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Witnessophobia

“Yahweh Tsabaoth is with us;

A high stronghold is the God of Jacob. Selah!

(Psalm 46:12 {verse 11 in English })

 

And the psalmist closes with the refrain, repeated from verse 8 (verse 7 in English versions). Though the world might come to an end, the God of Armies is with us. He is our guard and our shelter from the storms of life and the enemies that would seek to do us harm. He is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega. He is the Lord of Hosts. And he is with us.

If we believe these words, why do we struggle so when it comes to engaging the world with the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Why do we fear that which cannot threaten or harm us? I, like many, suffer from a fear of heights. Even in a glass elevator, where I am perfectly safe and protected as I am lifted upwards, the fear causes my pulse to rise and my grip on the railing in the elevator to grow very tight. Why? Phobias are irrational fears, and though they affect us in real ways, when you look honestly at them, they are kind of foolish. Why should I fear riding high in the air in a glass elevator? Nothing will harm me! Yet my knees grow weak. It seems that many Christians, while not necessarily suffering from a phobia of heights, suffer from a phobia of sharing their faith. Some jokingly refer to this as “witnessophobia,” but let us speak honestly — it is an irrational fear that stems from a sinful heart and a fear of rejection. Friends, don’t fall into this trap, our God is the Lord of Armies and a high stronghold and he has not given us a spirit of fear but one of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7). Why hesitate; go, share the love and truth of Christ Jesus with a friend or neighbor that does not know him so that they too may find refuge in the Lord of all Refuge…Selah!

We have a Stronghold in the God of Jacob

“Yaheweh Tsabaoth is with us;

A high stronghold for us is the God of Jacob. Selah!”

(Psalm 46:8 {verse 7 in English})

 

What a wonderful statement the psalmist makes. This is the kind of statement that ought to be set in stone on our patios and stenciled on our walls. It should be the words we are reminded of when we wake up and engage the day and that give us comfort when we lie down to sleep. Our God is a refuge that will keep us and preserve us and in his hands we have no need to fear.

This verse is begun with a fairly common title of God: tØwaDbVx hÎwh◊y (Yahweh Tsabaoth) — literally, “Yahweh of Armies” or “LORD of Hosts.” Hosts, in this context, are not those people that wait tables, but are the hosts of soldiers at the beck and call of a general. In this case, it is the Heavenly Host that is spoken of, the hosts of angels that serve at the word and command of God on high. As Christians, we often only think of God in terms of “Jesus meek and mild” and forget that after the resurrection the language we find describing our Lord is of a mighty warrior coming on a horse to destroy his enemies and to liberate his people from the effects of sin in the world around us. This is the mighty God we serve and this is the reason we should have no fear — for Yahweh of Armies is with us!

And not only that, but our God provides for us a stronghold in which to dwell. The word for stronghold, used 11 times in the Book of Psalms (twice in this psalm!) is derived from the Hebrew word bÅgDc (sagab), which refers to something that is inaccessible to the reach of human hands. Thus the idea of a stronghold is not simply marked by strong walls of defense, but it is marked by a high elevation where none but the eagles will roost. And it is from that vantage point that the psalmist describes those who trust in Yahweh as their God. Though the enemy may roar like a lion, the stronghold is quite secure.

So, beloved, why do you fear from within such a stronghold? Do you not trust your God to protect you from slander and from sword? Do you fear the enemy who would malign your name when you are safely behind the walls of our God? Do you fear harm when the mighty hosts of heaven are unleashed in our defense? Loved ones, why do we go about our lives acting with such fear when it comes to sharing what is true with those around us. Do we love those around us so little that we will not show them the pathway to safety in God’s arms — a pathway that leads through the gate of Jesus alone — that we are unwilling to show them the way? How often we act as if we are safe it does not matter what happens to others around us. Is that love? We call it courage when someone runs into a burning building to save someone who is trapped inside; why do we Christians exhibit such cowardice when it comes to the many people trapped in their sin that dwell around us? Loved ones, we have a mighty God to protect us, let us cast fear to the side and boldly share the truth about life in the confidence of the stronghold we have.