Only do not rebel against the Lord, neither fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their defense and the shadow [of protection] is removed from over them, but the Lord is with us. Fear them not. (Numbers 14:9, Amplified Bible)
I considered skipping this passage this morning. I considered skipping it this morning in favor of one that might be easier to apply to this one-year journey through the Bible verses that tell me not to be afraid. I considered skipping it because it’s seemingly simple message is in fact too challenging to apply.
But then I read it a few more times and considered what it was saying to me.
And you know what? It’s a message I need to hear today and maybe you do, too. Because, let’s face it, it’s not easy to follow Jesus. It’s not too difficult to say I believe in Jesus, but to follow Him? That’s another thing altogether. Because when you follow Jesus, He will ask you to do things that go against the grain of the world, and that’s no easy thing to undertake.
For one thing, the world feels so much more present in my life; it’s tangible and urgent and demanding. And the world feels so much closer at hand, watching and judging my actions and my choices. And the world encompasses more than just nameless, faceless crowds. It includes family and friends, people who can influence us with just one disapproving look or comment said under the breath.
But here’s the thing that I’m learning more and more: this life I’m living is better lived for an audience of One than for an audience of many. Don’t get me wrong, heeding the words of Jesus is definitely not easy, but trying to heed the many varied and competing views of the world is near impossible (and exhausting).
And yet I fall into this trap daily. Too often I find myself weighing my choices against the anticipated judgment of others. Too often I find myself making choices to win approval or avoid chastisement or isolation. But the incredible irony is that this approach tends to create isolation. It often invites separation from the One for whom my soul thirsts because it is not often possible to live for man and to live for God.
And so this morning I read the passage from Numbers and I paused. My initial cursory reading dismissed it easily. But a second and third reading shook my heart awake to its Truth: do not rebel against the Lord, neither fear the people of the land.
I tend to live this verse in reverse. And, to employ a popular phrase often attributed to Dr. Phil, I had to ask myself, How’s that working for you?
Not so well, actually.
But recent life circumstances have flipped my understanding of the world and of God completely. Yesterday I watched God work a miracle in my life and I am still awed by His mighty power and sovereignty. Yesterday I saw a glimpse of what it means to trust God with my whole heart and lean not on my own understanding. Yesterday I saw what God can do when things seem bleak and hopeless and impossible.
Yesterday I saw what God can do with circumstances and people that the world gives up for lost and this morning I find incredible hope in the verse from Numbers: only do not rebel against the Lord, neither fear the people of the land…the Lord is with us.
God with us. That truth just keeps coming back and as I watch how it transforms my life, how Jesus transforms my life, I can boldly say that I am not afraid. I am living my life for an audience of One and I am not afraid.