Do not be fainthearted or afraid!

James Smith, 1859

The people of Israel in Egypt were slaves. In the wilderness they were no better than children. When they came to the Jordan, and were about to pass over into Canaan, they needed not only direction—but encouragement, and stimulus. To teach, embolden, and give them confidence, Moses addressed them, wrote his words in a book, and they are preserved and handed down to us, for our admonition and comfort. To every young believer, the Lord now speaks, as Moses did to Israel of old, "Hear, O Israel, today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not be terrified or give way to panic before them. For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory." Deuteronomy 20:3, 4.

Israel as a people, were distinguished by their knowledge of the true God, he had revealed himself to them, and had spoken with them, and had taken up his residence in the midst of them. Just so, believers, they all know God, by the teachings of the Holy Spirit. He has revealed himself to them in Jesus. He has spoken to them in his word. He has taken up his residence in his Church, and he dwells also in every one of their hearts. This is their distinction, they know the Lord, they have fellowship with God, he dwells in them, and they dwell in him.

Israel was delivered out of Egyptian bondage, by passing through the Red Sea, where the Lord displayed his power, his justice, and his distinguishing grace. Just so, the Lord's people are delivered from their bonds, are brought into liberty, and set forth for the promised land, through the Red Sea of the precious blood of the Lord Jesus; in which ransom, God has gloriously manifested his power, justice, and distinguishing favor.

Israel was distinct and distinguishable from all the world, during the forty years they sojourned in the wilderness; and believers are as really brought out of the world, and are made as distinguishable from the world as Israel, and the world becomes to them a wilderness, a strange country, through which they are passing to their Father's house!

Israel was a people peculiarly the Lord's, and set apart specially for himself; and so true Christians are the Lord's, bought with a price, separated from the world, and set apart by his word and the operations of his Holy Spirit, for his own service, praise and glory.

Reader! are you one of God's true Israel?

Do you know the Lord, as revealed to your heart by the Spirit?

Are you delivered from the slavery of sin and Satan, through the precious blood of Christ?

Are you, while in the world, distinct from the world—and is the world at the best, a wilderness to you?

Are you one of God's peculiar people, set apart by his grace for his service on earth, as introductory to the enjoyment of his glory in heaven?

Israel's enemies were many and various. Seven nations, who already had possession of the land, and claimed it as their own. They must all be met, opposed, and conquered, before Israel could enjoy rest. Just so, the believer has many enemies, they are various, and they are mighty. They also have possession, and will not give up—but as they are compelled.

There is SATAN, the god of this world, the prince of the power of the air, the great hater of God and of Christ. Nor is there merely one devil—but millions of demons, and they are all leagued and banded together against us. They must be met, be resisted, and be overcome by the blood of the Lamb, and the word of his testimony. We must conquer them—or they will conquer us; and only by stern, steady resistance can we do this.

Then, there is the WORLD, of which Satan is the god—this he sets in motion, directs, and influences against the Church of Christ. By craft, or cruelty, or both, the world as instigated by Satan, is seeking our destruction! We are forbidden to enter into any league with it, or become its friends. And to deter us we are told, "If any man will be a friend of the world—he is the enemy of God!" We must face the world, oppose the world, and by a steady faith in Christ, overcome the world.

There is also the FLESH, or the corrupt nature that is within us—which Satan ruled and swayed as he pleased once. This must be mortified, denied, and nailed to the cross! Every depraved principle, every corrupt passion, every sinful habit—must be discovered, discarded, hated, and destroyed. They defile, pollute, and render us unfit for God; we must make no truce with them—but seek to destroy them utterly.

There are also frequently FALSE BRETHREN, who like the mixed multitude which came up out of Egypt with Israel, do us much injury, and when discovered, must be separated from us.

These foes form a formidable host, they are accustomed to war, and are enough to excite alarm in the heart of the poor timid believer. But faced they must be, and overcome too.

Israel were reminded that the day of battle was come, "You approach this day unto battle against your enemies." After the believer is delivered from the law, and is brought out into the liberty with which Christ makes him free—his whole life is a day of battle. Having once put on the armor, he must never put it off—but only to put on his shroud. He must travel the whole journey of life, with sword in hand. There is no end to this war while life lasts, and frequently one of the sorest battles is fought toward the last.

But there are some particular days, which may be called days of battle, as the day of Satanic temptation. In this day all the artillery of hell seems to be brought to bear upon us. The enemy solicits us to commit the foulest sins, perverts the holiest doctrines, or fills the mind with the most horrid blasphemies. Ideas the most polluting, thoughts the most profane, suggestions the most diabolical—are thrown into the mind, and it is hard to stand our ground, or use well our weapons. Dreadful is the onslaught which Satan makes, fearful the hurricane he produces in the soul. Like Joshua with Amalek, we have to fight in the valley, nor have we daylight sufficient to finish the conflict.

There are also days, when the corruptions of the heart, and the lusts of the flesh, appear to have peculiar power. Every grace appears to be buried. Every evidence of salvation is concealed. The whole work of the Spirit seems to be destroyed. O it is fearful work, when our inward corruptions rage, swell, and boil like the sea; when Satan's foul suggestions roar through the soul like wintry winds; and nothing but confusion, misery, and gloom fills the heart! This is doing business in deep waters, it is more like a sea-fight, than a battle on land. O it is terrible!

Then there is the day of open persecution, or more private opposition, when we have to do battle for our principles, and perhaps resist unto blood, striving against sin.

And the day of death is often a day of battle, for then we have not only to contend with the last enemy, death; but Satan makes his last attack, and a fearful attack it frequently is. But however fearful the assault, the victory is certain to every believer, and the final triumph will be great.

Israel was exhorted not to be terrified, or fear, or be fainthearted. The enemies must be met! The battle must be fought! The victory must be won!

Just so in our case, and the Lord speaks to us, as he did to them, to comfort, embolden, and encourage us. He says, "Hear, O Israel, today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not be terrified or give way to panic before them!" This does not befit a soldier, much less a Christian; we should set our hearts like a flint, to meet and brave all opposition.

We are all liable to faint—but we should look to the Lord. "Do not be fainthearted or afraid!" And if God bids us not to fear, depend upon it, we have small occasion.

"Do not be fainthearted or afraid!" though your foes are many, though they are giants, though they are accustomed to war. Fears are carnal, and weaken the heart. Fears are slavish, and enfeeble the hands. Fears are as dishonorable to God, as they are discreditable and injurious to you.

"Do not be terrified," as though your God would leave you, or your foes were a match for divine omnipotence. Let the guilty tremble, not you. Let those who are at war with God tremble—but not you.

"Neither give way to panic." God is with you. God is for you. God has promised you his assistance. God is true. To you, God is love. For you, God will appear.

Therefore, do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not be terrified or give way to panic before them. Your cause is good, your strength will be sufficient, therefore keep up your courage, for slavish fears, distrustful faintings, and carnal tremblings—will dishonor God, and injure you!

Israel was encouraged, and so are we. God was to go with Israel to fight for them, and save them; and what was spoken to them will apply to us. "For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory!" He did not send an angel—but he went with them himself. Nor did he go with them merely as an observer—but as a man of war, as the Captain of the host, as their strength and power.

So is God with us, saying, "I will contend with him who contends with you." He goes before us, clearing our way. He goes with us, enabling us to fight. He never leaves, or withdraws his eyes from us.

"For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies." Not to fight without us. Nor to let us fight without him. But to fight with us. He uses us, he helps us, he crowns us with success. By his providence, by his Spirit, and by his strength, he fights for us, and helps us.

"To give you victory!"

Satan shall not rejoice over us, or boast that he has finally conquered one who belongs to the Lord.

The world shall never ensnare to his destruction, one who is an Israelite indeed.

The flesh shall never master in the end, one of the seeking seed of Jacob.

False professors, shall never lead away by errors, or stratagems, or persecution to their final ruin — one of the blood-bought family of God.

Blessed be God, with divine omnipotence on our side, and the Word of God pledged to us, and the Holy Spirit within us—we need fear no evil, nor tremble before any foe—but go forth and do battle as for God, exclaiming, "The Lord Almighty is with us! The God of Jacob is our refuge!" Then we may be bold, courageous, and daring; assured that we shall be "more than conquerors, through him who has loved us!"