#FEARLESS365 is a yearlong study of God’s commandment to us to live without fear. For 365 days, we will focus on one scripture and volunteers from all over the world will share their personal thoughts and what God has shared with them on the specific verse. For more info… go here.
Though fear had come upon them because of the people of those countries, they set the altar on its bases; and they offered burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both the morning and evening burnt offerings.
Caution is always needed in applying Scripture to ourselves. The Bible was not written directly to us, but to people in another place and time. We need to understand what it meant to the original recipients before we apply it to ourselves. The Jews spent 70 years in exile, and some of the faithful remnant was finally able to return to their land. Ezra chapter 3 states that the returnees gathered together in Jerusalem and built an altar to worship God. Verse 3 states: “Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both the morning and evening sacrifices.”
Note: despite their fear. We are often told in the Bible to not be afraid, but we are human beings and sometimes we will be. But do we let our fear paralyze us? Despite their fear of the surrounding people, they built an altar and worshiped God. The Jews had been humbled in exile. Sent into exile due to disobedience and the worship of false gods, they learned many lessons and re-established their relationship with the one true God YHWH. They were a feeble remnant surrounded by enemies, but their weakness and danger reminded them that God was their refuge and strength. They demonstrated their faith in God and sacrificed on the altar.
YHWH eventually revealed himself in the New Testament in the person of Jesus Christ. The invisible God became visible in Christ. Christ ultimately fulfilled and completed the Old Testament system of altar and sacrifice through his death for sin on the cross and resurrection from the dead. Now we place our faith in Christ. Hebrews 4:16 states: “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Grace is God’s undeserved favor towards us. We must realize our need and our sin – in order to receive God’s help. It is a bit of a paradox: we can approach God’s throne with confidence because of Jesus, but this confidence also entails a shift in confidence from our self to Jesus. The world teaches self-confidence. The Bible teaches us confidence in God.
What about me? (And what about you?) Fear should not be a controlling element in the life of the Christian. The returning Jews built an altar and worshiped God despite their fear of the surrounding people. There are many things to fear in the world around us today, but we need to act despite our fear. Ultimately, we need to worship. When our focus is shifted from ourselves to God, this will bring many things into proper perspective. Our fear can help remind us that Jesus is our source of strength. We can take a step of faith, even if it is just a small one.
L.L. Martin is an author, writer and Bible teacher who lives in Greenville, SC. Her and her spouse have hosted over 20 international students in our home.