What is the overarching message of the Bible?
Is it that God loves us?
Is it that God has revealed himself to us and redeemed us through the person of Jesus Christ?
Is it about our need to obey to God’s law?
Well, I want to suggest that the overarching message of the Bible is not so much these things. But that God is with us.
God is with us.
And, because God is with us, we do not need to be afraid.
When you read the Bible, you will hear this message over and over again.
In Genesis 28.15 God says to Jacob, ‘I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go.’
In Exodus 3.12, when God calls Moses through the burning bush and Moses expresses his fear of going to Egypt and asking Pharaoh to let the Israelites go, God reassures him saying ‘I will surely be with you.’
In Deuteronomy 31.8, Moses says to Joshua as he hands over the baton of leading the Israelites, ‘The Lord himself goes before you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.’
And in Joshua 1.9, after Moses’ death, God says to Joshua, ‘Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.’
In 1 Samuel 17, when David arrives at the Israelites’ camp and finds them quaking with fear before Goliath and the Philistine army, David only has the courage to fight Goliath because he has faith that God is with him.
In Psalm 23, David paints a beautiful picture of God as the good shepherd who is with us and will not forsake us – even though we walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.
In Isaiah 43.2 we see how God assures Isaiah that he is with us, saying: ‘When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep you away. When you walk through fire, you will not be burned…’
In Jeremiah 1.8 God says to Jeremiah, ‘Do not be afraid…for I am with you.’
And, of course, Jesus in the New Testament is Emmanuel, the incarnation, God with us. Which he affirms many times.
And the last thing Jesus says to his followers in Matthew 28.16-20 is ‘Go and make disciples…and surely I am with you.’
So why is all this important?
The thing is that being with someone is to love them. And love casts out fear, no matter what trials and challenges present themselves.
So much of the time we live our lives in fear. We are afraid to do things that will make others despise us, that will disconnect us from others.
And so we live a kind of half-life, dominated by our fears – never fully being the person we might be. As we are so constrained by others’ expectations of us and our fears of rejection.
When we discover, however, that we are loved – come what may – by God, something changes. We find we are no longer fearful. We have the courage to be our true selves – which is all God asks of us.
Psychotherapists say that their clients most frequently cite anxiety as their greatest problem.
The Christian faith offers a solution to that problem.
It says - Wake up and realise that you are not alone in life. God is with you and loves you and will never forsake you. So do not be afraid. Live your life fearlessly.
And experience the joy this brings.