Updated: Oct 24, 2020
The divine promise.
“Do not fear, for I am with you”
The times of the prophets were unsettling and fear-stricken. When Isaiah proclaimed his prophecies, the armies of Assyria were already marching against the northern tribe of Israel. Israel continued to show complete disregard to the warnings of the prophets who were pronouncing the impending doom of the nation if they remained on their path of rebellion. In the east, Assyria was gaining power and beginning to expand their borders which included military campaigns against the Northern nation of Israel. Known for their violence and cruelty, the armies of Tiglath-pileser III struck terror into the hearts of the people. It was just a matter of time until Israel fully experienced the cruelty of Assyria’s conquest. Isaiah came upon the scene warning Israel of their impending doom if they continued to reject God, a warning that would go unheeded. When Israel sought a treaty with Egypt to assure Egypt’s protection against Assyria, Isaiah proclaimed that it would only lead to their further demise. God, not Egypt was their only hope, and his help could only be achieved through repentance.
As dark and foreboding many of Isaiah’s prophecies are, in the midst of his message are words of hope and salvation if the nation would turn back to God. In chapter 40, God displays his greatness and promises to sustain Judah and strengthen them if they trust in him. In chapter 41 He then encourages Israel with the promise of his protection even in the midst of their discipline. His hand of discipline was not to be mistaken to mean that he has completely rejected his people. In verse 9 God assures them that they are still his chosen people. In verse 10, God quiets the fears and anxieties of the people by promising his continual provision for them. Three times in these verses he exhorts them not to fear, for he will be their redeemer and deliver. God himself will strengthen them and help them and will uphold them with His right hand.
When life seems overwhelming it is easy to begin to doubt God’s care, especially if we attribute the crisis to our own failures. Because we are still plagued by sin, it is our natural tendency to attribute our problems to God’s angry discipline. But Isaiah 41 provides us a breath of hope. No matter what the circumstances we face, we do not need to be fearful, for God has not rejected or abandoned us and he will continue to strengthen and uphold us. With this comes the promise that his hand of discipline is corrective, not punitive (vs 16), so that his purpose is to transform us and make us new (vs 15).
When we pray, we need to remember God’s promises that he has given us because of our salvation. Prayer serves to remind us that God is faithful to his promise to work in our lives to change us into his image. Adversity is part of God’s redemptive plan. The events unfolding within our nation and the world today may seem overwhelming. But they are not to God, and they are not a threat to his redemptive plan for our life. Just as God’s plan for Israel was not nullified by their captivity, so the struggles we face do not nullify his plan and promise for us. This is why Paul could assure us that nothing can separate God’s people from his love (Romans 8:38-39). As we pray, our prayers need to reflect that assurance so that even in the midst of the outpouring of our requests we celebrate the assurance that his promises are still true. We can pray with confidence, knowing that God will respond because he is a God of infinite patience and grace and if we continue to seek him, we do not need to fear for God is still at work. That is his divine promise to us.