Fear or Faith? 

Which will it be?  That is one of the most foundational questions of life.

All of us have lived in fear at times.  Rejection, Loneliness,  Punishment.  Reprisal.  Injustice.  Violence.  Poverty.  Disease.  Death.  Shame.  Embarrassment.  Failure.  Fear is an emotion we know well.

Often at the root of that fear is the feeling that we do not measure up, that we will be too incapable to face what may come.  Imagine being Moses and Aaron sent to face off against Pharaoh, the strongest man alive in Moses’ time.  This is a fool’s errand.

It is no wonder then that three times in today’s passage God tells Moses “do not be afraid” (20:46, 68, 77; c.f., 20:21).  In fact, this is a common admonition in the Qur’an (3:175; 5:44; 11:70; 15:53; 27:10; 28:7; 28:31; c.f., 5:54; 48:27).  As many of us know, this is also a regular refrain in the Bible (used over 75 times).  Fear or faith — which will it be?

But how is it possible to have faith in the face of fear?  The answer is in what causes our fear.  As was said above, we often fear that we are incapable or insufficient for the situation at hand.  Quite frankly, we are incapable to face some situations.  Faith, though, looks beyond self.  Faith inserts God into the equation.  Faith says the power dynamic has changed because now we have God on our side.  Today’s passage describes that realization this way:

[Moses and Aaron] said, “Lord, we fear he will do us great harm or exceed all bounds.”  [God] said, “Do not be afraid, I am with you both, hearing and seeing everything.” (20:45-46)

The Bible says it similarly:

“I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you. (Genesis 26:24)

“Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them.  The LORD your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes.” (Deuteronomy 1:29-30)

“This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.'” (2 Chronicles 20:15)

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)

“So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:6)

Almost without exception, in both the Bible and the Qur’an the “do not be afraid” passages are all paired with God saying HE will do something.  A believer can find the ability to have faith where others would fear because they have God’s power on their side.

This is the only way to explain the change in Pharaoh’s sorcerers, as stated in 20:70-73:

[So it was, and] the sorcerers three themselves down in submission.  “We believe,” they said, “in the Lord of Aaron and Moses.”  Pharaoh said, “How dare you believe in him before I have given you permission?  This must be your master, the man who taught you witchcraft.  I shall certainly cut off your alternate hands and feet, then crucify you on the trunks of palm trees.  You will know for certain which of us has the fiercer and more lasting punishment.”  They said, “We shall never prefer you to the clear sign that has come to us, nor to Him who created us.  So decide whatever you will: you can only decide matters of this present life — we believe in our Lord, [hoping] He may forgive us our sins and the sorcery that you forced us to practice — God is better and more lasting.”

Before, their sorcery was all about them.  A little sleight of hand.  Illusion.  The power of suggestion.  Seeming power but really only what their own hands and ingenuity could conjure up. But when they saw the “signs” of Moses and Aaron, they recognized true power.  A power outside humanity.  It is faith in this kind of power that makes their bravery possible.