Please don’t be freaked out that I know this about your life. Right now, there is an action you can take, some specific thing you can do, some commitment or decision you can make that will result in a huge improvement in your family life, your business life, your social life or your health. And I know this about you because it is true for my life also. In fact, it is true for everyone.
So why have you been procrastinating? I know the answer to that too. We know what to do but we don’t do it, and the reason is usually fear. We fear failure, we fear success, we fear change, we fear embarrassment, we fear commitment and so much more. It started early in our lives.
“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 approaching strangers and they fear harmless insects.
To be sure, there is a healthy fear that keeps us from doing dumb and dangerous things, but what about the fears we all have for activities with utterly harmless repercussions? I don’t know what your particular fears and phobias are, but I’m sure you have them. I know I do.
It’s worthwhile overcoming the 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 book.
Let’s glance at Deuteronomy, the book recited by Moses during the last thirty-six days of his life as he attempted to strengthen Israel and help them overcome their own fears of the next phase of their national development—conquering the Promised Land.
The book opens with the first verse providing geographic coordinates describing where this happened.
These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel on this side of the Jordan…
Verses 2 and 3 provide time coordinates describing exactly when this all happened.
It is eleven days’ journey from Horeb…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, just before verse 5, the narrative is interrupted 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? What has this got to do with anything? Moses did many marvelous feats and vanquished many enemies along the way during the previous forty years in the desert. Why interrupt the narrative with verse 4 mentioning just these two obscure rascals, Sichon and Og?
Well, it turns out that Sichon and Og are what are described as giants.
Og’s stature, as one of the refaim group of giants is colorfully described in Deuteronomy 3:11. In fact, there are seven nouns used in the Five Books of Moses to describe giants: refaim, eymim, giborim, zamzumim, anakim, avim, nefilim. And here is the strangest thing. Far from being somewhat uniformly distributed throughout the Tanach, they are heavily concentrated in the book of Deuteronomy. Though briefly alluded to in some of the other books such as Genesis, and Joshua, no book of the Bible contains anywhere near the number of references to giants as the book of Deuteronomy.
Do these seven words really allude to massive men of grotesque proportions? Are they what we imagine Goliath to have been? Well, strangely enough, not one of these terms is used in describing the life and death of Goliath in I Samuel 17. We are told he stood over six cubits tall, but he is never referred to as a giant.
While it is adequate to translate these seven words as ‘giant’ for purposes of the narrative, Ancient Jewish wisdom wants us to derive valuable life lessons from Scripture, not merely a narrative, so, therefore, reserves these seven terms for giants to mean specifically fears that terrify and paralyze us. That is why Goliath, the most famous of giants; is never referred to in terms of refaim, eymim, giborim, zamzumim, anakim, avim, or nefilim. These seven terms are reserved for fears frightening enough to freeze us in stationary poses.
The Book of Deuteronomy records Moses’ final speech to his people and he repeatedly uses these seven terms for giants, or more accurately paralyzing fears, in order to prepare Israel for the tough times they will face as a newly free and independent nation. Moses repeatedly mentions the ‘giants’ reminding Israel in his fourth sentence that he already slew two of the monsters. He describes how he confronted them and defeated them. Then he assures Israel that they too will be able to overcome these representations of all the paralyzing phobias they are yet to encounter.
Why does Scripture need seven different words for monster fears? Are there seven varieties of paralyzing phobias? Not exactly; every fear is really a fear of loss. It could be loss of life, loss of money, loss of loved people, loss of loved things, loss of health and many other potential losses. When we fear, it is always a loss that we fear. In Hebrew numerology, the number seven always refers to natural completion. We see this in days of the week, colors of the rainbow, notes of the Do-Re-Mi scale, and other examples. Even the Hebrew word for seven, SHeVA* also spells out the word for full satisfaction. When we are complete with no loss, we could be said to be in a state of SHeVA*, a state of satisfaction and a state of seven.
Our worst fears involve the loss of, well, everything. We would lose our satisfaction or our state of seven. Each aspect of the ‘sevenness’ of satisfaction is removed separately by another aspect of fear, hence seven separate views of terror.
The procrastinators among us must immerse ourselves in a fear detoxification program where we learn that, like giants, fears can be conquered.
*See examples in our recommended Bible:
SHeVa = seven = שבע. See Genesis 41:29, p. 126, 4 lines from the bottom, 6th word from the right.
SeVa = satisfied, plenty = שבע. See Genesis 41:29, p. 126, 4 lines from the bottom, 9th word from the right.
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