“The Most Oft Repeated Command”
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
God our Father,
Creator of all things,
true source of light and wisdom,
origin of all that is:
Thank You for calling us to faith,
for planting Your Word in our hearts,
and for delivering us from our sin.
Thank You for calling us to Your service,
for giving us the ability to read Your Word
and share this good news with others. Through Christ, our Savior, Amen.
What do you think is the most oft repeated command in the Bible? It’s not any of the prohibitions or warnings. It’s not about sex, or money, or power.
When you think through the “do’s and don’ts” of the Bible, I’m guessing you’re thinking of things like:
- Do not lie
- Do not steal
- Love your enemies
- Do not murder
- Do unto others as you’d have them do to you
- Love your neighbor as yourself
All these certainly are Biblical and applicable today. But surprisingly, none of them are repeated with all that much frequency. And certainly none of them even come close to the repetition of the most popular command in the Bible. Are you ready? Drumroll…
“Do not be afraid.”
That’s right, “do not be afraid” appears in the NIV over 70 times. Plus all the variants such as “fear not,” “do not fear,” and the like.
There are several interesting things about this. First of all, the Bible isn’t saying, “There is nothing scary so you don’t ever need to be scared.” Let’s be real… life is scary. That, however, does NOT mean we need to be scared of it.
And I in no way mean to trivialize the trials you may be experiencing. Your suffering may be exquisite, your sorrow almost drowning, your fear near paralyzing. The Bible is as real-life as it gets. God says a lot about sin, sorrow, grief, pain, betrayal, failure, fear, horror, and misery. But if you can believe it, God wants us to know the kind of hope that has the power to produce joy in us even in painful places.
Secondly, the command “do not be afraid”, more often than not, is followed by an action that God is or will be taking. Here are a few such examples:
- “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.” (Exodus 14:13)
- “Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you.” (Deuteronomy 3:22)
- “Do not be afraid of them; I have given them into your hand. Not one of them will be able to withstand you.” (Joshua 10:8)
- “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)
Another interesting thing is that at least 10 times “do not be afraid” is followed by “do not be discouraged.”
Have you stopped to consider that being afraid and being discouraged are related? After all, the opposite of “discouraged” is “encouraged.” And encouraged means to be filled with courage!
Why should we be filled with courage? Because as Christians, the Lord is with us and in us. And I John 4:4 tells us that “He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world!”
One quick third thing before we read today’s Bible passage: notice that “do not be afraid” is not a suggestion. God doesn’t say, “If you don’t want to be afraid, that’s an option. Either way. Be afraid or don’t. It’s up to you.” No, it’s a command. That means, by default, that every time we are afraid it is a form of disobedience. We need not fear, though, because the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit live sin us!
With so many frightening situations constantly popping up in our lives, I don’t think it’s any coincidence that God has given this command so many times throughout scripture.
We need to be reminded time and time again. We need to hear it over and over. We need it pounded into our hearts and minds.
My challenge to you is to start believing it. After all, Paul reminds us, “If God is for us who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
But … we are in the middle of a whole Sermon Series which teaches us to Fear God! How do these go hand-in-hand?
We began this series reading Proverbs 1:7 which tells us, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…” Next, we read Psalm 112:1 which tells us, “Blessed are those who fear the Lord, those who find great delight in His Commandments.” Last week we read from I John 4 which gives us the flip side of the Fear-the-Lord coin: “God is love.”
Today we hear a story from Jesus’ life. Listen to these words from Mark and, in a minute, holler out some things you notice in this story. Mark 4:35-41 …. —-
35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!”Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (NIV)
- They took Jesus along, just as He was – how was He that Mark includes that phrase – tired, smelling of a long day and no shower
- There were other boats with Him – why? Who were in these other boats? Did they all experience the same squalor and storm? Were they all as terrified of the weather as these apostles, at least a third of whom were fishermen and experienced boat-men(!)?
- There’s no command in this particular story to “be not afraid”, but it seems implied when Jesus asks them, seemingly scoldingly, “Why are you so afraid?! Do you still (do you hear His tone of voice?), Do you still have no faith?”
- These apostles seem to be even more afraid of Jesus after the miracle than they were of the storm before the miracle. “They were terrified … Who is this?! Even the science of creation obeys Him!”
There is something sacred about being scared of God’s power and judgment! Remember the shepherds in Bethlehem when the angels came to them. What does Luke say? “They were sore afraid!”
When God commands us to “not be afraid,” what does He want? He wants us to meditate on some promise He’s made us until we experience the paralyzing effects of fear melting away and our courage rising.
This bold, happy confidence in God is not only an expression of trusting love in Him; it also makes us more loving and encouraging toward others because we’re filled with fearful hope in the Almighty and all-loving God.
Do you know this Almighty God who loves you?
Whom have you shared this “too-good-to-keep-to-ourselves” news with this month? Whom will you share it with this week?
Living and gracious God,
through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
You have brought us out to a grace-filled place
where we are called to live as those redeemed.
Empower us by Your Holy Spirit to keep Your commandments,
that we may show forth Your love
with gentle word and reverent deed
always, everywhere. Amen.
Bloom, Jon; www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-most-repeated-command-in-the-bible; 11/21/2017.
Pryor, Matthew; http://www.bodytithe.com/frequent-command-bible.
Sartelle, Sr, John P.; “Worship and the Fear of God”; TableTalk; January 2018; Pp. 30-31.