Faith and Fear
“Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear;
though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident.” – Psalm 27:3
John Calvin writes about this verse: “When David declares, ‘My heart shall not fear,’ this does not imply that he would be entirely devoid of fear, — for that would have been more worthy of the name of insensibility than of virtue.”
David had every right to be afraid of the army encamped about him. He sees their campfires, he hears their trumpets, and he knows they can attack him at any time. I’d be afraid, too. Calvin goes on to say: “Under the terms, camps and armies, [David] includes whatever is most formidable in the world.”
So though the names of the powerful that hold the world in thrall will change, the truth of the Psalm remains. Calvin writes: “Although all men should conspire for my destruction, I will disregard their violence, because the power of God, which I know is on my side, is far above theirs.”
The Good News here is that the principalities and powers of this age are ultimately subordinate to the power of God. Still, as the rest of Psalm 27 shows, they manage through their subordinates to give David and, with the necessary changes, us, plenty of things in life to be afraid of, at least in the short run.
Such faith in the power of God is not the complete absence of fear, as in a more Eastern religious calm through meditation and detachment. No, our fears are quite real. Faith always lives in the midst of our fears, but knows that “when the trial comes, it will prove invincible, because it relies on the power of God.”
And the ultimate power of God is finally made manifest in weakness, on a Roman cross.
Almighty God, you have shown your power in the helplessness of an infant and among the indecencies of a state execution, strengthen now our faith in you in the presence of our enemies and in the face of our fears.
Richard L. Floyd is Pastor Emeritus of First Church of Christ (UCC) in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. A writer and author, his most recent publications are Romans, Parts 1 and 2 (with Michael S. Bennett), new titles in the “Listen Up!” Bible Study Series. He blogs at richardlfloyd.com.