Fear is the hallmark of the American spirit. Anxiety pulses through our personal, family, and corporate lives. Every time the marriage of old friends breaks up or our kids plunge into destructive dependence on drugs, we become alarmed about the lack of stability in our intimate relationships. Inflation scares young families and retirees alike, who wonder how they will make ends meet.
There is so much fear surging through us that the nation could be energy independent overnight if only each of us hooked ourselves to electrodes and plugged them into the nation's power grid. We could turn off our local electrical power systems and run our automobiles and heat our houses on paranoia alone. Indeed, we are scared to death.
An episode in Isaiah 7 describes another people, the nation of Judah and Ahaz its king, who also were scared to death: "His heart and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind."
The people's fearfulness had begun with the extraordinary political and military achievements of King David 200 years earlier. David, a brilliant military commander and shrewd politician, had forged the nation Israel from a loosely knit, anarchistic collection of 12 tribes. He subjected traditional enemies such as the Philistines, forcing them to pay tribute, thereby building a strong economic base for the new kingdom.
David's successes were seen as the fulfillment of Yahweh's promise to Abraham to create a great nation in the land of promise. His poetic gifts, his winsome and passionate personality, and his faithfulness to Yahweh only embellished his memory for succeeding generations. David and his empire became the standard by which subsequent kings and subjects judged their own achievements.