together, we should not rely solely on human understanding; we should trust that God is in front of us helping with the next steps.
We confess that we are afraid of the dangers that this pandemic is bringing to our lives, the lives of our family members, the lives of our friends, the lives of the healthcare professionals, the lives of food preparers and distributors, and throughout the world populations. This fear tends to control us to the point that we want to hide. Be with us at this moment. Give us feet like Peter so that we can walk on water in the midst of the storm. Let us trust in your power, strength, love, comfort, and grace.
In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen