Fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
In the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments, God has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). Everything we need for comfort in sorrow, for power in temptation, for gratitude in prosperity, for faith in darkness, for guidance in confusion. As the hymn asks us,
What more can he say than to you he hath said —
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?
Our Father has opened his mouth freely to us. He cannot lay a sturdier foundation for our faith than the one he has laid in his excellent word.
And sometimes, he tells us almost all we need to hear in a single verse. Isaiah 41:10 is a treasure chest without a bottom: reach as deep as you can — climb in if you want to — and you will find that the gold never ends.
‘I Am with You’
The words of Isaiah 41:10 meet us exactly where they first met Israel: right in the midst of our frailty, fear, and vulnerability. Israel faced nations far mightier than they. What about you? A coming sickness or death? A conversation that makes you shudder as you think about it? Wounds from the past that seem to cast a pall over the future? The thought that God might somehow forsake you in the end?
“Fear not,” he tells us. “Be not dismayed.” Do not shrink back to your favorite distraction. Do not let anxiety consume you. And why? “I am with you.”
Our comfort, our peace, our protection, and our strength rest on these simple words from the mouth of God. And he never tires of saying them. Isaac, I am with you (Genesis 26:24). Moses, I am with you (Exodus 3:12). David, I am with you (Psalm 23:4). Israel, I am with you (Isaiah 41:10). Christian, I am with you (Matthew 28:20).
In only four words, we are no longer alone with our greatest fears. The nations surrounding Israel may have outsized them, but all the world combined was a drop in a bucket compared to the God who was with them (Isaiah 40:15). “I am with you” resizes our enemies against the backdrop of our God.
‘I Am Your God’
Alongside the assurance of his presence, he reminds us of his person. The one who is with us is the one who has pledged himself to us, the one who promised to be all we need, the one who says, “I am your God.”
The phrase takes us back hundreds of years earlier, when God had told Israel, “I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be my people” (Leviticus 26:12). At Sinai, God did not want Israel to wonder whether he was with them. He was their God, and his commitment to them was as sure as his own covenant. Now, on the other side of exile, he assures Israel that his heart has not changed. His promises still belong to them; their names are still engraved on the palms of his hands (Isaiah 49:16). To any who will trust him, he is still their God.
And if we are in Christ, he is our God. His commitment to Israel was as strong as Sinai; to us, it is as mighty as Calvary. He can no sooner forsake us, his new-covenant people, than he can undo the cross or fill the empty tomb. Now we are engraved on the palms of his hands — right beside the scars that say, in words stronger than Israel ever heard, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
‘I Will Strengthen, Help, Uphold You’
Finally, after reminding Israel and us of his presence and his person, he speaks his promises. The presence of the living God offers more than solidarity for his vulnerable people; he offers power. “I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Look at the most fearsome step of obedience in front of you; now hear your God say, “I will strengthen you.” Look at your most troubling circumstances in life; now hear your God say, “I will help you.” Look at all the suffering you’re worried might come; now hear your God say, “I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Strength in weakness, help in trouble, an omnipotent right hand in the shadow of suffering: these are just some of the promises our God speaks to us as he walks with us. What stronger comfort could he give us? What richer assurance could he offer? What firmer foundation could he lay?