The media is reporting that the recent shooting in San Bernadino, which followed the terrorist attack in Paris, has left many Americans feeling fear and anxiety about life. Some studies say that the levels of fear are about as high today as they were in the days following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
For believers, we are supposed to find some strength and comfort in putting our trust in God. It is worth remembering that the Christmas season was kept by Christians through the centuries not just in prosperous times, but also in times of persecution, in times when the Christians found themselves oppressed by those who rejected the Gospel. That threats to nations and believers arise, is neither new or unexpected. The message of Christmas and “peace on earth” take on a different significance in times of prosperity than in times of persecution.
One of the great features of having repeating yearly feasts and a repeating cycle of scripture readings is that we hear about God’s saving acts both in good times and bad. We are reminded that the Word of God doesn’t change, but historical circumstances surely do. It is an oxymoron about life on earth that change is a constant!
Perhaps it is a good time for Christians to do a study of the word “fear” in the Bible, and see who it is that we are to fear (in the RSV, fearing the Lord is mentioned 145 times) and of what we are not to be afraid (in the RSV, ‘fear not’ occurs 139 times).
In these troubling times of terrorism, we can pray Psalm 37, a Psalm of the Prophet David.
Fret not yourself because of the wicked, be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass, and wither like the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; so you will dwell in the land, and enjoy security. Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your vindication as the light, and your right as the noonday.
Be still before the LORD, and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over him who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the wicked shall be cut off; but those who wait for the LORD shall possess the land. Yet a little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look well at his place, he will not be there. But the meek shall possess the land, and delight themselves in abundant prosperity. The wicked plots against the righteous, and gnashes his teeth at him; but the LORD laughs at the wicked, for he sees that his day is coming. The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows, to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those who walk uprightly; their sword shall enter their own heart, and their bows shall be broken. Better is a little that the righteous has than the abundance of many wicked. For the arms of the wicked shall be broken; but the LORD upholds the righteous. The LORD knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will abide for ever; they are not put to shame in evil times, in the days of famine they have abundance. But the wicked perish; the enemies of the LORD are like the glory of the pastures, they vanish—like smoke they vanish away.
The wicked borrows, and cannot pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives; for those blessed by the LORD shall possess the land, but those cursed by him shall be cut off. The steps of a man are from the LORD, and he establishes him in whose way he delights; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD is the stay of his hand. I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging bread. He is ever giving liberally and lending, and his children become a blessing. Depart from evil, and do good; so shall you abide for ever. For the LORD loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. The righteous shall be preserved for ever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off. The righteous shall possess the land, and dwell upon it for ever. The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice. The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip. The wicked watches the righteous, and seeks to slay him. The LORD will not abandon him to his power, or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial.
Wait for the LORD, and keep to his way, and he will exalt you to possess the land; you will look on the destruction of the wicked. I have seen a wicked man overbearing, and towering like a cedar of Lebanon. Again I passed by, and, lo, he was no more; though I sought him, he could not be found. Mark the blameless man, and behold the upright, for there is posterity for the man of peace. But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed; the posterity of the wicked shall be cut off. The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; he is their refuge in the time of trouble. The LORD helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked, and saves them, because they take refuge in him.