“Leave the light on please,” says the child, “I’m scared of the dark.” Perhaps the most common emotion expressed by little children is fear. Long before they become comfortable articulating emotions like happiness, excitement, and sadness, small children speak of fear.
Though we speak of it less as we grow up, we feel it just as acutely. Just ask the adult who has been invited to give a speech before a large gathering. People fear starting a conversation with strangers, harmless insects and all sorts of other things.
To be sure, there is healthy fear that keeps us from doing dumb and dangerous things, but what about the fears we have for harmless things? Or for those things that may truly be threatening, but which we are capable of overcoming? It is worthwhile defeating fears that hold us back. Though about 10,000 books on dealing with fears and phobias have been published, I find that I need only one.
Let’s glance at Deuteronomy, the book that records Moses’ final speech as he attempts to strengthen Israel and help them surmount their own fears about conquering the Promised Land.
The first verse of Deuteronomy provides geographic coordinates describing where this major address took place.
These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel on this side of the Jordan…(Deuteronomy 1:1)
Verses 2 and 3 then provide time coordinates, describing exactly when this happened.
…and it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month…
And in a perfectly logical sequel, the fifth verse reads:
On this side of the Jordan, in the land of Moab, Moses began to explain this Torah, saying.
However, verse 4 interrupts the narrative in a most perplexing way:
After he killed Sichon the king of the Amorites, who lived in Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, who lived at Ashtaroth Edrei.
Huh? Moses vanquished many enemies during the previous forty years. Why mention just these two obscure rascals, Sichon and Og?
Sichon and Og are described as giants. Scripture uses seven nouns to name giants: refaim, eymim, giborim, zamzumim, anakim, avim and nefilim. We are meant to notice they are heavily concentrated in the book of Deuteronomy. Though briefly mentioned in some other books like Genesis and Joshua, no book of the Bible contains the same number of references to giants as the book of Deuteronomy.
These are not massive men of grotesque proportions such as we imagine Goliath to have been. While Goliath stood over six cubits tall, none of these terms for giant is used in describing his life and death in I Samuel 17. The words for giant refer Biblically to those people, phenomena and circumstances that scare us, though with fortitude we could dispatch them. Sichon and Og were formidable foes mainly on account of our own faintheartedness.
In order to strengthen Israel for the forthcoming challenges they will face without him, and for those that still exist until the present time, Moses reviews the encounters with the seven giants on the road from Sinai to the River Jordan. Here is one example:
Where can we go? Our brothers discouraged us saying, ‘The people are bigger and taller than us; the cities are great and fortified to heaven; and furthermore we saw the sons of the Anakim there.’ Then I said to you, ‘Fear not; don’t be afraid of them.’
In this fifth book of the Torah, Moses teaches the three steps for dealing with fears.
- He lists all the frightening phenomena.
- He characterizes each one with the appropriate term.
- He proves their vulnerability by mentioning that he himself slew Sichon and Og.
Moses’ three steps serve us all well. Identify paralyzing fears. Analyze what about them frightens. Recognize their vulnerability to action and proceed to act.
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This week’s Susan’s Musings: Do Something
I can truly understand the cries of those calling for greater gun control after the horrific elementary school shooting last week. Faced with so much pain, there is a natural desire to do something to ensure that such an incident can never happen again.
The impulse is a good one; unfortunately,…READ MORE
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I understand that there is provision made in one of the Jewish feasts to be forgiven and released from any foolish promise that has been made. Is this only for man to man or does it also pertain to any foolish promise(s) made to God?
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