Sunday, March 15, 2009

Fear and the Presence of God - Isaiah 41

"Do not fear, for I am with you;
do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand."
(vs 10)

The goal of verse 10-20 is to stop our fears and start our faith. God's people should not be a frightened and timorous bunch. Why? Several reasons are held forth in this text.

1) We should not fear because God is with us. He is with us in all things and at all times. "Do not fear, for I am with you." No matter what frightening situation we may be facing, the omnipresent God is with us. Charles Spurgeon said: "Fear not Christian, Jesus is with thee, His presence is both thy comfort and thy safety. 'Lo, I am with you always.'" Here are some other biblical reminders of this fact:

  • “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there, if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me.” (Ps 139:7-10)

  • “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and your staff they comfort me.” (Ps 23:4)

2) We should not fear because the ever-present God is OUR God. If we are in Christ then He is with us not simply as "a" God or even as "the" God but once again we see covenant language expressed here in chapter 41. He is with us as OUR God! "Do not anxiously look about you, for I am YOUR God." We don't simply have the presence of the God of the Universe - we have the presence of the God who knows us, loves us, and in Christ has entered into everlasting covenant with us. "I will be your God and you shall be my people." I always feel safer when I'm with those I love and those who love me and none loves me better than my God.

3) We should not fear because this ever-present God is also an ever- strengthening God. "I will strengthen you..." The last chapter pointed out that "those who wait on the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary." This omnipotent, strength possessing God is also the gracious strength giving God. Once again, hear the words of Scripture:

  • "For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock except our God, the God who girds me with strength and makes my way blameless?...You have girded me with strength for the battle." (Ps 18:32, 39)

  • "The LORD will give strength to His people." (Ps 29:11)

  • "The God of Israel Himself gives strength and power to the people. Blessed be God! " (Ps 68:35)

4) We should not fear because this ever-present God is an ever-helping God. Not only does He give us strength, but he gives us help in using that strength. He equips us and aids us! "Surely I will help you." The Psalms give great testimony of this truth:

  • "Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield." (Ps 33:20)

  • "Since I am afflicted and needy, Let the LORD be mindful of me; Thou art my help and my deliverer." (Ps 40:17)

  • "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." (Ps 46:1)

  • "I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from whence shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israels will neither slumber nor sleep." (Ps 121:1-4)

5) We should not fear because this ever-present God is an ever-comforting and ever-encouraging God. "Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." This strength giving, situation helping God is also a hand upholding God. He is walking hand in hand with us in our trials.

I can't help but think of my 4 year old daughter Elizabeth this morning. She has recently entered one of those fearful times that children sometimes go through. She is afraid of the dark. At times she is terrified of the dark. She doesn't want to enter a dark room alone. BUT, if Daddy is holding her hand, she is brave and willing to go anywhere - and I do mean anywhere. With Daddy by her side she is fearless! God's righteous right hand is upholding ours, comforting us in our fears, encouraging us in our obedience. With Him holding us we can go anywhere - without needing to fear.

  • "When he falls, he shall not be hurled headlong; because the LORD is the One who holds his hand." (Ps 37:24)

  • "My soul clings to Thee; Thy right hand upholds me." (Ps 63:8)

  • "Nevertheless I am continually with Thee; Thou hast taken hold of my right hand." (Ps 73:23)

  • "If I ascend to heaven, Thou art there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, Thou art there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Thy hand will lead me, and Thy right hand will lay hold of me." (Ps 139:8-10)

6) We should not fear because this ever-present God is an all-providing God. Jesus tells us "In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage, I have ovecome the world" (Jn 16:33). Paul reminds us "and my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus" (Ph 4:19). Isaiah is pointing out the same truths to us here in chapter 41. Clearly there will be tough, difficult times in this life. We will be "afflicted and needy." But, "I the LORD, will answer them Myself, as the God of Israel I will not forsake them" (vs 17).

Verses 19-20 go on to point out that God will provide all that is necessary for His people.

"The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the LORD, will answer them Myself, as the God of Israel I will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the bare heights, and springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land fountains of water. (vs 17-18)

The great covenant keeping God will meet His covenant people's needs. Are we thirsty?

  • "Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost." (Is 55:1)

  • "And He said to me, 'It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost." (Rev 21:6)

  • "They were hungry and thirsty; their soul fainted within them, then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble; He delivered them out of their distresses.... For He has satisfied the thirsty soul, and the hungry soul He has filled with what is good." (Ps 107:5-9)

  • "Jesus answered and said to her, 'Everyone who drinks of this water shall thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life." (John 4:13-14)

  • "If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scriptures said, 'From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.'" (John 7:37-38)

  • "And the Spirit and the bride say, 'Come.' And let the one who hears say, 'Come.' And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost." (Rev 22:17)

Are we parched and thirsty? God can and will make rivers from even the "bare heights." He can and will make streams in the desert and water from the rock for His chosen children. Come and drink of His free and plentious grace!

Not only will He slake our thirst but He will provide for us needed shelter. He will "place a cedar in the wilderness, the acacia, and the myrtle, and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert, together with the box tree and the cypress" (vs 19). Are we in need of shelter from the thorns of the wilderness and the heat of the desert?

  • "But let all who take refuge in Thee be glad, let them ever sing for joy, and mayest Thou shelter them, that those who love Thy name may exult in Thee." (Ps 5:11)

  • "For Thou hast been a refuge for me, a tower of strength against the enemy. Let me dwell in Thy tent forever; let me take refuge in the shleter of Thy wings. Selah!" (Ps 61:3)

  • "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, 'My refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust!' For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper, and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark." (Ps 91:1-4)

Oh what comfort there is in these verse. How my heart leaps at the hope and help that is found in our God. I need not fear. God is with me. God is MY God. God is my strength. God is my help. God is upholding me by His righteous right hand. God is meeting ALL of my needs and many of my desires. Why do I fret and fear? "Why so downcast, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God!" (Ps 42)

Turning from fear to faith this day,


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