Continued from TRUSTING GOD: TURNING OUR WORRIES, DOUBTS, AND FEARS INTO LAUGHTER AND JOY. The Scripture for this post is Genesis 21:8-21 and Matthew 1:18-25.
Time-traveling to the Old Testament era, we find Hagar in the wilderness with her son, Ishmael. Having been driven out by Abraham (because of Sarah's jealous demand); she is wandering and about to perish. Her water container (given to her by Abraham when he sent her away) is empty. Afraid, Hagar abandons her son; she doesn’t want to see him die. She weeps.
Flash back: “I heard you walking in the garden," Adam replied to the LORD God, “so I hid because I was afraid, being naked” (Genesis 3:10). And so fear enters the world of mankind, seemingly for the first time.
Before Genesis chapter three, however, Adam and his wife, Eve, walked with God in peace and harmony (hence, no need to be afraid). But then, since mankind’s disobedience, God has to remind His created beings, “Do not be afraid.” And God continually reminds us through His Word that we have nothing to fear, but can trust in His care.
Returning to Hagar: (Genesis 21:17 – Hagar was Sarah's maidservant): Hearing her crying, God sends His angel to her: “Do not be afraid, Hagar. God cares for you. Go back to the boy. Be assured of God’s promise: He will make a great nation from your son’s descendants.” (Genesis 21:18.) God provides a well full of water there in the wilderness. Hagar refills her container and gives her son a drink.
(This is not the first time, however, Hagar was driven from Abraham and Sarah’s presence. Earlier (Genesis 16 we saw Sarah’s impatience at not being able to have children. We also saw there God’s care for Hagar, the same care He has for all of mankind whom He created in His own image [even though that image was distorted through Adam and Eve’s one act of disobedience]. Thus, that one act sets up God’s continual plea to us, “Do not be afraid. I’m your God who cares for you.”)
Our "time machine" takes us now to the New Testament era, and to Joseph’s dream (Matthew 1:18-25) He is that Joseph who is engaged to Mary, the mother-to-be of the promised Messiah, Jesus.
“Do not be afraid, Joseph, to take Mary as your wife,” the angel of the Lord says to him, “For the child within her is of the Holy Spirit.”
Waking up, Joseph obeys the angel and lets stand his betrothal to Mary. She gives birth to her son on that blessed Christmas morn in the little town of Bethlehem – the city of David – south of Jerusalem (while she is still a virgin) Luke 2:8-11.
Then, the news rings out to the shepherds abiding in their fields. The angel of the Lord encourages them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people…” (Luke 2:10.)
Hurrying to the village, where they find Mary and Joseph, the shepherds’ faces brighten in seeing the baby Jesus lying in the manger. It was just as the angel had said to them about this child: “The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today…” (Luke 2:11.)
Witnessing this great event in their lives, the shepherds return to their flocks, giving glory and praise to God, and telling everyone their story, to the astonishment of all those who heard (Luke 2:16-20).
Flash forward: The Jews in Corinth resist the Apostle Paul’s message to them about this Jesus, who was born their Messiah and Lord (Acts 18:1-11). Paul is discouraged. Then, while sleeping one night, in a vision the Lord encourages Paul – and Christ-followers today in sharing the Good News to their neighbors, co-workers, and the ‘nations’: “Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent! For I am with you, and no one will attack and harm you, for many people in this city [and around the world] belong to me” (Acts 18:9-10.)
Ours is to Go, as Jesus commissioned, and find His people (Acts 1:8; 2 Corinthians 5:20)
We zoom ahead once more, now to the 18th Century, and meet Henry Martyn. As Ruth A. Tucker puts it in her work From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, he is “sometimes described as the pioneer Protestant missionary to Muslims.”
He is born in Cornwall, England, in 1781. Completing his formal education, he enters Cambridge University, graduating from there with top honors in mathematics.
Flash back: Martyn drifts from God in his youth. However, the death of his father, the
influence of family and
friends, and in particular the writings of David Brainerd, bring about his spiritual transformation and
a vision for missions.
Of Brainerd, Martyn says, “I long to be like him. Let me forget about the world and be swallowed up in a desire to glorify God.”
And so in 1805 Martyn sails for India. He serves as a chaplain with the East IndiaCompany. He then meets William Carey who recognizes Martyn’s brilliance, and encourages him to do Bible translation. This becomes the yearning of Martyn’s heart.
Martyn serves on military posts, preaches to Europeans and Indians, and establishes schools. He also finds time to work on translating the New Testament into Urdu, and later into Persian and Arabic; his closest assistant is a Muslim convert.
Henry Martyn persists in the work God has called him to despite difficulties (even hostility) and ill health; he is not afraid. At only 31 years of age Henry Martyn departs the physical realm (through death) from Asia Minor in the autumn of 1812.