This is my favorite Bible verse of the week. I think I will meditate on it with you again.
Therefore, this is what the Lord, the LORD Almighty, says: “My people who live in Zion, do not be afraid of the Assyrians, who beat you with a rod and lift up a club against you, as Egypt did. — Isaiah 10:24
The whole nation of Israel was like God’s child. Israel was like a “son” to God (See Exodus 4:22 and Hosea 11:1). In this verse, Isaiah is speaking for the Lord, who is telling his children, the people of Israel, “Don’t be afraid of the Assyrians,” even though the Assyrian empire is huge and is undoubtedly going to take them over, and even though their king, Ahaz, is trying to make a deal with it instead of trusting God. Be faithful to God.
What moves me the most is that Isaiah, speaking for God, acknowledges the infant pain of the nation of Israel, which is now a grown-up nation facing a huge disaster. The Assyrians, who have their clubs lifted on the border are reminiscent of what the child nation experienced in Egypt. Isaiah notes that the experience of being beaten is installed in the nation’s memory, since that is what happened in Egypt when they were slaves. When they were just a child of a nation God rescued them from their abusive condition, but the fears born of having been in that condition are still real.
I love it when my psychological studies world and my faith world collide. The social scientists keep “discovering” what has been common sense for wise people throughout history. The pains of our childhood are the foundry that builds flaws into our future character as adults. The great task of a mature adult is to be conscious of our fears, among many things, and make choices to be our true selves. My understanding is that such choices are not fully possible without being reborn through the work of Jesus and having our birthright restored as a child of God. But I admire the psychologists, especially, who bravely dig into the reality that, “If I was beaten in Egypt, I will probably be afraid of being beaten again when the next oppressor raises his club.” The tripwires in our hearts are easy to set off and difficult to defuse.
When God tells his child, Israel, “Don’t be afraid,” the Lord knows they cannot just shut down their fear; it is installed deeply. He even inplants that understanding in Isaiah’s prophecy of impending doom. I find that very encouraging. Because it means that when God tells me, “Do not be afraid,” he must remember my beginnings, too. I have a story about why I am still afraid inside, even though I can act fearlessly in many ways. I have an “Egypt” in my past where I was hurt. I have huge empires bearing down on me too.
But God is with me! If I did not trust God, I would just have brilliant psychological reasoning to comfort me as I was beaten again. Or worse, I would just have an admonition to “Don’t be afraid,” when my distressing past is meeting my horrifying future.
As I was meditating on this verse, I could not help but remember many of the stories of “Egypt” I have heard lately. Several of them were stories of actual beatings! Some of us have stories we don’t even want to tell, they are so painful to recall. Some of us have stories we can’t tell because we can’t remember the traumatic experiences, we blocked them out so completely. All of us have a story about how sin injured us. The stories were being formed when we were just a small human. There is no way God is telling us, “Don’t be afraid,” as if we were never in “Egypt!” He encourages us to not be afraid because we were in “Egypt” and we needed to be rescued. What’s more, we need help because the “Assyrians” are coming upon us.
Do not be afraid because God is with you. If you are bravely on your own in the face of the next gigantic power that is eager to consume you, God be with you. I think that kind of self-reliance is madness, but I admire your courage. Fear can generate a lot of energy. As for me, I am happy that God called me out of “Egypt” and is helping me face my “Assyrians.” God is with me.