Summary: COVID-19 has affected the entire planet economically, socially, and medically. Racial tensions are high in the United States and weather experts are anticipating a very active hurricane season. This is a reminder of who we are and whose we are. Fear not!
But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine.
"Fear not" is an admonition that is found numerous times in Scripture. Some have said that there are at least 365 times when figures in Scripture are admonished not to fear. There are countless times when the heroes of Scripture are told to take courage and to go forward against the anxiety that might be crippling them in the present moment.
Fear has the ability to paralyze or to chase you afraid from God's purpose in your life.
It began with the entrance of sin into the world. In Genesis 3 after Adam ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and bad when God came looking for him in the garden. When God asked Adam why he was hiding, Adam answered, "I was afraid..."
Everyone has faced fear at different moments in life and to varying degrees. From mild anxiety to panic--fear is a part of the human experience. We have a multitude of ways that we respond to fear.
Some people run away.
Some people fight.
Some people allow others to control them.
Others try to control.
These are all automatic reactions to our fear. Usually, they are ways of reacting that we learned as we grew up.
There is a lot happening around us right now that can be anxiety and fear-producing. These are the top stories.
COVID-19. Should I go out? Should I stay in? Should I wear a mask? Should I go without a mask? What will school look like next semester? Can I go to church? To hug, not to hug?
Racial tension. Peaceful protests and anarchic riots.
Economic uncertainty. Will I have a job tomorrow?
The tension between global powers. Iran, Venezuela, China.
The anticipation of a more active hurricane season than usual.
Reading down through your news feed is enough to make you need a sedative.
The prophets of the OT were called seers because they were able to look at the world around them from a different perspective. They could see far into the future and warn their hearers about difficulty to come or give hope because the Lord was going to intervene in their situation. They could look at the past and interpret it through the lens of God's will and purpose.
Isaiah the prophet wrote to people who would endure captivity in Babylon because of the structural sins of their culture.
When we think of sin, we often think of it in its individual sense. We think of our personal faults and failures. This is one dimension of it. Paul said that "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (Rom 3:23).
There is also the principle of sin that was released upon the world when Adam first disobeyed God that dominates the entirety of the present order of humanity.
Chinese theologian Simon Chan says this about the nature of structural sin:
"The Sin of the World is a virus of evil which entered the world as a personal force through original sin and dynamically unfolds itself and tightens its grip on humanity and on the world in an escalating fashion down through the ages of history. It is hidden power which multiplies transgressions in the history of mankind. They are merely its symptoms; it is greater and deeper than all of them. It forms human history into what we might call "perdition history"(to coin the opposite of "salvation history").54
Just as salvation history moves to its consummation in Christ, "perdition history" is a downward spiral that moves to its own fulfillment in the eschatological symbol of the antichrist. When sin reaches its logical conclusion, it possesses a power all its own. The Bible identifies this structural evil as principalities and powers, terms also associated with the demonic realm.55
Sin acquires the powerful and elusive form of a spirit--the spirit of an age or a company or a nation or a political movement. Sin burrows into the bowels of institutions and traditions, making a home there and taking them over. The new structure that is formed by the takeover is likely to display some combination of perversion, formlessness, or excessive rigidity. Law, for example, may be bent to end the freedom of selected pariah groups. Whole companies may dissolve in an orgy of intertwined deceit and neglect. Whole nations may join in lockstep with brutal dictators.
Sin is so deceitful that even Christians miss discerning it in the world and often end up trivializing it." (Simon Chan. Spiritual Theology: A Systematic Study of Christian Life. InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove, 1998, 67).