Today's Reading: Jeremiah 46-48
My son is highly allergic to peanuts. We discovered this allergy when he was very young. Eating anything with peanuts or even breathing the air in planes where people were opening those little peanut appetizer packs would send him into a respiratory fit. We would end up in the hospital where he would receive epinephrine or adrenaline which would combat his allergic reaction.
My son learned very early in his life he could HAVE NO PEANUTS. He learned to ask the right questions:
Was this fried in peanut oil?
Did you use peanut butter?
He sniffs food not made by his mother before he takes a bite.
He has been very careful to HAVE NO PEANUTS.
Two years ago at Christmas, he ate a very highly concentrated peanut infested cookie by mistake. Immediately, his airway began to close. We called 911 and rushed him to the emergency room. He was minutes away from dying.
Peanuts are lethal for my son.
If he eats them again, it could mean death for him.
He continues to be very vigilant.
I CAN HAVE NO PEANUTS
In today’s reading from Jeremiah, the people of Israel are in exile.
They see God destroying their enemies all around them, and are afraid they will get destroyed in the fray. They know they have sinned against God. They know the exile is their punishment, but they have also been assured by God that he would save them. Still, they tremble as they look at their circumstances.
We hear a common phrase out of God’s mouth as God addresses his people:
HAVE NO FEAR.
Have no fear, my servant Jacob, and do not be dismayed, O Israel;
This is not just a suggestion or a plea to calm down; this is a command. God knows that the greatest weapon of the Enemy, Satan, is the arrow of fear. God is telling his people, have nothing to do with fear.
Some versions of the Bible translate this phrase, "Do not fear." This implies that we can change an emotion simply by being told to not experience it. As most of us know, this is a rather difficult request.
I prefer our NRSV translation, "HAVE NO FEAR." Just as my son must stay clear of peanuts, the people of God must stay clear of fear. We need to sniff it out and recognize it before we even allow it to enter us.
When a UPS man comes with a package, we sign on the line to receive it. Most of us receive packages before we even know their contents.
Jeremiah is saying to the people of Judah and of Israel
If a UPS delivery of fear comes your way, sniff it out and then, do not receive it. Don’t sign for it. Reject it before it can even enter you. Say to Satan, your enemy, “I’m not signin’ for that!” and send him on his way.
God’s people are allergic to fear. It is a foreign substance to how God created us.
When we entertain it
When we allow it to enter into our lives
When we decide to “have” it
Our bodies respond much the same way as when one has an allergic reaction.
An allergic reaction is the body's way of responding to an "invader." When the body senses a foreign substance, called an antigen, the immune system is triggered.
If the immune system is unable to protect the body against this invading substance,
The symptoms of anaphylaxis are much like the symptoms of fear: shortness of breath, flushing, stomach ache, feeling out of control and panic.
The actual word anaphylaxis means “against protection.” It is the state in which the body is almost defeated, when its protective system is attacked. It is a life threatening emergency.
How does one deal with anaphylaxis?
You give epinephrine or adrenaline. Adrenaline improves airway patency, improves blood pressure, and may be life-saving. Interestingly, it can be administered every 5 minutes until the symptoms of anaphylaxis are gone. The word adrenaline refers to the kidneys which secrete this protecting hormone. In Hebrew, the word kidney comes from the word meaning "armor, protecting weapon."
Just as the body has been created to defend itself against antigens by triggering the immune system which produces adrenaline, the spirit has been created to defend itself against Fear by triggering its spiritual armor which produces a form of spiritual adrenaline.
So let’s review what God is saying and see if we can detect how we are to respond to the sharp arrow of Fear.
1. Like my son, we are to HAVE NO FEAR We need to sniff it out, avoid it, and not sign for it. We are not to allow it to come into our lives.
2. If it does sneak in, though, we need to recognize it and its symptoms and get immediate “treatment.” We must respond immediately before it chokes the life out of us, before it paralyzes us in our walk of faith.
3. So what is the antidote, what is the adrenaline for fear? What is our weapon, the armor God has given us? Look again with me at two verses from Jeremiah.
Verse 27 says, "have no fear for I am going to save you from afar." Just as God promised to bring Israel out of the land of their captivity, God has promised to save us from our captivity to sin. This knowledge that you have been saved by faith in Jesus Christ is the helmet of your salvation which allows you to transform your thinking, transform your mind.
Much of fear’s power over us is in our minds. If we focus on our own weakness or present circumstances, the life giving breath of God will certainly be choked out of us.
But if we allow God’s amazing compassion and grace given to us from afar in the saving act of Christ on the cross to be our adrenaline, to be our armor and weapon, we can stand with the breastplate of his righteousness and with the shield of faith and ward off any flaming arrow from Satan.
Martin Luther, when challenged by the fears of excommunication, exile and his own inadequacies would pull out his “shot of emergency adrenaline” by proclaiming, “I have been baptized.” I have already been eternally saved by Christ, sealed as his own, guaranteed salvation. What can Satan do to me?
Just as adrenaline can be given frequently until the symptoms disappear we need to meditate upon our salvation and what God has already done for us in Christ.
God’s adrenaline antidote is two fold. Not only do we have God’s amazing salvation from afar, look at verse 28. "Have no fear for I am with you!" God is present, defending and working for our good in every circumstance. Jesus says, I will never leave or forsake you, but I will come to you and your heart will rejoice.
God has promised his people he will not destroy them, they will not experience eternal death. God truthfully tells us that he might have to discipline us once in awhile, but he will discipline us justly and with mercy.
God is with us. …This has been the constant proclamation of our God since the beginning of time. Have no fear, I am with you.
The Psalmist declares, Where can I go that you are not with me?
Paul echoes this truth: Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our savior.
The Holy Spirit is God’s seal of his presence, "You are never alone."
God demonstrated this most fully when he sent his son whose names became the very proclamation of God’s truth:
Jesus--He shall save his people from their sin.
Emanuel--God is with us
The prophet Jeremiah spoke to the people of Israel and he still speaks to us today.
HAVE NO FEAR
Fear is something for you to avoid.
It is foreign to how God made you.
If it invades you, pull out our emergency antidote, your spiritual adrenaline and administer these two truths until the life giving breath of God returns.
If my brothers and sisters and I were being disruptive in our home, my mother would come in and say, "I'll have none of that." When your fears become disruptive in your soul, discipline them by saying, "I have none of that!"
God has saved me.
God is with me.
Breathe in these life giving words, this good news,
And live life without fear.