Back in my day we went cruising on Friday nights. On those nights the stretch of road through the middle of town that should take no more than 3 minutes to drive took 30 minutes because of the bumper-to-bumper traffic. Cruising presented a time to show off, blare music, meet people in parking lots, and basically kill time in a town that had little else to do.
A hallmark in those days were the “Ain’t Skeered” bumper stickers and window decals you’d see on vehicles. In case you need it translated, “Ain’t Skeered” means “I am not afraid.” If you needed that translated, you certainly aren’t from West Virginia or any place rural.
I’m not sure what these folks who displayed their stickers had to be afraid of or why they thought it necessary that others should know they had overcome their fears. I’m sure it served more like some sort of badge than an actual proclamation that they literally had no more fear in their lives. In fact, I’d venture to say that if you have to put a bumper sticker on a vehicle letting others know you “ain’t skeered,” the only person you’re trying to convince is yourself. Like McCaulay Culkin from Home Alone running through the house yelling, “I’m not afraid anymore” – it all sounds real convincing until the monstrous grumble from the basement furnace sends you running for the covers in mom and dad’s bedroom.
In Isaiah 51, God deals with a scared people. He knows us. There’s no hiding our fears. It’s not that we don’t have them; we do. No “ain’t skeered” self-talk is going to make them go away. God’s address to Israel provides a template for facing, and overcoming, your fear.
In Isaiah 51:12-13, God says, “I, I am he who comforts you; who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, of the son of man who is made like grass, and have forgotten the Lord, your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth, and you fear continually all the day…”
When fear washes over us, God implores us to take 3 Looks:
1. Look at Him – “I, I am he who comforts you” – No lasting comfort can come from people and circumstances. They always change. Hope placed on fallen, broken people and shifting, unstable circumstances will surely disappoint (and actually produce more fear). Get your eyes up: “look to the rock from which you were hewn” (Isaiah 51:1); “Give attention to me, my people” (Isaiah 51:4); “Lift up your eyes to the heavens: (Isaiah 51:6). If God is the “Maker who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth, AND you fear continually all the day, then you “have forgotten the Lord.” Look to Him and remember.
2. Look at you – “who are you[?]” – This is a profound question! It’s meant to call you to your core identity. God responds to the fears of His people by calling them to their fundamental identity. In his book “New Morning Mercies”, Paul Tripp says we are identity amnesiacs. We forget who we are. Christians are not objects of wrath, instruments for destruction, abandoned children, or unloved, forgotten creatures. We are children of the Most High God! “Who are you…that you are afraid?!”
3. Look at them/it – “who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, of the son of man who is made like grass” – The circumstances we face, and the enemies of God’s church are here today, gone tomorrow. With a view toward eternity, how long is this momentary affliction? The antagonistic persons and unconquerable circumstances will “vanish like smoke” (Isaiah 51:6) in light of eternity, God’s salvation, and His righteousness. The fears gripping you are caused by people and circumstances held by God. Look at them for what they are…instruments in a Redeemer’s hands.
How can we rest? How can we be assured that all this is true? How can we know for certain that we do not have to be afraid of people and circumstances? Again, Isaiah 51 lets us in on the effect the gospel has on our hearts:
God asks: "These two things have happened to you - who will console you? - devastation and destruction, famine [read: circumstances] and sword [read: people]; who will comfort you?" (Isaiah 51:19)
God answers: "Behold, I have taken from your hand the cup of staggering; the bowl of my wrath you shall drink no more."
We see the "cup of staggering; bowl of wrath" show back up in Jesus' prayer in Luke 22:42. There he prays, "remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done." Jesus drank the cup of God's wrath that we might KNOW, for certain, that whatever we face is NOT God's PUNISHMENT but His loving PLAN for our good. Don't be afraid.