December 12 Lesson: I am your God


By Rev. Teresa Edwards

Isaiah 41:8-10, 17-20

Before the most wonderful time of the year that we call Christmas takes over the landscape, the scariest time of the year sweeps through with its folly, fun and fear. As I write these words, the pumpkins burn a bright orange and the ghastly goblins and ghouls await tricks and treats at the fall festival. Fear rides on the wind, making us gasp for breath and laugh out loud at the same time. Yet after October 31, we pack our costumes and throw out the jack-o-lantern. The Israelites, living in captivity in Babylon, couldn’t put away their fear so easily. God speaks a powerful word on fear to them, and to us.

The power of fear

As the exiles awoke each morning, that deep and disturbing fear that God abandoned them rose up again like a bad dream that lingered after a fitful night’s sleep. The combination of hopelessness and fear paralyzed the people, blinding them to God’s presence among them.

So Isaiah speaks a word about fear straight from God’s heart. God reminds the people of their identity in Him and Him alone. Remember, God recounts – you are mine from the days of Abraham and Jacob. "You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off." (Isaiah 41:9) So if that’s the case, get ready to hear the good news: "Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand." (Isaiah 41:10)

Do not fear! The Israelites, Mary, Zechariah and so many, many others who encountered God in the Bible heard those words. Why? Human beings know what it means to live with fear. "Do not fear" comes as an invitation to see God most especially in the dark moments that tend to draw us away from the light of Christ. Jesus promises to be with us always. He gives us the Holy Spirit to guide and comfort us. Our God is for us and with us, reminding us … do not fear.

Yet, fear still holds sway over us. Each day headlines introduce fear into my life. If I hear that a woman got robbed at my local grocery store, the next time I shop, fear rears its ugly head. Fears born in reality and our own imaginations steal away real life, replacing it with worry and doubt. When fear digs in, it begins to shape our actions and decisions.

According to Norman Shawchuck, "fear kills a mind and soul by slowly obliterating the visions we hold for our lives … God does not want us to succumb to the chilling and killing aspects of fear… God is not suggesting that we will not confront fearful realities in our lives. God is simply promising not to abandon us to fearful circumstances but to go with us through the dark night of fear, danger and uncertainty." ("A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God") Only the promise and presence of God conquers the power of fear. "I will fear no evil for thou art with me." (Psalm 23)

Like the exiles, we live in fear that God has abandoned us, leaving us all alone. This is a false assumption, the same assumption the Israelites made so many years ago. "Although they had assumed exile meant God deserted or abandoned them, Isaiah offered another interpretation. God had been beside them on every difficult day. Moreover, God was with them as God – as source and companion even in times of trouble." ("The New International Lesson Annual," Duerling) The exiles and the faithful today need to remember and claim God’s promise: "For I hold you by your right hand – I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, don’t be afraid. I am here to help you."(Isaiah 41:13)

The promise of water and trees

Most of us know very little of real thirst. Thirsty? Just turn on the tap. Bottled water is available within arm’s reach. In fact, we too often take water for granted, wasting it in numerous ways throughout our home. For too many people around the world, this is not a reality. Water means the difference between living and dying.

The Israelites knew this experience as well. The exiles journeyed from Jerusalem to Babylon through the dry wilderness without water. This was not a new phenomenon for God’s people as they wandered in the wilderness for forty years, often crying out to God for water to survive. So when God promises to "open rivers on the bare heights and fountains in the valleys … to make the wilderness a pool of water and the dry land springs of water" (Isaiah 41:18), this sounded like a miracle to the parched and thirsty people! The promise of salvation came through the abundant waters of God just as Jesus offers us the saving water of life today.

In that water, fear washes away. In its place, strength, hope and joy grow in the well-watered soul. The saving water frees us, upholds us and reminds us that God never leaves or abandons us. In the shade of the trees, we rest secure in the provisions of a God who journeys with us through all our fears.

Did the people of God believe these words of promise and freedom? Do we? In the face of life with all its fears, disciples stand on God’s promises and presence as a sure foundation. Whatever fearsome experience waits for you in this world, carry these words in your heart and BELIEVE: "Do not fear, for I am with you."