(10) Don’t be afraid! For I am with you.
Don’t be dismayed! For I am your God.
I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you,
Yes, I will support you With righteousness, my right hand! — Isaiah 41:10
This is one of the precious promises of the Bible, and I don’t want you to lose that as I talk about it, but I want to try to widen it and deepen it just a bit.
Picture the Israelites at the time they probably heard this verse. We can ignore debates about precisely when it was written. It was heard by the people of Judah in exile waiting for God’s salvation, which is brought by Cyrus, king of Persia. They were promised a return from exile many times, but they never really caught the message until the end, and then only a small number did. Many chose to stay behind in Babylon.
They had been beaten in a series of wars, their homeland had been destroyed, they had been marched into exileâ€”a horrifying journey which the Babylonians had no reason to make comfortable, and they had been told to settle down in a new country. What hope was there?
Then comes this promise. You don’t need to be afraid. I’m going to support you, strengthen you, help you! It’s going to be alright!
But for many of the Israelites, it probably didn’t seem miraculous at all. God didn’t call a Moses to come to the court of Babylon and demand freedom for his people. He didn’t send plagues on the Babylonians and make them long for the departure of the Jews. He didn’t raise up a Jewish leader amongst the exiles, or bring a new heir of David to solve their problems and lead them to new and glorious freedom. I suspect many of the exiles were convinced God wasn’t involved at all.
He sent Cyrus, an unknown Persian king. Isaiah calls him â€œCyrus, his (God’s) anointed.â€ Wow! How disappointing! Then the people have to return to Judah in relatively small numbers and groups. They have to work to rebuild the country. They have to steward limited resources and resist enemies. They have to ask for help from heathen governors and kings. It was all most unspectacular. But it was still God’s plan, and God’s work.
Are you wondering whether God is active? Are you waiting for miracles? Perhaps you need to look around you and ask simply, â€œGod, where are you working?â€ Perhaps you’ll find him in the smile of a coworker, the protection of a police officer, a gift from a friend, or even the wagging tail of a dog. Perhaps you’ll find him in your next breath, and the next, and the next . . .
He will strengthen you, help you, and hold you up. And if you ask, he’ll grant you spectacular vision to see how much is really doing in your life.