This Christmas season I’ve been going through the scripture passages in Handel’s Messiah. One theme that has stood out is the angel’s message to the shepherds: Fear not.
This is not the only passage where this theme is found.
In Isaiah 40:9 God says, “O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold you God!
This boldness has nothing to do with man. Man is mere fading grass, whose admirable parts pass away like fading flowers. This boldness has everything to do with who God is and his coming (verses 10-11).
In Isaiah 7:14, the famous promise, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” is set against a backdrop of God assuring King Ahaz of Judah that he has no reason to fear the kings of Israel and Syria–soon the hostile leaders will be gone, the enemies will be nullified.
King Ahaz’s response was unlike that of the shepherds. When told to fear not, pick a sign, refused. Even after God Himself stated on (and much farther reaching and layered than anything King Ahaz would have come up with), 2 Chronicles 28 tells where his heart really was: trusting in humans and false gods.
The shepherds went looking for the sign they heard about, and rejoiced in the finding. They caused all Bethlehem to wonder at their message of joy.
This was the type of response God was looking for: putting confidence in His word of good news, and rejoice instead of fear.
Boldness: rejoicing in faith.