Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Oct 5 2019 - Isaiah 41:1-14 – The Lord will help his people

The chapter begins with a challenge. The Lord has promised strength to his people (Isaiah 40:29-31), now he challenges the nations to strengthen themselves by their gods and to come and show their power (41:1). He challenges them to see that he is the one who is raising up a new power from the east which is now subduing nations and cutting down kingdoms (vv. 2-4). This is the Persian Empire with Cyrus at its head, a power which will soon overthrow that of Babylon. The Lord is raising up this power for the benefit and blessing of his people Israel. Other nations may busy themselves in making new and expensive idols and seeking help from their idol-gods against the tide of history, but they will do so in vain (vv. 5-7).

Israel's God however is the living God. He is the God who chose Abraham to be his friend (v. 8). This remarkable description of Abraham reminds me of the words of Jesus to his disciples in John 15:15, "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." The difference between a servant and a friend is that a servant has to obey his master without asking questions about his master's plans. A friend is someone with whom you share your heart and mind. Jesus shared his heart with his disciples and revealed to them all that God purposed to do for the salvation of the world through his death and resurrection. God chose Abraham and shared with him his purpose not only to bless him but also to bless all nations through him and his descendants. God was pleased to call Abraham his friend.

And now Israel, Abraham's descendants, is called God's servant. They are to be the means through which God will continue to work out his saving purposes for the world. God has chosen them and despite their rebellion against him which resulted in their exile, he has not rejected them (v. 9). God is with them for he is their God. In the midst of the uncertain events of history and the changing fortunes of empires, his people need not be afraid for God holds them in his "righteous right hand"; he will uphold and strengthen them (vv. 9-10).

This theme is repeated in the closing verses of today's reading. God's people may feel themselves to be powerless pawns, moved at the whim of powerful empires, but God encourages them saying:

I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.
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.

I am again reminded of Jesus' words to his disciples in Luke 12:32: "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom."

As these words from the Lord Jesus have reminded us, we also are a people to whom God has revealed his heart and mind – we also have been made his friends. He has chosen us to be his people, he has blessed us with the riches of his grace in the Lord Jesus and he has called us to be those who minister his blessing to a confused, confusing and turbulent world. We may find this a terrifying prospect, for we are all too aware of our own weakness and insignificance. But these words spoken long ago to Israel are spoken also to us, "Do not be afraid… little [flock] …for I myself will help you, declares the LORD, your Redeemer."

Lord Jesus, you have redeemed us and chosen us to be your disciples that we might learn of you and bear fruit that will last for eternity by continuing your kingdom-building mission in this world. Help us to remember that we can do nothing in our own strength. Fill us with your Spirit and with a powerful sense of your presence with us that we may be enabled to serve you to the blessing of those around us and to the glory of your great name.

Peter Misselbrook