The Divine Presence, an Antidote to Fear!
William Nicholson, 1862
"Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand!" Isaiah 41:10
The promises of God are a rich inheritance to his redeemed people. They are suitable to all the conditions of life in which they may be placed. They cannot be in any trial now; they cannot apprehend any future difficulty, danger, or affliction — without finding an appropriate promise of relief or deliverance in God's precious promises. Their Almighty Parent knows their condition, and his infinite love will secure their welfare. The great Shepherd of his sheep knows to what enemies his redeemed flock is exposed, and he will deliver them in due time. The great High Priest, Christ Jesus, knows their timidity of heart, and readiness to faint, and therefore he addresses them in accents of tenderness, "Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand!"
I. The People of God Are Sometimes the Subject of Fear and Dread.
1. This fear is distinct from slavish fear, of which all the unregenerate are the subjects. They are conscious of sin and guilt, and tremble at its consequences, especially when afflicted and near death. Believers are delivered from this fear, by faith in the sacrifice of Christ. Romans 8:15; 1 John 4:18. They now have a filial fear, Psalm 79:7; Hebrews 12:28.
2. This fear or dismay is induced by several causes. Sometimes . . .
by natural timidity,
by nervous excitability,
by extremely severe trials,
by comprehensive views of the Divine purity,
and a consciousness of great imperfections.
But more particularly,
1. The believer fears his sins. He feels that he is not perfect. There is great deficiency . . .
in his speech — it is often frivolous, etc.
in his actions — it is not always consistent.
And the state of his heart distresses him. What unholy desires, thoughts, affections, etc. His neglect of duty, in his family, and in society, intimidates him. "If You, O LORD, should mark iniquities — who could stand?" Psalm 130:3
2. The believer fears his trials. Personal and relative afflictions — painful bereavements — the withering influence of poverty — fears that he shall lack the blessings of Providence. The apprehension of these trials, and the actual endurance of them, distress many a feeble saint, and induce him to say, "All these things are against me!" The life of a Christian is often like that of a mariner, exposed to storms, and raging billows, and dashing destructive waves. He fears he will be engulfed in the storm!
3. The believer fears his foes.
Satan, who sometimes gains an advantage over him, and who desires "to have him," etc.
The world with all its blandishments, seducing and destructive influence. It may already occupy a place in his heart, claiming the sole monopoly. "You cannot serve God and mammon." This distresses him. He fears he is too much under its power.
His besetting sins, and his inward depravity, annoy and distress him.
4. The believer fears his duties. They are so great — so solemn — his qualifications are so few — the discharge of them is likely to be so imperfect. The corruptions of his heart rebel against holy duties. He marks the zeal and devotedness of others, and finds himself so cold and indifferent — a feeble, backward, and unfruitful professor. Therefore he fears, etc.
5. The believer is dismayed as to the final result of his profession. "I shall one day perish by the hand of the enemy!" I feel so vile and unworthy, that I shall be cut off at last. I shall never hear the plaudit, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" but the command, "Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth!" Matthew 25:30
6. The believer fears death and perdition. In what form will death come — what will be the disease to terminate existence — will it be lingering, or short, or sudden? Then the separations — the surrender of all earthly ties, and all secular concerns — the bodily pains — the convulsions and decay — the groans and dying strife — the immense consequences of death — eternal rapture or eternal woe! O! A child of dust has some cause for fear and dismay.
To allay these fears, the carnal man may call to his aid his convivial friends, and worldly diversions; to drown these apprehensions, he may summon to his aid human courage, and philosophy; but, alas! these cannot conquer his painful forebodings. He must have God; for none but God can help him.
II. The All-supporting Presence of God Is an Antidote to the Fears of God's People."Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand!"
In the sacred volume we read of God's essential presence, by which we understand the universal manifestation of his power, glory, and goodness. See Psalm 139:7. That presence pervades the universe. Jeremiah 23:24.
To Israel he granted his symbolical presence, going before them in a pillar of cloud by day, and in a pillar of fire by night. In the tabernacle, and in the temple, the mercy-seat was overshadowed by his glory.
Also his providential presence. Acts 17:27, 28; by this, he supplies the needs of all his creatures. But a special providence of God blesses the Church.
But his gracious presence is here implied, "I am with you." Through faith in my Son, you are reconciled to me — a member of my family, an heir of God, and joint heir with Christ. Therefore, "I will never leave you," etc. Exodus 33:14. "Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in their midst." He manifests his presence . . .
by the influence of his Spirit,
in the closet,
in Christian fellowship,
in the House of God,
under the preaching of the word, etc.
1. He is present with the believer in every scene.
In seasons of mental dejection, produced by a consciousness of spiritual deficiency — he is present to assure by his Spirit, that the sacrifice of his Son is sufficient to blot out all his sins, and to save him to the uttermost.
In seasons of trial, when billow after billow of affliction dashes against him, and when Satan comes in like a flood — the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.
When the objects of his love are severed from him by death; or when earthly comforts fail or his foes persecute him, Jesus says, "I am with you." "It is I, do not be afraid." I will not leave you in the darkest night of adversity.
"But now, O Jacob, listen to the LORD who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, "Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior!" Isaiah 43:1-3
In the discharge of your duties, I will be with you to make them congenial to your renovated spirit — to give you life and joy in them — to make them a blessing to others.
I will be with you in the gloomy hour of death, when your heart and your flesh fail, when all else shall fail — when you are suffering and dying and stepping into eternity. I will irradiate the valley of death, calm your fear, bear up your head, sustain your faith, and give you the staff of the atonement to bear you safely through! "Do not be afraid," I, the God of the everlasting covenant, "am with you." I will be your Guide even unto death!
But the respective phrases of the text are synonymous, and therefore beautifully emphatic. The specification of Divine interposition in time of need, is actually transporting. Here is the promise of,
2. His comforting presence "Be not dismayed, for I am your God." Great as is the difference in purity, in knowledge, in glory, in grandeur, etc., between yourself and me — yet "I am your God!" "Though the Lord be high — yet he has respect to the lowly." By my Spirit you have been humbled — the middle wall of separation has been broken down by Calvary's sacrifice. Your faith rests there your soul shelters there, and you are accepted in the Beloved.
"I am your God," though you are unworthy. I am your God, and all my perfections are yours. All the blessings of the new covenant are yours. All my promises, and all heavenly blessings, and Heaven itself — are yours. Therefore, be not dismayed.
Wherever you are, despised, scorned, rejected, suffering, dying, think of this assurance, uttered by the Father of your spirit, "I am your God!" I am . . .
your everlasting all!
3. His strengthening presence. "Do not be afraid — I will strengthen you!" He will strengthen us in times of affliction, so that you shall not sink for conflict, so that you shall be more than a conqueror for your profession, so that you shall honor it, and glorify me, etc. Did he not strengthen Paul in his conflicts? See 2 Corinthians 12:8, 9, etc. What promises of strength are recorded!
How many has he strengthened to labor, to suffer, to conquer, to die!
4. His supporting and interposing presence. "Yes, I will help you." All other helpers will fail. "Vain is the help of man." So it was with Paul. See 2 Timothy 4:16-18. This language may refer to extraordinary seasons of peril and danger — and Divine deliverance then. Let the Church therefore rejoice in this promise.
"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea — though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging!" Psalm 46:1-3. "Call upon me in the day of trouble," etc. He helped Moses, Exodus 4:2. See also Psalm 144:1, 2. He was with Daniel. Daniel 6:22, and others.
5. His sustaining and preserving presence. "Yes, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand!"
"My righteous right hand," may refer to the justice of God which shall ever defend and support his people, and frustrate the designs of their enemies. "No weapon formed against you shall stand." Isaiah 54:17.
It may signify his omnipotence, "The right hand of the Lord does valiantly." "Shall not God avenge his own elect?" Woe to them who oppose the saints! Have they "an arm like God, or can they thunder with a voice like him?"
It may refer to the Divine faithfulness, and to the security and final safety of believers through the righteousness of God by Christ's finished work, by which the law was magnified, the justice of God satisfied, etc. etc. That was the stretching forth of the omnipotent arm of Divine love to save. That is the ground of the believer's security. It upholds them. The law may charge them, Satan accuse them, perdition may be deserved — but the promise is, "Yes, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand!"
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:38-39
1. Believers, great are your privileges. Think of them — and wonder, rejoice, and praise!
2. Avoid fear. It dishonors God. It enervates your mind. It brings a snare.
3. How miserable are sinners without the Divine presence!