The Lord is my light and my salvation— so why should I be afraid?
The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble? (Psalm 27:1)
Last week, the 75th anniversary of D-day was observed marking the day on June 6, 1944, when Allied forces began the liberation of Nazi-occupied Europe. Soldiers landing on the beaches of Normandy were confronted with mines, barbed wire, wooden stakes and machine gun fire. The Allies suffered 10,000 casualties which includes 4,400 soldiers who were killed.
I cannot imagine the fear those young men in the Allied landing craft must have felt as they prepared to disembark into the face of death.
The fear of death is the great fear that lies beneath all of our other fears. It is the reason some of us strive to eat healthy and remain fit to stave off the inevitable. It is the reason some of us gather wealth so we can have the resources we need to buy the care we require in our later years. It can cause constant anxiety over concerns that something dreadful always awaits around the next corner in life. We use coping mechanisms to try to protect our own heart, but those patterns become a prison and our soul is never really free.
When we look at the Psalms, we often find descriptions of the fear-filled challenges of life in the Ancient Near East: evil people that come to devour and enemies and foes that come to attack. And yet, the Psalms are anthems of hope because the writers were anchored in the God who saves.
God’s revelation of himself throughout human history is progressive, that is, we know more about God now than the people of God did in Old Testament times. And yet, we share two very important things with the Old Testament people of God. We believe in the same God, and we are saved in the same way: by grace through faith in the God-who-saves. Since the time of Adam and Eve, God’s people have been trusting in the promised Saviour who would come and make all things right. God’s Old Testament people believed in the Saviour to come and we believe in the Saviour who came.
Though we may know more about God, some of God’s people in Old Testament times may have known God better than we do. Without refrigeration and supermarkets, they experienced God’s faithful supply of their daily bread. Without hospitals, pharmaceutical drugs and skilled medical staff, they knew that healing was a gift from God to them. Without professional armies and police, they looked to God to protect them.
Based on God’s promises to them in the past, they knew that God was with them. God had bound himself to the descendants of Abraham in a special way. He had shown himself to be present and faithful in the past when he rescued the Hebrew slaves from Egypt and brought them into the Promised Land. So they knew that he would be present and faithful in the future.
They also knew that God was going to defeat death for them. God was their Shepherd who would walk with them through the valley of the shadow of death (Ps. 23:4) and would bring them up from the grave so they could give thanks to him forever (Ps. 30:3, 12).
God the Father delivered on his promise when he sent his Son, Jesus, into the world to go to the cross and pay the full cost of forgiveness for all people for all time so that we could know with certainty that God was with us and we are with him. Then, on the third day that followed, Jesus rose from the dead to complete the promised rescue from death for all who look to him in faith. Jesus’ resurrection is the guarantee of our own personal resurrection.
With these two truths (that God is with us and he will raise us from the dead) anchored firmly in our hearts through faith, then death can cause no fear for us and we are able to live and be truly free. The greatest treasure one could ever have—God—is already ours and there is nothing, not even death, that could ever take him away from us. God is our fortress, for now and forever.
Thank you for coming into the world to reconcile us to you and to rescue us from death. Help us to treasure you and trust that you are with us and that nothing, not even death, will separate us from you and your great love for us. Amen.