And the LORD said to Joshua, “Do not fear and do not be dismayed.”
Joshua 8:1a ESV
President Franklin Roosevelt once stated, “we have nothing to fear but fear itself.” I take issue with that position. There are many things in life that we should fear. In fact, I would go so far as to say, it is one of the most beneficial gifts that God has ever given us. When we sense danger, our level of readiness is heightened, and our ability to respond to any given situation is increased exponentially. Fear also helps to ready us for potentially dangerous events. Anxiety due to an approaching hurricane causes us to properly prepare. A healthy fear of being involved in an accident on the highway will slow us down. The thought of someone’s negative reaction to something we say will help us to remain quiet. As a result, we may keep a friendship that we might have otherwise jeopardized.
There is a time, though, that fear can become debilitating. The fuel of fear is the lies it tells us, and it can so cripple us, that we allow falsehoods to dictate our every move. If others discover who I really am, they will not love me. Everything I do will fail. I will never be forgiven. How many things would you do if you weren’t scared of failure or held captive by the opinions of others? The treacherous fingers of terror can shut us down to the point that we sit frozen in our dark rooms, afraid to face new challenges and take reasonable risks in life.
The Israelites, under the command of Joshua, experienced just such a fear. In their conquest of Canaan, they had been defeated by the tiny village of Ai. News of this humiliating route would soon fill the ears of all the people of the land. As a result, Joshua’s fledgling army was in danger of being destroyed by the surrounding kings. Like blood, filling shark infested waters, the enemies of Israel smelled fear woofing into the sky above the camp of the servants of Jehovah. The tentacles of terror had not only crippled the camp, it had found its way into Joshua’s heart. The Lord had to intervene, telling Joshua to, “fear not, see, I have given the king of Ai into your hand.”
The curious part of the story was what He commanded Joshua to do next. It is incredibly revealing that He told Israel’s leader to develop a strategy against tiny Ai. No military maneuvers were needed to bring down the walls of Jericho. They marched and shouted and God gave them the victory. In Jericho, no ambush was employed with troops hiding in the bushes to defeat Jericho. Boasting superior numbers Israel was commanded to set an ambush against an army they outnumber a thousand to one. At Ai, a different dynamite was at play. In the battle for Ai, Israel had a new enemy to conquer; fear.
What is the answer to this debilitating type of fear? Faith in God! God’s sovereign love for His own will always prevail. He will never leave us or forsake us. Someone has said that fear knocked on the door but when faith answered, no one was there.