Do Not Fear, God Is With Us
“And who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts” 1 Peter 3:13-15a (NAS)
We’ve been working of late on Old Testament passages cited by the apostle Peter in his first inspired epistle, so once again, we’ll continue down that track.
1 Peter 3:13-15 opens the section in Peter’s first letter concerning the theme of suffering as the Lord’s servant and particularly, our attitude, mindset, conduct, and example to others as we undergo suffering.
In our selected text, Peter quotes from the prophet Isaiah as found in Isaiah chapter eight. Here’s the context from which the Holy Spirit moved Peter to make reference: “For thus the LORD spoke to me with mighty power and instructed me not to walk in the way of this people, saying, ‘You are not to say, “It is a conspiracy!” In regard to all that this people call a conspiracy, and you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it. It is the LORD of hosts whom you should regard as holy, and He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread.’ ” (Isa. 8:11-13)
Immanuel, God with us, no need to fear
The timeframe to this section of the prophet Isaiah’s book from which Peter quotes concerns what is now commonly referred to as the Syro-Ephraimitic invasion that took place in 734BC. Aram (Syria), under the leadership of King Rezin, and Israel ( I. e. Ephraim), led by king Pekah, joined forces in an attempt to thwart the impending invasion of the Assyrians under Tiglath-pilesar III. When Judah balked rather than joining their alliance, Aram and Israel planned an invasion to replace King Ahaz with a proxy of their liking who would then join them. The LORD said through Isaiah “It shall not stand nor shall it come to pass.” (Isa. 7:7) All Ahaz had to do was believe that God was on Judah’s side. The Lord tells Ahaz to ask for a sign, any sign, proving that He will deliver Judah from their fear and suffering and sense of impending doom. Ahaz fakes a pious attitude (“I will not ask, nor will I test the LORD!”) while in his heart he had already decided on a political solution, to turn to Assyria for help in resisting the Syro-Ephraimitic alliance. The LORD then lets Ahaz know what the fruit of his rebellion would be for turning to the Assyrians. God would use them upon Judah as His means of judgment and humiliation.
Spliced in the middle of this prophetic promise of judgment is the prophecy of the coming birth of the son named Immanuel to be born of a virgin. Proof that the two kingdoms that Ahaz feared would fade into irrelevance (Isa. 7:10-22).
Chapter eight expands upon the theme of chapter seven. It reveals the hearts of the people had also turned from Yahweh and King Ahaz to seek solace in a political solution, in the arms of Rezin, king of Aram. Isa 8:6, “Inasmuch as these people have rejected the gently flowing waters of Shiloah, and rejoice in Rezin and the son of Remaliah” God again paints the picture for Isaiah that He will send Assyria to judge Judah because of her rebellion. Isaiah is told by the LORD that the plans of the peoples will be thwarted and shattered, once more exclaiming, “it will not stand, for God is with us.” God’s plan will be executed! It is under these conditions that Isaiah penned the words that Peter cites in his letter.
Christ is with us, no need to fear
In the apostolic times the early church was under persecution from alliances that had joined together to attack the momentum of this growing movement known as the “sect of the Nazarenes”. The Sadducees and the Pharisees had been successful in cultivating fear among those who choose to confess Jesus as the Christ (C. f. John 9:13-22) of being “put out” from Jewish society, essentially outlawing the practice of their faith. By manipulation of governing authorities and gaining their approval, the enemies of the church were eventually able to hunt down and bring Christians to trial to be put to death, just as they had done with Jesus. Remember, one of the most effective schemes of the Devil in holding people captive is the fear of death.
By the time Peter penned this letter, hostility and suspicions were growing among the Roman citizenry against the church’s assertion that Jesus was the King of Kings. Although an official Roman ban of the church was not in force at the time of Peter’s writing, the church’s stand as having sanctified Christ Jesus as Lord, would eventually lead to full blown Roman persecution. Notice that history shows that the Christians of that time did not seek a political solution by compromising their faith to make an alliance with the world, nor did they fear their conspiracies, but did exactly what Peter through the Spirit commanded.
Is it obvious today that there are alliances once more overtly joining together to conspire and persecute the church? Yes. Has God given us a sign He is with us? Yes, again. Christ Jesus appeared, in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, for the express purpose of destroying the works of the Devil. Not only sin, but any fear of death! He rose from the grave and ascended to heaven where He now reigns on behalf of His church. Should we fear their intimidation? Should we be troubled? No! Satan is successful if he once more makes you fearful. Remember God’s promise made to His people regarding Satan’s ultimate goal and plans. “it will be thwarted….it will not stand, for God is with us.” (Isa. 8:10) Don’t fear, Christ is Lord, God’s plan will be executed!