Isaiah 41:8-10, 13
But you, Israel my servant,
Jacob, whom I have chosen,
offspring of Abraham, whom I love,
9 you whom I took from the ends of the earth
and called from its farthest corners,
saying to you, “You are my servant;
I chose you and didn’t reject you”:
10 Don’t fear, because I am with you;
don’t be afraid, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
I will surely help you;
I will hold you
with my righteous strong hand.
13 I am the Lord your God,
who grasps your strong hand,
who says to you,
Don’t fear; I will help you.
Through Isaiah the prophet, God pledged to strengthen and help any descendant of Abraham willing to join in God’s redemptive mission for the world. Later, the apostle Paul, who counted on God’s strength for his life mission, extended Isaiah’s promise to all Christ followers. “If you belong to Christ, then indeed you are Abraham’s descendants,” he wrote (Galatians 3:29).
Lord God, I wish all the bad in our world would just go away right now—but it won’t. But you promise that you can and will ultimately make it all come out right. Give me courage to do my part in working with you. Amen.
When I read today’s Scripture and noted the point in the reflection questions that this text was likely written during the exile, I had to pause and re-read the passage. That additional context added weight to my understanding of the text. This profound statement of faith likely came at a time when the Israelites had been cast out of their land and persecuted under Babylonian rule.
It reminded me of the The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the most popular book from an allegorical series of novels written by C.S. Lewis. In it, a group of brothers and sisters stumble into a magical world called Narnia where the animals walk and talk and fellowship with one another. The place could be stunningly beautiful, but it is currently ruled by a White Witch who has cloaked the world in snow so that it is always winter but, in a demoralizing tragedy, it is never Christmas.
The good creatures of Narnia, subjugated under the rule of the White Witch, are scattered across the land; they can only meet in secret, their lives obscured by fear incarnate. But when they do gather, they find themselves bound together by hope. Their conversations constantly drift back to the One prophesied to be their deliverer, the One who was the source of their courage in the face of despair: Aslan.
I think the plight of the Israelites was much like the situation of the Narnians. The Jews were scattered and subjected, often forced to worship in secret or not at all. Yet when they were able to gather, their worship reminded them of the One who was promised, their deliverer, the source of their courage in the face of exile: Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Even in the overwhelming circumstances of being exiled, the author of this text trusted in God. “Don’t fear,” the writer says, “because I am with you; don’t be afraid, for I am your God.” My troubles in life are nothing compared to the difficulties faced by the Israelites (or even compared to that of the Narnians!).
Even in my most dire of times, in my deepest turmoil, God has promised to be with us. When I feel like my entire world is collapsing around me, God has reaffirmed that God is my God, and I have nothing to fear.
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