Read Isaiah 41
The Helper of Israel
41 “Be silent before me, you islands!
Let the nations renew their strength!
Let them come forward and speak;
let us meet together at the place of judgment.
2 “Who has stirred up one from the east,
calling him in righteousness to his service?
He hands nations over to him
and subdues kings before him.
He turns them to dust with his sword,
to windblown chaff with his bow.
3 He pursues them and moves on unscathed,
by a path his feet have not traveled before.
4 Who has done this and carried it through,
calling forth the generations from the beginning?
I, the Lord—with the first of them
and with the last—I am he.”
5 The islands have seen it and fear;
the ends of the earth tremble.
They approach and come forward;
6 they help each other
and say to their companions, “Be strong!”
7 The metalworker encourages the goldsmith,
and the one who smooths with the hammer
spurs on the one who strikes the anvil.
One says of the welding, “It is good.”
The other nails down the idol so it will not topple.
8 “But you, Israel, my servant,
Jacob, whom I have chosen,
you descendants of Abraham my friend,
9 I took you from the ends of the earth,
from its farthest corners I called you.
I said, ‘You are my servant’;
I have chosen you and have not rejected you.
10 So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
11 “All who rage against you
will surely be ashamed and disgraced;
those who oppose you
will be as nothing and perish.
12 Though you search for your enemies,
you will not find them.
Those who wage war against you
will be as nothing at all.
13 For I am the Lord your God
who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
I will help you.
14 Do not be afraid, you worm Jacob,
little Israel, do not fear,
for I myself will help you,” declares the Lord,
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.
15 “See, I will make you into a threshing sledge,
new and sharp, with many teeth.
You will thresh the mountains and crush them,
and reduce the hills to chaff.
16 You will winnow them, the wind will pick them up,
and a gale will blow them away.
But you will rejoice in the Lord
and glory in the Holy One of Israel.
17 “The poor and needy search for water,
but there is none;
their tongues are parched with thirst.
But I the Lord will answer them;
I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
18 I will make rivers flow on barren heights,
and springs within the valleys.
I will turn the desert into pools of water,
and the parched ground into springs.
19 I will put in the desert
the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive.
I will set junipers in the wasteland,
the fir and the cypress together,
20 so that people may see and know,
may consider and understand,
that the hand of the Lord has done this,
that the Holy One of Israel has created it.
21 “Present your case,” says the Lord.
“Set forth your arguments,” says Jacob’s King.
22 “Tell us, you idols,
what is going to happen.
Tell us what the former things were,
so that we may consider them
and know their final outcome.
Or declare to us the things to come,
23 tell us what the future holds,
so we may know that you are gods.
Do something, whether good or bad,
so that we will be dismayed and filled with fear.
24 But you are less than nothing
and your works are utterly worthless;
whoever chooses you is detestable.
25 “I have stirred up one from the north, and he comes—
one from the rising sun who calls on my name.
He treads on rulers as if they were mortar,
as if he were a potter treading the clay.
26 Who told of this from the beginning, so we could know,
or beforehand, so we could say, ‘He was right’?
No one told of this,
no one foretold it,
no one heard any words from you.
27 I was the first to tell Zion, ‘Look, here they are!’
I gave to Jerusalem a messenger of good news.
28 I look but there is no one—
no one among the gods to give counsel,
no one to give answer when I ask them.
29 See, they are all false!
Their deeds amount to nothing;
their images are but wind and confusion.
Isaiah opens this chapter by addressing the nations. The term coastlands can refer to the farthest reaching parts of the Gentile world. God addresses them and asks who is sovereign over all human history. In response, verses 5-7 relay their tendency to turn to idols for help, rather than trusting God. Because of this, they have reason to fear the ever changing events of human history. Israel, on the other hand, has nothing to fear as they trust in the one true God who is sovereign over all the world.
God reminds His chosen people Israel that they have nothing to fear, even in the midst of the chaos of the times. Look again at verse 10 and the reasons God gives the nation of Israel as to why they need not fear:
- I am with you
- I am your God
- I will strengthen you
- I will help you
- I will uphold you with my righteous right hand
Author and Bible teacher Tara Leigh Cobble notes that the call not to fear occurs 366 times throughout the Scriptures. That’s one reminder for every day of the year (even on a leap year)! Over and over again, God reminds His people not to fear. And with God in control, all powerful, and working everything for our good and His glory, what would we have to fear in this world? He is in the business of taking care of His people. He is in the business of caring for you!
In verses 21-29 God, through Isaiah, challenges the authority and ability of idols. This sets the stage for the next chapter in which He presents the Lord’s servant as the only hope of salvation for the whole world. Here He points out the inability of idols to predict the events of the future and sets up the comparison of His ability versus theirs. God not only has the ability to predict the future, but also has the authority to bring it to pass. The conclusion is that all idols are a delusion, their works amount to nothing and they are not worthy of being praised. This sets the stage for the stark contrast, in chapter 42, to Jesus Christ who is worthy of all praise.
- Do you find yourself prone to fear? What truth from God’s word could help combat that?
- Where do you see the sovereignty of God in today’s world? In your own life?
- Are you tempted to look to idols (ex: comfort, approval, control, or power) for safety and security instead of God? What would it look like to denounce those idols in your life?
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