Do not be Afraid

On the heels of Halloween and as we head into the holiday season, I found verses that made me think more about the word fear. I used to loathe the idea of fearing God. I know the Bible mentions doing that, but the mere thought made me think that I had a God that could not be trusted, that he’d whip out his rod iron ready to whip me into spiritual shape at any given moment. This has been far from true of the God I know. I’ve grown to understand the word fear to mean respect/stand in awe of God, as opposed to be afraid of/frightened by God.

Zechariah was chosen by lot to go into the temple of the Lord to burn incense. I wonder what his face looked like during this moment. Did he reveal this place of honor by the way he smiled? Was he quiet and reverent as he stepped closer to the temple? The Bible tells us what happened next:

“Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the alter of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: Do not be afraid Zechariah; your prayer has been heard…” Luke 11-13a

Has anyone ever snuck up behind you catching you so off guard you screamed? I picture Zechariah’s face frozen in shock when he first saw the angel. Perhaps he even let out a scream (his last for a long stretch of time to come). The angel caused him to be gripped with fear. Sort of puts to rest the little coy cherubim angels with the potbellies and dainty wings, doesn’t it? Gabriel must have had a presence before Zechariah.

I appreciate how the angel handled this heavenly and human interaction. He encouraged Zechariah not to be afraid. Then, the very next thing Gabriel shares is that God heard Zechariah. What an ultimate comfort to know the Lord of Lords had heard him! Isn’t that what we all want to know as we grapple with faith, that we are heard? Then the angel continues with the good news and some additional instruction, including that Zechariah will be unable to speak until his assured baby’s birth. I think if I’d just received news like that and a visitor like that, it would be wise to shut me up for awhile too. Who knows how my story would grow into a big fish tale and how I’d twist the meaning of the visit away from the wonderful assurance of the Lord.

And that is what Gabriel’s visit was really all about. God’s promise. God’s plan coming to fruition. I love how the Bible reaches us at a point of life where we might be experiencing doubt or fear and His Word moves us from that point to a trustworthy assurance of God’s love.

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