Awe in the presence of God is not fear, rather, it is a comfort beyond the speaking of it.
“Be silent before me…” (verse 1) These are the words that begin chapter 41 in Isaiah. If we hear these words with only human thinking they may sound ominous, meant to cause us to cower in great fear. But if we hear them through the prism of faith, we are thinking as God thinks, and these words inspire in us a simple and true sense of awe. It is natural to stand silent before that which is greater than ourselves. Awe in the presence of God is not fear, rather, it is a comfort beyond the speaking of it.
We are human though. Remember when Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say I am?” Peter responded, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus compliment him saying, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.” (Matthew 16:15-17) Then, only a few short verses later, Jesus admonishes Peter for, “thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” (Matthew 16:23)
What Isaiah tells us in today’s passage, speaking in the name of the Lord, humbles us. In faith, it cause us to fall on our knees and to lift up our hands in joyful thanksgiving for the magnanimous love and faithfulness that God expresses for us here in this passage. Such encouragement is pure gift from God. There is no other who can promise what God promises. His promises are fulfilled as he speaks them. What, then, can we count on from God, according to his word?
“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.” It is only when we are caught up in thinking like human beings, that is, in that finite, materialistic way that is so common to us, that we fall into doubt. But God has given us the gift of faith and in that faith we can trust that what God has said here is true. While we are still in the Christmas season, this is a good meditation for us. Jesus is truly, “Emmanuel, God with us.” We are never alone. God has our back. Though we may often experience the human weakness of fear, we can give it over to God. We need not be dismayed. God’s promise to be with us in all things was fulfilled in Jesus and is with us in his Holy Spirit, both now and forever. No other phrase is repeated more in the Scriptures than, “Do not be afraid.” With God on our side, who, or what, can prevail against us?
Lord, “[we] do believe; help us overcome [our] unbelief.” (Mark 9:24) Increase our faith, Lord, and help us to live it fearlessly in our daily lives. There is much that challenges us, but with you, we can face and endure any and all things. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen!
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