When’s the last time you were afraid?
I’m not talking about feeling nervous or uneasy or a little anxious. I’m talking about fear—genuine fear you felt in a state of real or imagined danger.
When I think about fear, my brain tends to default to the threat of physical violence—the danger of being in an environment or situation where I’m likely to experience physical harm.
But fear is bigger than that. You can feel fear at the threat of emotional violence. Or financial disaster. Or relationship conflict. Or being confronted with something that challenges how you view the world. Or…
The list goes on.
But what I want to ask you to do today is to think back to the last time something made you truly, genuinely afraid.
What was it?
When was it?
For some of you reading this, that might be a length of time you measure in years. Others of you might measure it in hours.
My point is that the sources (and frequency) of our fears can vary dramatically. I can only imagine that if we all got together and made a list of our collective fears, there would be items on that list that would make some of us laugh in disbelief—while others would shiver in agreement.
But that feeling of fear—of your heart kicking into overdrive, of the bottom falling out of your stomach, of your entire nervous systems switching into a state of fight or flight—of that overwhelming sense of hopelessness and helplessness—that, we’ve each experienced.
The circumstances might change from person to person, but the feeling is universal. I doubt anyone reading this can say they have not at some point in their lives experienced the feeling of fear.
Which is why it’s so important to understand what God plans to do about fear.
* * *
Fear has been part of the human condition literally since we were evicted from the garden of Eden. Remember what Adam said when God asked him why he was hiding? “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid” (Genesis 3:10).
One generation later, after Cain kills Abel and starts to fear that someone else will kill him, he builds the first recorded city (Genesis 4:17).
Here’s a fun fact. The Hebrew word for “city” in that passage (ʿîr, Strong’s #H5892) often refers specifically to a walled city. In other words, Cain probably didn’t just go off and build a community—he likely built a community with a wall.
Ever since humanity stepped off the path God intended for us, fear has been part of the picture. And because of that fear, we do things like hiding from God’s voice. Building walls.
But walls can’t keep out fear, can they? Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel—these stories teach us that a life lived in opposition to God is a life that breeds fear. And even for those of us in God’s Church, dedicated to living God’s way of life—we still live in a world that has spent thousands of years in opposition to God. Thousands of years breeding fear and fearful things. And even though there is a peace that comes from placing ourselves in God’s hands, we’re still human.
There are still things in this world that can make us afraid.
Fear can still touch our lives.
* * *
Micah 4:4 is a classic Feast of Tabernacles scripture. You probably heard it referenced a few times this past week.
“Everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree.”
And that’s where my brain usually stops. It’s a beautiful Millennial scene. Here’s a picture of everyone—everyone—with their own land, their own reliable source of food, their own shelter. Here’s a world where everyone will have their basic human needs taken care of, where no one is overlooked.
I love that. It’s beautiful.
But the next part of the verse is important, too:
“And no one shall make them afraid.”
We talk about the New Heaven and the New Earth being a place where there’s no more death, no more sorrow, no more crying, no more pain—and those are wonderful things that we should be excited about—but before that, Micah 4:4 is an important reminder that the Millennium will be a time where you and I get to work with Jesus Christ to usher in a world where there will be no more fear.
Where there will be nothing to be afraid of.
For the past 6,000 years or so of human history, God has been enacting a plan to undo the damage that comes from the collective disobedience of the human race—our collective rejection of His perfect way of life.
Part of that damage is fear—the fear that comes from wandering off that perfect path and into a world of negative consequences. Adam didn’t hide from God until he learned to be ashamed of the way God had created him. Cain didn’t have to worry about being killed until he committed the first murder.
This is the world the human race has been stewing in for literal millennia. This is the world you and I are in but not of.
But this past week—this precious Feast of Tabernacles God calls us to observe year after year—marks the time when fear, humanity’s constant companion since we left the Garden of Eden, finally becomes obsolete. It marks the time when God intervenes and begins redirecting the whole world from the deluded, self-destructive road it currently follows and back onto the road of peace and prosperity He always intended for it.
* * *
One of my favorite prophecies about that future isn’t exactly a glamorous one—maybe not the first passage that comes to mind when we’re talking about how God will transform the world one day—but it’s such a beautiful snapshot of what’s coming:
Thus says the LORD of hosts:
‘Old men and old women shall again sit
In the streets of Jerusalem,
Each one with his staff in his hand
Because of great age.
The streets of the city
Shall be full of boys and girls
Playing in its streets.
To the old men and old women reading this—how many streets do you feel safe sitting in today?
To the parents reading this—how many streets do you feel safe letting your children play in today?
I have a daughter and two sons. That is the world I want for them. That is the world I wish they could grow up in. The elderly and the young, two historically vulnerable groups of people, spending time in the streets without fear.
And after that snapshot of the Millennium, when we look forward to the New Jerusalem, there’s something special to notice about it. It’s a walled city, too (Revelation 21:12)—but unlike the city that Cain built all those centuries ago, this will be a city whose gates are never shut (Revelation 21:25). This will be a city with nothing to fear, because God dwells there.
That’s not the way things are right now. And that’s why I want to focus on what will happen to this specific emotion of fear.
Because I know fear.
I know the fear of making a wrong turn in an unfamiliar town at night and finding yourself in a neighborhood where you don’t feel safe stopping for gas.
I know the fear of watching bills you can’t afford to pay pile up while you wonder how on earth you’re going to make it all work.
I know the fear of watching your newborn admitted into the NICU, spending days begging God to intervene because there’s nothing you can do.
And you know fear. You have your own list. Your own experiences. Your own byproducts of living in a world that lives in opposition to its Creator.
Family—brothers and sisters—I don’t know about you, but I am ready for that fear to be a thing of the past.
I am ready for vines and fig trees and a world of people who can lie down in peace.
I am ready for my children to know that world.
The Feast of Tabernacles is a promise, a guarantee, of that future. We don’t know how long it will take to get here, but this past week was a reminder that it is real, it is coming, and it is on the horizon.
I want to end with a prophecy from the book of Isaiah. Isaiah 54:11. God says,
O you afflicted one,
Tossed with tempest, and not comforted.
Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever felt afflicted? Have you ever felt like you were being tossed around in a tempest? Have you ever been desperate for comfort in a trial you didn’t know how to navigate?
Here’s the promise God makes:
Behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems,
And lay your foundations with sapphires.
I will make your pinnacles of rubies,
Your gates of crystal,
And all your walls of precious stones.
That’s beautiful—but not as beautiful as what comes next:
All your children shall be taught by the LORD,
And great shall be the peace of your children.
In righteousness you shall be established;
You shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear;
And from terror, for it shall not come near you.
Indeed they shall surely assemble, but not because of Me.
Whoever assembles against you shall fall for your sake.
“Behold, I have created the blacksmith
Who blows the coals in the fire,
Who brings forth an instrument for his work;
And I have created the spoiler to destroy.
No weapon formed against you shall prosper,
And every tongue which rises against you in judgment
You shall condemn.
This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD,
And their righteousness is from Me,”
Says the LORD.
Until next time,