Weekly Bible Devotional
“Fear Not: Fear’s Landscape ”
September 20, 2020
Scripture for This Week: Judges 6:36-40
Then Gideon said to God, “In order to see whether you will deliver Israel by my hand, as you have said, 37 I am going to lay a fleece of wool on the threshing floor; if there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will deliver Israel by my hand, as you have said.” 38 And it was so. When he rose early next morning and squeezed the fleece, he wrung enough dew from the fleece to fill a bowl with water. 39 Then Gideon said to God, “Do not let your anger burn against me, let me speak one more time; let me, please, make trial with the fleece just once more; let it be dry only on the fleece, and on all the ground let there be dew.” 40 And God did so that night. It was dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground there was dew.
Notes on the Text:
The story for this week comes from the book of Judges. This is the period of history after the Israelites were delivered from slavery in Egypt by Moses, wandered in the wilderness for forty years and then entered in the land of promise. A few years had passed after the leadership of Joshua, and they had judges who were leading them. This was a period of about 300 years. The dominant pattern of the book of Judges is that people would do what was evil and then a charismatic leader would come and help lead them back to the ways of God. Faithfulness to God was essential for the health of the community. The pattern of straying from the path of faithfulness to God is very much like the almost universal human pattern of losing our way and then having prophets and leaders help us back on the path. A lot of these stories need to be taken from the point of view of the people at the time and thus we have to focus on the important faith lessons that are given in the stories instead of getting stuck on the historical details or the simplistic claims that God would advocate for or promote violence. Judges contains the folktales of the heroes of the twelve tribes of ancient Israel who helped lead their people.
According to biblical scholar Mark Throntveit in https://www.enterthebible.org/oldtestament.aspx?rid=27, “Judges contains some of the oldest material in the Bible. The ‘Song of Deborah’ (Judges 5) may be as old as 1125 B.C.E., based upon the archaeological evidence of the destruction of Taanach and Megiddo; however, the refrains of the narrator, “In those days there was no king in Israel” (17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25), and mention of the captivity of Israel (18:30) and the destruction of Shiloh (18:31) indicate a much later time. Thus, Judges contains very old traditional material as well as later theological reflection and came together over a period of several centuries with a final editing in the seventh or sixth century B.C.E.”
This week’s story is about one of the judges. His name was Gideon. He was called by God to be a military leader and a judge. But he felt ill-equipped. There was a whole landscape of fear in his life. Let’s consider a few of the fears he faced:
- Fear of Inadequacy (Competence): Gideon was the lowliest member of the lowliest clan of Manasseh. He did not consider himself to be adequate for the call. This is a real fear for many of us. We develop this fear early on. Yet, Gideon had to trust that he could be a leader.
- Fear of Being Abandoned (Acceptance): Gideon wanted to make sure that God was not going to leave him and that his leadership was going to be accepted. He was afraid that others might find him lacking.
- Fear of Failure (Control): Gideon wanted to make sure that the results were going to be good. He did not want to lead his people to death. He wanted to ensure that his military campaign was going to be successful. He wanted control and so he set up several tests for God. He wanted clear signs.
- Fear of Death (Survival): The opponents of Gideon and the Israelites were powerful. This was a huge risk for Gideon and his people. Gideon only had trumpets and clay pitchers with torches hidden in them for his weapons against a highly skilled army. Thus, the risk was very high and his trust in God was to be totally based on faith and not on any sense of control or skill.
Gideon explored all four human tendencies toward fear and instead of living with a risk management kind of mentality, he chose to live by faith and to do things that seemed foolish to the rest of the world. He risked his whole life and the lives of his people based on a wet/dry fleece that he considered to be a sign!
We begin this week a new sermon series with a focus on the theme of “Fear Not!” The invitation is to journey through fear and faith. It is easy to speak or admit our basic fears, things like fear of heights, fear of snakes, or fear of the dark. It is much harder to recognize or admit our deeper fears such as our fear of failure, fear of not being accepted, or fear of being judged. Yet, there is great power for healing when we are able to recognize, admit, honor, and work through these fears with the power of faith.
I want to invite you to familiarize yourself with fear’s landscape in your life. Fear is an important alarm mechanism that is part of our human experience. Fear helps us survive and find ways to navigate dangers in life. But fear can also become a destructive force when we are not aware of its landscape and of its triggers within us. Just like Gideon, we have to name our fears and face them. A lot of our problems in the world come from the fact that we often don’t realize when fear is motivating us.
Our world is full of fear and challenges. Now more than ever, we are aware of the fragility of human life. Yet, what is more dangerous about the threats of our time is the fear they are triggering within us. I invite you this week to read the news with these four fears in mind: Competence, acceptance, control, and survival. See which one or two are being triggered. Another challenge is to consider your interactions and agitated thoughts this week. Pay attention without judgment to these basic fears as they arise in you.
Once you recognize and name your fears, then you can offer them to God as they are, asking for guidance and help. This is not asking God to take away your fear because fear is part of life. It is instead about learning to not let our fears dominate the scene. Repressed or unrecognized fears are often more harmful to us and our loved ones. Repressed fears often blindside us. But when we recognize our needs that are being triggered by fear, we can then allow God to show us a path forward through love and faith. We cannot conquer our fears and we cannot avoid them. Our work is to engage them through faith and a community of trust where we find our footing knowing that nothing in this life or in the life to come can separate us from the love of God.
“Do not be afraid. I am with you always.” Matthew 28:10, 20
Our heart is comforted
in its awareness of You
Soul within our soul
Life within all life.
Our heart is comforted
in remembering You
Giver of this day
Gift of every moment.
May we be bearers of comfort.
May we be strong in our soul
to cry at the wrongs of nations
to weep with the bleeding earth
to mourn with those who mourn this night
in the loss of life and lands
in the loss of dreams and hope.
May we be strong in our soul this night.
-John Philip Newell
Listen to this song based on the prayer: