>Have you ever been afraid? I am sure you have because fear is a common experience in our lives as human beings. There is no shame in being afraid because it is inevitable that sooner or later you will face an experience that will bring fear to your life.
One of the greatest promises of God for his people is found in Isaiah 41:13: “For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you.’”
Of all people, God’s people have the right to be confident in times of distress. The purpose of God’s words to Israel in Isaiah 41:13 was to assure his discouraged people who were afraid and in distress because of their painful experience in Babylon. God’s words were addressed to Israel in exile but they also have a message to discouraged people everywhere and in every situation.
God’s words provide encouragement and comfort to people in distress and should be a constant reminder to those who need to calm their fears and strengthen their faith. God’s people should not doubt the promises of God. Even when confronted with pain and suffering, God’s people must remember that God promised to be present with them.
God’s promise of help and deliverance is based on several basic truths. The first truth is the character of God. He reminded the people of Israel: I am the Lord your God. The creator of heavens and earth was the God of Israel and he had all power in his hands. God’s power was pledged to protect his people, therefore, they had nothing to fear. He was their God and he was able to preserve and strengthen them in their hour of need.
God told his people: I take hold of your right hand. This affirmation was a declaration of God’s love and protection. Israel knew that it was protected by God. Israel was not holding God’s hand; it was God who was holding Israel’s hand and that was a guarantee that God would not let go.
Another truth that assured Israel of God’s help was the authority of God’s words: I am saying to you. Here is God speaking directly to Israel. God’s voice removes fear and brings peace to troubled hearts. This is the reason God’s people must pay attention to God’s voice. People who reject God’s words deprive themselves of the divine help they have been promised.
God’s promise to Israel was a promise of comfort and assurance: Do not fear. The words of the Lord were addressed to a people who were suffering in exile. He desired to comfort the people who had lived many years in distress and anguish. Israel was his people and he was their God. Israel became a special people, chosen by God to carry out his mission in the world. Although Israel had suffered a painful experience in Babylon, God had not revoked his call nor abandoned his people.
Although these words were addressed to Israel in exile, God’s promise is not temporal, but is eternal. God’s promise can be applied to all his people who are facing a situation similar to what Israel faced in exile. God’s promise is true now as it was when he spoke these words to Israel. The fact is then, that those whom God has called to be his people have nothing to fear, even when the situation seems to be impossible.
Since God is present with his people, there is no reason they should be afraid. God was the protector of his people in the past and he continues to be the protector of his people today. God is always present with his people to deliver them. As Scriptures say: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). God’s people have no greater assurance than God’s own assurance that he is with them to protect them.
God’s promise to his people was direct and personal: I will help you. God’s people can be confident of God’s help because his promises are reliable. The starting point of conquering fear is trust in God’s promises. Faith in God’s promises is the basis upon which the first step to a more confident life begins. This confidence is not based on ourselves, but it is based on the God who is everything we are not.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
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