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“So Do Not Fear…” (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
January 26, 2024 3:00 am

“So Do Not Fear…” (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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January 26, 2024 3:00 am

The news provides endless reasons to be anxious—war, crime, health scares, economic woes, natural disasters, and more. On Truth For Life, Alistair Begg explains why a believer’s response should be different from that of those who don’t follow Jesus.



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This listener-funded program features the clear, relevant Bible teaching of Alistair Begg. Today’s program and nearly 3,000 messages can be streamed and shared for free at tfl.org thanks to the generous giving from monthly donors called Truthpartners. Learn more about this Gospel-sharing team or become one today. Thanks for listening to Truth For Life!





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All you have to do is turn on the TV or scroll through the internet to find plenty of reasons to be anxious.

Wars, health concerns, economic woes, natural disasters, crime. Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg reminds us why a believer's response to fear should be distinctly different from those who don't know or follow Jesus. Before we turn to the Word of the Lord, let's turn to the Lord of the Word and ask him for his help. Father, we pray, make the book. Live to me, O Lord. Show me yourself within your Word. Show me myself, and show me my Savior, and make the book live to me.

Amen. My text this morning is the tenth verse of Isaiah 41. So do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you.

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. One of the most familiar of the verses in the Old Testament to any who are familiar with the Old Testament at all. On account of that, it is a well-loved verse, and it is also potentially a dangerous verse in this respect. But while it is always possible for us to take a verse and enjoy its immediate benefit because we understand the essential truth it contains, it is also possible for us to wrest it from its context in such a way that whatever benefit we do gain is mitigated by our lack of understanding of where the verse comes, in what context it comes, to whom it was spoken, and why in that historic context it was given at all. And I think you know because of the way in which we go through the Bible, verse by verse and book by book, that we're seeking to encourage one another to become students of the Bible, not in a way that treats the Bible as a kind of promise book whereby you just let it fall open wherever you choose and stick a pin in and determine that that's your verse for the day.

Certainly God is able to overrule even that kind of thing, but that rather we would be encouraging one another to read the Bible and to understand the context in which it was said. That's why you always read a verse within the context of the surrounding verses, the surrounding verses within the context of the chapter, the chapter within the context of the wider chapter, the chapters within the context of the book, within the genre, and so on. These things are not irrelevant.

They are important. And especially when you come to a verse that you can find stamped on all manner of material—pieces of leather, pieces of carpet, pieces of wood, Bibles, and everything else—whenever you come to one of those verses, and Isaiah 41 10 is one of those verses, it is a good idea to go back to find it in its context and try and understand what is being said. Because you will notice that the verse begins with the word sow. And the sow is there, because what is being said in what follows is in light of what precedes it.

Well, if we do not know what precedes it and why it precedes it, then the sow is irrelevant, because it bears no bridgehead for us in the progression of our thinking. And so, what I want to do is to set the verse briefly in its context and then have it reinforced for us again in our lives this morning. "'Be silent,' says the prophet of God, before me, you islands, and let the nations renew their strength." What you have here is a call to the Gentile world to share in the blessings of the God of Israel. The word goes out through the world, and instead of responding to that wonderful word of invitation, we discover that the nations, the islands, flee to the apparent security of idolatry.

God issues this wonderful invitation, and they run away and divorce themselves from the true and living God, and they take to themselves idols. And what you have in these opening verses, indeed throughout this whole section, is an indication of what we might refer to as the heart of world history. If you like history at all, as I do, then you will enjoy reading about the great movements of time, the turntable events of history as they've been chronicled for us, the rise and fall of empires, battles, and so on.

And all of these are of import. But when the believer reads of the movements of men and women, of the turning of world events, the believer learns to read those secular records in light of what he knows or she knows to be true in the divine record. Because absent the worldview which is provided for us in the Scriptures, we are then left with the forlorn idea that somehow or another the events of our days, past, present, and future, are being determined as a result of simply human ingenuity and the results of men's desires and plans and initiatives. And when we read our Bibles correctly, we discover that the heart of world history is grounded in the character and purpose of God, that the Lord is the initiator, that he purposes and he achieves what he purposes, and everything that he pursues is in accord with his righteous nature and his righteous policies. That's the significance of verse 2, when he talks about handing nations over to this one who has risen in the east and the subduing of kings and turning them to dust. All of this, incidentally, is leading us forward till it finally forms itself in the servant of the songs, the Lord Jesus Christ. When you turn over to chapter 42, you have the first of the servant's songs, here is my servant whom I hold, my chosen one in whom I delight, speaking of one who is mysterious even to Isaiah, one of whom the prophet spoke without yet fully understanding of whom he spoke, but he recognized that he was receiving revelation from God and passing it on, and that the stage of world history was moving towards a great and pivotal and cataclysmic event in the coming of this one who would not bruise the broken reed and who would not snuff out the smoking flax. And when, on to the stage of world history, comes the Lord Jesus Christ, God incarnate, the angels sing and the shepherds worship, and the earth shifts, and in his death the earth moves and there is darkness over the face of the earth, and in his ascension history moves on, waiting now for the great cataclysmic event of the return of Christ Lord and Savior from the heavens for those who are his own. And that is why, when we read of what is happening in this city or that city or with this nation or that, we recognize that it is all happening under the orb of a God who is sovereign over the affairs of all of time. And this God has spoken out into his world, and he has called the islands and he has called the peoples, and he calls the nations to come and reason together with him. But as you will see from what we read, having been called collectively and individually to come to him, these islands, these peoples, have chosen to run collectively to the making of idols.

And they encourage one another in their produce. In verse 7, these idols are the product of human skill, and the craftsman encourages the goldsmith, who in turn encourages the one who smooths with the hammer, who in turn spurs on him who strikes the anvil, and they finally look at the welding and say it is good, and then the creator of it nails down this little effigy to make sure that it won't topple and that the people who buy it and worship before it will not be disappointed. Why would they turn away from the voice of God to such stupidity?

Why ever? And yet they do. It's not simply they did.

It is they do. And these idols are not simply the product of human skill. They are the product of human fear. The islands have seen it, it says in verse 5, and they fear, and the ends of the earth tremble, and they approach, and they come forward. They know they don't have the answers. They know that there is something more. They know that there is something in the call which has rung out, but it is only done enough to stir them to fearfulness. And their response to fear is to set up idols for themselves as a kind of defense mechanism against life's challenges.

And everywhere we go, we see the same. And there will be some who have come to worship this morning, and your interest in religion is nothing other than an idol. And you have set it up, and it falls over, and you reset it, and it falls over. You have begun to amass tapes and books and an interest in spirituality, but it remains an idol to you. At your very best, it affords you nothing in terms of peace, nothing in terms of forgiveness, nothing in terms of a future. And you wonder at this, and the more you fear and the more you tremble, the more you return to it. But it's superstition.

It's as superstitious as the burning of the apples and the oranges in the taffeta paper that is taking place right now in the city of Hong Kong. Oh, that may have to do with Confucius, it may have to do with Buddhism, it may have to do with Taoism. But the fact of the matter is that when men and women tremble because of fear and when they know that all is not well with their souls, their natural inclination is not to run to God. It is to make gods for themselves. And that is why there is such a proliferation of interest in Western culture, why there is such an amassing of spiritual trinkets and gizmos.

Every place you go and every high street of significance is marked by all these things. And God says to the islands and the peoples, be silent! And they tremble, and they turn from him, and they turn to the matters of their own creation.

Eighty-six proof anesthetic crutches prop them to the top, where the smiles are all synthetic and the ulcers never stop. They bury themselves in the internet. They bury themselves in possessions. They bury themselves in intellect.

They bury themselves in building their bodies. And the prophet pursues them through the corridor of time and says, Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom. It's an idol that'll fall over. Let not the strong man boast in his strength. You will be reduced to nothing.

It will fall over. Let not the rich man boast in his riches, because you won't take them with you in your coffin. But let him who boasts boast in this, that he knows me, the living God. That's why I say to you, loved ones, that what you have here is a great expression of the heart of world history—men and women, in verse 6, turning to each other and helping each other. It's not that they're not unhelpful to each other. Pagans are often very helpful to one another. In fact, they will often tell you that in the pub or down the street or in their club, they found themselves helped to a far greater degree than when they got amongst these smug Christians, who didn't seem to be so helpful at all. They remember the days when they ran with a different crowd, who seemed to really cry when they cried, who seemed to really care when they cared, who seemed to really say, Attaboy!

when they did well. And it's a strange thing for them to have come amongst this group with this great code of behavior and to find the behavior so subsequent to the code. Oh, it's not that they're unhelpful people.

I have many pagan friends, many unbelieving friends, and I know they help each other. And they say to each other in verse 6, Be strong. Be strong. Of course, they can't be strong.

But they think that in the best saying of it, they might be able to conjure it up. Don't worry. Be happy.

Australia, everywhere you go, they say, Now worries, mate. Now worries. The fact is, life is full of worries.

But they always say to one another, Now worries. You go down in the islands, Oh, no problem, man. No problem, man. They're no problem, man. The place is full of problems. Their lives are full of problems. They help one another. They say to one another, Now worries, mate.

No problem, man. Be strong. Have a good day.

Everything's fine. Turn the stereo up. Do something.

Drop out. Make your existence work. That is the world.

That is our culture. It is total futility. He nails down the idol so that it will not topple. Look at the final verses of chapter 41. I look, but there is no one, no one among them to give counsel, no one to give an answer when I ask them.

See, they are all false. Their deeds amount to nothing. Their images are but wind and confusion.

What a sorry picture of the pitiable plight of our culture! He says they need a voice from outside, but the voice that I have sent from outside they will not listen to. They need a power beyond themselves, but the power that I have provided they will not acknowledge their need of. And the people bowed and prayed to the neon God they'd made. And the sign flashed out its warning in the words that it was forming. And the sign said, The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and the tenement halls, and they're whispered in the sounds of silence. And God says, Be silent, ye islands. Listen to me, ye peoples.

Come to me, ye ends of the earth. Come, let us reason together, says the Lord. And without a sure voice they turn to idols that cannot speak, and they live in chaos. Now, that is the chaos that is described there in verses 1–7.

It's the chaos that is exemplified by the uselessness of other gods, and it shows to us the plight of our pagan world today. Now, it's within the framework of that chaos that the believer expresses their confidence. And that's why in verse 8 you have this statement, But you, O Israel, my servant.

In other words, he says, now, I want to distinguish between the description that I have just given and those who are my own. And the one who speaks, remember, is the ruler of the world. Every event, every actor on the stage of human history has been initiated and controlled by his bidding. If you doubt that, you turn to verse 23 of the previous chapter, and you read that he brings princes to nothing. He reduces the rulers of the world to nothing. No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground. Then he blows on them, and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff. In the course of my travels in these days, I went by the little white house of Harry Truman on Key West, and all they could tell me about him as I drove around was how much he liked to booze it up with the guys down on the Air Force base, and how he concealed the tabletop with another tabletop so that his wife, when she came down to the Air Force base, she wouldn't see what happened when he went to the Air Force base on his own. See how the rulers of the world come to nothing.

And to the home of Ernest Hemingway, for whom the bell most tragically tolled, when, despite all of his God-given ability with a pen, despite all of the accolades that followed him, despite the four marriages and all of his chaos, he takes a shotgun and blows his head to bits in the large foyer in his southwestern mansion. I am amazed at the privilege of having my eyes open to the truth of God's Word. I do not know what it is like to waken up to a lousy, rainy Sunday morning and to have nothing to look forward to, save the newspaper and all its futility, a bite of lunch, a snooze, a remote-control button for the TV, a tumble-down sleep as I bash my pillow and agonize my way to another Monday morning to go and fasten my idol with another little rivet to prevent it from toppling. This is no time for the believers to run into caves and hide. This is no time for those who know the good news to go around with a frown on their faces. This is no time for those who have begun to understand the Bible and God's grace in all of its wonder and of its truth to be silent. It is a day of good news, and we dare not hold our peace, because our friends and our neighbors around us are living in this chaos.

That is where they live. They are without God and without hope in the world. And some of you may be here this morning, and you're saying, What right is he to say that of me? My dear friend, it is the Bible that describes you, and your experience confirms it. Unless there has come to your life this great distinction that is there in verse 8 whereby we are described as the children of Abraham. The thing about being Abraham's child was not the mark of circumcision.

It was the circumcision of the human heart. That's why the prophet Jeremiah says, I'm going to come, and I'm going to create in you a new heart and a clean heart. But he is not speaking to the mere formalist here in verse 8. He is speaking about the wonder of his divine choice.

But you, O Israel, my servant, whom I have chosen… You go back and for your homework read Genesis 17 and the call of Abraham, and read the explanation of the call of God's people in Deuteronomy 7. See, I have not chosen you because you were greater or larger than any of the other peoples, he says, but I have chosen you because I loved you. And on what was the basis of the love? Because he found them attractive?

No. Because he loved them. You say, I don't understand that. I only know somehow or another to love in response to that which I see to be attractive.

I have no ability to simply and purely initiate love in and of myself. That's correct. We love because he first loved us. You're listening to Truth for Life. That's Alistair Begg with the message he's titled, So Do Not Fear.

We'll hear more on Monday. We're finding out in this series that fear and suffering are universal. In fact, if you're currently experiencing hardship or you know someone who is, let me point you to a free seven-day email devotional titled, Suffering Knows No Strangers. In this limited series of daily emails, Alistair addresses some of the most common questions about why God allows suffering and how we can deal with trials without losing our faith. Each day you'll read a Bible verse and a short commentary from Alistair, and you'll be assured that God is with you in whatever struggle you're going through, and that joy is still possible. You can get started by signing up for the seven-day devotional at truthforlife.org slash reading plans.

In today's message, Alistair mentioned that this is no time for us as believers to hide or be silent. All of us know someone who is living without God and without hope in this world, someone who needs to hear the gospel. We have a great study to help you help them. It's called The Basics of the Christian Faith.

This is a series of 13 weekly lessons that explain core Christian beliefs. The study is designed for you and your friend to go through together. You'll each listen to a message from Alistair and then meet once a week to discuss what you're hearing. The study comes with a leader guide that you can use, a guide for your friend that has plenty of room for note-taking. The books provide all the prompts to help you lead the discussion. You can purchase The Basics of the Christian Faith as printed study guides or download them for free at truthforlife.org slash study guides. Sometimes God doesn't change our difficult circumstances, so does that mean he's ignoring our prayers? We'll have the answer for you as you join us Monday. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-20 17:06:27 / 2024-02-20 17:14:56 / 8

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