Monthly Archives: February 2018

Joshua 23:9-16

9For the LORD has driven out from before you great and strong nations, and no man can stand before you to this day. 10One man among you will put to flight a thousand, because the LORD your God fights for you, as He promised you. 11Take heed therefore to yourselves, and love the LORD your God. 12If you do turn back and cling to the remnant of these nations that remain among you, and make marriages with them and go in to them and them to you, 13know for certain that the LORD your God will not continue to drive these nations from before you, and they will be to you a snare and a trap and a scourge for your sides and thorns for your eyes, until you perish from this good land that the LORD your God has given you. 14And now behold: I am going today the say of all the earth, and you know in all your hearts and all of your souls how not one thing has failed of all the good things that the LORD your God promised to you; all are coming to pass, and not one thing has failed thereof. 15Therefore it will happen that as all of the good things have been fulfilled to you that the LORD your God has spoken to you, so also the LORD will bring on you all the bad things until He has destroyed you from this good land that the LORD your God has given you. 16When you have transgressed the covenant of the LORD your God as He commanded you, and have gone and followed other gods and have bowed down to them, the wrath of the LORD will burn against you, and you will perish quickly from this good land that he has given you.

 

Joshua’s speech continues: he reminds them that YHWH has fought for them. They have become an invincible force, as long as they remain loyal to YHWH Who rescued, provided for, and protected them. He has fought for them, since He is the Lord Sabaoth—the God of Hosts (military). But if they are not careful to maintain that loyalty, He will remove His upholding influence, and they will become quite defeatable again. Just as the promises of these great victories have come true by His hand, so will this curse also come true if they are not careful to “take heed”—or, be diligent—to follow after Him. Their reception of this Promised Land is entirely contingent on their continued loyalty to YHWH. They are not to fall into a false confidence that any of this has happened by their own power.

 

How often this emotion rings true in the human heart! Don’t we also fall on our face and cry out desperately for His touch when we are backed into a corner by the enemy? And when God delivers us by His mighty hand and we are safe again, isn’t it just as likely that we come to feel quite confident in our standing—as though we ourselves had anything to do with it? We stand at all in His power, and we are prone to forget it.

 

All the good gifts you have are from God. Don’t forget Him today. Your loyalty to God is to be maintained, for it can wane and become as nothing over time. Prosperity and success make you particularly vulnerable to waning loyalty. Don’t forget Who brought you to the place where you are, and remember to remain entirely His.

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Joshua 23:1-8

1And it happened, a long time after the LORD had given rest to Israel from all their enemies round about, that Joshua became old in years. 2And Joshua called all Israel and their leaders and heads and judges and officers, and said to them, “I have become old in years. 3And you have seen all that the LORD your God has done to all these nations before you; how the LORD your God—He fought for you. 4Look: I have allotted to you these nations that remain, to be an inheritance to your tribes, from the Jordan and all the nations that I cut off, to the great sea westward. 5And the LORD your God, He will expel them from before you, and will drive them out of your sight, and you will possess the land that the LORD your God promised to you. 6Now be very courageous to keep and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, to not turn aside to the right of the left, 7that you do not come to these nations that remain among you—do not make mention of the names of their gods, or cause to swear by them, or serve them, or bow yourselves to them. 8But cling to the LORD your God, as you have done unto this day.”

 

 

Time has passed in the narrative, and now Joshua is very old. He is still the undisputed leader, and the whole nation has great respect for him. He calls them all together and addresses them, and in doing so reminds them that they are to look back in time and memorialize what YHWH has done for them (“you have seen”, 3). They’ve seen all that YHWH has done, and are to be in perpetual remembrance of it. They are not to forget His works, His deliverance, the military victory through hailstorms and divine ambush. Moreover, he promises them that YHWH will continue this action: He will continue to expel any other enemies they encounter. Then he gives them a command that we will instantly recognize as a major theme in the book: “Be very courageous” (6). It was what YHWH told Joshua in chapter 1 and several times after. It was what Joshua told Israel as they began the conquest of Canaan. It is still in force, and he reminds them again. This time, we should note that the specific courage he implores them to take centers on the courage that it takes to not be like everyone else. As Israel encounters other tribes, they are not to be like those tribes or nations—they are not to sample their religions or their customs. Rather, they are to have the courage to adhere to the law of Moses.

 

God has brought us so far. He has taken us from being a self-centered people to being an other-focused one. He has rescued us from sin by rescuing us from ourselves. He has defeated enemies in spectacular fashion. He has also promised to continue doing exactly that: expelling sin from among us, driving out enemies from before us, sanctifying us, bringing us into the promise that He has for us. But He has not designed us to be fundamentalists, hidden from the world around us. Rather, he has designed us to move through this land as an invading force of sorts—not hiding from the culture, but influencing it. It takes courage to remain faithful to the ways of God Almighty than it does to mimic the tribes around us. But we are to have the courage of God’s people in adhering to His ways and His teachings, not falling victim to the idolatry and syncretism around us. This doesn’t mean hiding in a cultural bubble, but rather modeling God’s love to the world around us.

 

Are you faithful to His teachings? Is that faithfulness being carried out in public, or behind a closed door in your own individual privacy? You are a member of a culturally invasive force; you are to model His ways for the world around you. You can’t do that hiding in a prayer closet or in a cultural bubble. Hiding is not the way of courage. Get out there and do His thing.

Joshua 22:7-20

7Now to the half tribe of Manasseh Moses had given possession in Bashan, but to the other half Joshua gave among their brothers on the west side of Jordan. 8And when Joshua sent them away to their tents, he blessed them, and spoke to them, saying, “Return to your tents with much wealth, and with very much cattle and silver and gold and bronze and iron and with very many clothes, and divide the spoils of the enemy with your brothers. 9So the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh returned, and departed from Israel at Shiloh which is in the land of Canaan, to go to the land of Gilead, to the land of their possession, which they possessed according to the command of the LORD by the hand of Moses. 10And when they came to the borders of the Jordan that are in the land of Canaan, the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh built there an altar by Jordan, a great altar to see. 11Now the sons of Israel heard that, behold: the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh have built an altar over against the land of Canaan, in the borders of Jordan, at the passage of the sons of Israel. 12And when the sons of Israel heard, the whole congregation of the sons of Israel gathered themselves together at Shiloh to go up to war against them. 13Then the sons of Israel sent to the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh, into the land of Gilead, Phineas the son of Eleazer the priest, 14and with him ten leaders, of each chief house a leader through all the tribes of Israel, and each was a head of the house of their fathers among the thousands in Israel. 15And they came to the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh the land of Gilead and spoke to them, saying, 16“Thus says the whole congregation of the LORD: What unfaithfulness is this that you have committed against the God of Israel, to turn this day from following after the LORD and build to yourselves an altar, that you might rebel this day against the LORD? 17Is the iniquity of Peor too little for us, from which we have still not cleansed ourselves this day, even though there was a plague in the congregation of the LORD, 18but that you must turn away this day from following the LORD? And it will be, if you rebel this day against he LORD, that tomorrow He will be angry with the whole congregation of Israel. 19But if the land of your possession is unclean, then pass over to the land of the possession of the LORD, in which the LORD’s tabernacle stands, and take possession among us. But do not rebel against the LORD, or revel against us, in building an altar other than the altar of the LORD our God. 20Did not Achan the son of Zerah commit a trespass in the accursed thing, and wrath fell on the whole congregation of Israel? And that man did not perish alone in his iniquity.” 21Then the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh answered the heads of the thousands in Israel, 22“The LORD, the God of gods, the LORD, the God of gods! He knows, and Israel will know, if we be in rebellion or in breach of faith with the LORD (do not save us this day), 23that we have built an altar to turn from following after the LORD, and to offer on it burnt offerings or cereal offerings or to offer on it peace offerings—then, let the LORD Himself take vengeance. 24And if we have not rather done it for fear of this thing, saying, in the time to come, your sons will say to our sons, saying, ‘What do you have to do with the LORD, the God of Israel?’ 25For the LORD has made the Jordan a border between us and you, you sons of Reuben and sons of Gad; you have no portion in the LORD,’ and your sons make our sons cease from fearing the LORD. 26So we said, ‘Let us prepare to build an altar—not for burnt offerings and not for sacrifice—27but as a witness between us and you and the generations that come after us, that we might perform the service of the LORD before Him with our burnt offerings and peace offerings, and in the time to come your sons will not say to our sons, ‘you have no portion in the LORD.’ 28Therefore we said, ‘It shall be when they say to us or to the generations in the time to come,’ that we may say, ‘Look at the pattern of the altar of the LORD that our fathers made, not for burnt offerings or for sacrifices, but as a witness between us and you.’ 29Far be it; God forbid that we should rebel against the LORD, and return this day from following after the LORD to build an altar for burnt offering or cereal offering or any sacrifice other than the altar of the LORD our God that is before the tabernacle.”

30When Phineas the priest and the leaders of the congregation and the heads of the clans of Israel who were with him heard the words spoken by the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the sons of Manasseh, it pleased them. 31Then Phineas the son of Eleazar the priest said to the sons of Reuben and the songs of Gad and the sons of Manasseh, “Today we know that the LORD is among us, that you have not committed this breach of faith against the LORD; now you have delivered the sons of Israel from the hand of the LORD.” 32Then Phineas the son of Eleazar the priest and the leaders of the congregation of the sons of Israel returned from the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad from the land of Gilead to the land of Canaan to the sons of Israel, and brought word with them again. 33And the report pleased the sons of Israel and the sons of Israel blessed God and did not intend to go up against them to do battle to destroy the land where the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad dwelled. 34And the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad called the altar “witness,” for so shall it be between us that the LORD is God.

 

The Cis-Jordan tribes of Israel are disturbed. They have heard a report about something terrible going on in the Trans-Jordan area: the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh have erected what appears to be an altar. The Western mind wonders “why would this be a problem?” The reason would have been obvious to a Jewish mind, fresh off the exodus: there is ONE place, geographically, where the people of God are to worship—the tabernacle. All of the congregation was to be in the same place, geographically, together in the adoration of YHWH. To build oneself a worship place apart from the tabernacle was to sin against YHWH by sinning against the congregation. It was to split up the whole people of YHWH—to divide them unnecessarily. You’ll note that similar warnings are given to church leaders in the New Testament about being on guard against those who would divide the church. The more collectively the people of YHWH worship Him, the more He is pleased. And so Israel thought they knew what the Trans-Jordan tribes were up to, and they needed to be dealt with harshly so that they whole congregation didn’t suffer as they had during Achan’s sin. But during the confrontation, the Reubenites, Gadites and Manasseh folks explained themselves: the thing they built wasn’t for worship, but to remind the descendants of the Cis-Jordan tribes that the folks on the east side of the river were people of YHWH, too. A big river like the Jordan can form a natural boundary that would cut off the Trans-Jordan tribes from fellowship, unless steps were taken to memorialize their fellowship. When Phineas and the rest of Israel heard this explanation, they agreed that it was a great idea and everyone went home pleased.

 

We live in a day of church proliferation. There are too many churches, to put it plainly. God never intended for His people to be so disparately disconnected from one another. The locality of worship is meaningful to God, and has not proven meaningful to us, His people in the West. We have consistently devalued local worship and the need for corporate gathering, and why not? There are 212 churches in the community where I pastor….rendering the concept of local worship disparate, scattered, and individualist. Church doesn’t seem important on any level. But that is so far from what God intended. He always intended for His people to gather corporately and worship Him locally in time and space. He intended for us to set aside a space to be holy to Him. One thing we could do to recapture this essence is to be reminded of the physical nature of worship as well as the spiritual nature. We are to be THERE, where the people of God are. We are to physically gather with His people. And we are to remember that our act of worship is as much about US as it is about ME.

 

What is “church” to you? Isn’t it more important to bring that definition in line with what “church” is to God? Value the time and place set aside for worship of the holy God with His people.

Joshua 22:1-6

1Then Joshua called the Reubenites and the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manessah, 2and said to them, “You have obeyed all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, and you have heard my voice in all I commanded you. 3You have not abandoned your brothers these many days until this day, and you have kept the charge of the commandment of the LORD your God. 4And now the LORD has given rest to your brothers, as He promised them; therefore, turn and go to your tents in the land of your possession, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave to you on the other side of the Jordan. 5But be very careful to do the commandments of the Law which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you—to love the LORD your God and to walk in all His ways, and to keep His commandments and to cling to Him and to serve Him with all your hearts and with all your souls.” 6Then Joshua blessed them and sent them, and they went to their tents.

 

More allotments are given out, and Israel has begun to spread out over the land that YHWH has given them. It’s time to send the Transjordan tribes back home across the river. Reuben, Gad and half of Manessah all had land on the east side of the river, but instead of standing pat on their land during the ensuing war with the Canaanites they crossed the river with their brothers and fought alongside of them. This type of loyalty to the family of YHWH is precisely what He had in mind. The ancient Israelites thus had an ecclesiology: they were a called-out, physically gathered community who exercised a loyalty to one another. In this way, they were “saved,” because they were the people of YHWH. To be “unsaved” was to be outside this community. Moreover, now that the land had rest from war, YHWH had given rest to all the nation. This meant that, while loyalty remained, the labors had ceased for the time being and the Reubenites, Gadites and half-tribe of Manasseh could return home. Before they leave, though, Joshua gives them a final command: “be careful.” To follow YHWH’s word is to be careful—it’s to be diligent. The people of YHWH were not to be halfway or lackadaisical about their service to Him; they were to be CAREFUL. There was a diligence involved, which meant that there was also an intellectual capacity to this as well. They had to learn what He required, and then they had to observe it. The thing in which they were commanded to be careful? To do the commandments of the Torah (לַעֲשֹׂ֨ות אֶת־הַמִּצְוָ֣ה וְאֶת־הַתֹּורָה֮). And what were these commandments? To love YHWH, to walk in His ways, to keep His commandments, to cling to Him, and to serve Him with the totality of their beings. The command to “love YHWH” is not concerning the development of some esoteric feeling, but rather is the result of keeping His commands. The Hebrew word to “hear” is also “to obey” (שְׁמַ֖ע), and to hear YHWH’s word is therefore to keep it, to obey it. Doing so shows love for Him. The Israelite was to cling to YHWH in all circumstances, and to serve Him with the totality of their being—that is, with their whole hearts and soul. This would have encompassed both the spiritual aspect and the intellectual aspect. This is why Israelite children were expected to memorize the Torah and go to Hebrew school for years before they began other forms of education: to serve YHWH requires a certain diligence with respect to intellect as well as spirit.

 

The command that Joshua gave to these two and a half tribes is sound advice for all of us in God’s tribe today. As part of His people, we are still expected to be loyal to our community of faith. We are expected to be physically and spiritually joined to them in service of the living God. What’s more, we are expected to be DILIGENT about this. We are to practice it, to get it right, to possibly even be a tad fussy about it. We are to demonstrate our love for God by being careful and diligent to keep His command. By being diligent in our clinging to Him, we demonstrate our love for Him—and also for each other.

 

The love that we are to show to God and to others is the outward growth of the faith that we claim to have. So how diligent are you today in keeping to that?

Joshua 20:1-9

1Then the LORD spoke to Joshua, saying, 2“Speak to the sons of Israel and say, ‘Appoint to you cities of refuge, as I told you by the hand of Moses, 3that the accidental manslayer may flee there, and they will be your refuge from the avenger of blood. 4And when he that flees unto those cities stands at the entrance to the gate of the city, and states his case in the ears of the elders of that city, that they shall take him into their city and appoint for him a place among them, that he may dwell with them. 5And if the avenger of blood pursues him, then they will not deliver the slayer into his hand, because he killed unintentionally and did not hate his neighbor beforehand. 6Then he will dwell in that city until he stands before the congregation for judgment, and until the death of the high priest who is before the LORD in those days, then the slayer will return to his city and to his house in the city from where he fled.’” 7So they set apart Kedesh in Gilgal in the hill country of Naphtali, and Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and Kiriah-Arba in the hill country of Judah. 8And on the other side Jordan eastward by Jericho, they appointed Bezer in the wilderness on the plain out of the tribe of Reuben, and Ramoth in Gilead out of the tr4ibe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan out of the tribe of Manasseh. 9These were the cities appointed to all the sons of Israel and the stranger who resides among them, that whoever kills accidentally might flee there and not die at the hand of the avenger of blood until he stands before the congregation.

 

 

The land has been apportioned out to all the tribes, and now comes the task of obeying some of the other commands that YHWH had given to the people through Moses prior to these times. Among them was a provision in the law that distinguished between murderers and man-slayers—that is, premeditated, passion-driven homicide and accidental homicide. A good modern parallel would be between someone who kills someone in a fit of rage, as opposed to a drunk driver who kills someone accidentally. YHWH had made a distinction between the two, and had furthermore provided a means of temporary escape for that accidental killer. He knew that the passions of the community would run hot immediately following the death of an innocent, and that they would be prone to stoning or hanging the offender before any sort of “due process” had been completed. And so YHWH had provided a place to which the offender could retire and wait until he’d had a chance to stand trial. As it turns out, justice is a dish best served cold, not hot. Finally, we might notice that it is still very much the will of YHWH that mankind live in community. Rather than be damned to walk the earth away from his people, the accidental manslaughter suspect has been provided with a community among whom he may dwell.

 

There are several applications here. First, let’s not forget that as God gives us victory in our evangelistic quest, we are to be diligent and careful to do all the things He’s told us to do, detail-wise. As the giants in the land fall, we are not to become slack or lazy, but are to be diligently about God’s business, as the Israelites were in this passage. Second, we can continue to value community. No man was designed to be an island. Even the introvert needs community (whether or not he knows it). The worst judgment is removal from the community. If God designed us to be placed among others, situated in time and place with them, we should value that too. Their struggle should become our struggle, and vice versa. Finally, we should never let passions rule us. Nothing good comes from it, and the fruit of the Spirit is self-control, after all.

 

What are you doing to be “among the community” today? In what ways do you value community as God does? Take some small steps today to strengthen the bonds of community. Be self-controlled, as well, today; don’t let your day be ruled by your passions. And be diligent about the Lord’s business. It’s why you’re here, isn’t it?

Joshua 18:1-10

1And all the congregation of the sons of Israel assembled at Shiloh, and set up there the tent of appointment, and the land was subdued before them. 2And there remained among the sons of Israel who had not been apportioned their inheritance seven tribes, 3and Joshua said to the sons of Israel, “How long will you be slack to go to take the land that the LORD the God of your fathers gave to you? 4Provide from you three men from each tribe, and rise and go into the land and describe it according to your inheritance, and come to me, 5and they will divide it into seven portions. And Judah will continue in their territory to the south, and the house of Joseph will abide in their territory to the north. 6And you will describe the land in seven parts and bring the description to me, and I will cast lots for you here before the LORD your God. 7But the Levites have no portion among you, for the priesthood of the LORD is their inheritance. And Gad and Reuben and the half-tribe of Manasseh have received their inheritance beyond the Jordan eastward, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave to them.” 8So the men arose and went away and Joshua charged those who went to describe the land, saying, “Go and walk in the land and describe it and return to me here, and I will cast lots for you before the LORD at Shiloh.” 9So the men went and passed through the land and described its cities in seven parts in a book, and came to Joshua at the camp at Shiloh. 10Then Joshua cast lots for them at Shiloh before the LORD, and Joshua divided there the land to the sons of Israel according to their divisions.

 

 

The land is “subdued” before Israel now. There is no more war, and no enemies stand between YHWH’s people and the inheritance He had promised them back in Genesis. All of the people gather at Shiloh and set up the tabernacle, and engage in worship. The whole nation is present; it is corporate worship, and nobody finds anything “better” to do. They are all present and accounted for at corporate worship. The “tabernacle” spoken of here is the one described in the second half of Exodus. The Hebrew is , which is literally “the tent of appointment.” The people have a prescribed appointment in time and space with the living God, and there He will meet with them as promised. Many translations will render this “tent of meeting.” This is a fine translation, but I usually like to get a tad more literal in my translation—thereby emphasizing the planned nature of this appointment they had with YHWH. While at worship, a problem is noted: not all of the tribes have come into their inheritance. This is, indeed, a problem: the offensive in which they’d all been engaged wasn’t the only work to be done. Failure to receive what YHWH had promised was “being slack” (2-3). YHWH had given them a gift, and by not taking it they were doing wrong. So Joshua sends them on a similar spy mission to the one he’d been on 40 years earlier (Numbers 13-14), and gives them order to “recon” the land (4-6). The Levites alone are to be without an inheritance, because their devotion to YHWH’s service is the portion ascribed to them. They are not to be considered normal; they are wholly devoted to YHWH on behalf of the people.

 

All through Joshua, God has reminded His people that they are not to fear, because He has given the enemy into their hands. He is the one Who fights for them, and He has given them the victory in the offensive against the Canaanites. The giants in the land melt before them because of Him, and He is the securer of their safety and deliverance. But He is also their Provider, and quitting when the job is only half done is not good work at all.

 

Sometimes receiving from God is work. The victory that He gives over our enemies is perhaps unbelievable and amazing, but His intention for us is even deeper. He intends to not just defend and protect us, but also to provide for us and care pastorally for us in time and space. The people of God should not slack their hands to receive what God is providing, as well as being prepared to stand on behalf of their brothers.

 

God has secured victory for you today. And He’s also providing for you. He is everything—your Warrior, Protector, Provider, Healer. The enemy melts before Him, and He has plans for you beyond this moment of deliverance. Be ready to receive from Him.

Joshua 17:14-18

14Then the sons of Joseph spoke to Joshua, saying, “Why have you given us one lot and one portion, seeing as I am a great people, forasmuch as the LORD has blessed me?” 15And Joshua said to them, “If you are a great people, then you go up to the wood country and cut down for you there from the land of the Perizzites and of the giants, if the mountain of Ephraim be too narrow for you.” 16And the sons of Joseph said, “The hill country is not enough, and all the Canaanites that dwell in the land of the valley have chariots of iron—they of Beth-shean and her towns, and they of the valley of Jezreel.” 17Then Joshua said to the house of Joseph, even to Ephraim and Manessah, saying, “You are a great people, and have great power; you will have one lot. 18But the mountain shall be for you, for it is a wood, and you will cut it down. And the outgrowths of it will be yours, and you will drive out the Canaanites, even though they have iron chariots, and though they are strong.”

 

 

The allotments have been going well. All of the tribes of Israel have been given multiple lots to provide for their people. Folks are settling in and learning about their new home. But the tribes that belong to Joseph have a problem: there are so many of them, and the one lot they’ve been given won’t be enough to provide for all of them. This is the complaint they bring to Joshua, their leader. It is not one of greed, but of need. Their people are too רַ֤ב , or “great,” or many. Joshua’s response to them is that they only get that one lot—but they are also given a mountain. It’s heavily wooded and there are plenty of resources for their people. Then comes the final complaint from the tribes of Joseph: the people who live in that area are better armed than we are. There are too many of them, and they look like a formidable enemy. Joshua’s response does not show the intractability of a stubborn leader, but rather the experience of one who is accustomed to trusting in YHWH’s provision: you guys are stuck with the one lot. But you’re right….you are a great (רַ֤ב) people….in the numerical sense, and in the powerful sense. You are better than you think. You will defeat these Canaanites and have plenty of resources. Joshua’s words remind the tribes that they fight in the name of YHWH, and that they are therefore undefeatable. There is never a reason to fear the size or weaponry of the enemy. This incident stands in parallel with the earlier referenced one of Numbers 13-14. YHWH has promised land, but giants stand in the way. In such an instance, one can either have a heart that melts with fear, or wholly follow after YHWH.

 

It is not Christian to tremble in fear at the enemy. God has plans—allotments, so to speak—for us. He knows where our feet will trod, and is sending us there. Though there be giants in the land, we are not to fear them, but we are to rather have a faith in the power of the living God Who has sent us. The God Who has delivered us from the enemy of slavery is surely able to deliver us from giants in the land. Our destiny lies not in avoiding the battle but in winning it in the power of God Almighty.

 

What are you afraid of today? What giant causes your heart to melt with fear? What stresses you out today? It is not to be feared, but overcome. You are not a victim, but an overcomer.