“Fear not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea I will help thee; yea I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness.”
This text is not of my choosing this time.
It came to me through a sister in the Lord whom we laid to rest last week. I was told by those dear to her that mother loved that test above all. And so I thought to write some kind of epitaph in remembrance of her.
The prophet wrote these words because of a prophetic vision God gave him. He saw Israel in captivity in Chaldea.
And Chaldea was moved. Indeed, the isles saw a terrible conqueror, and feared; the ends of the earth were afraid, drew near, and came. (I am using Isaiah’s words.) A great conqueror came from the east and from the north, and swallowed up all and every nation in his pathway. His name? Cyrus, God’s servant.
As a result, everyone helped his neighbor, and everyone said to his brother, Be of good courage!
And what did the isles and the ends of the earth do in the face of this mortal danger? This: “the carpenter encouraged the goldsmith, and he that smootheth with the hammer encouraged him that smote the anvil, saying, It is ready for the soldering: and he fastened it with nails, that it should not be moved.”
In other words: the world looked to their gods, and, setting up their idols, they lamented and cried for help in terrible danger!
The encouragement of the world were idols, vain and empty.
But all the while God’s people dwelled in their midst, and they also heard of the coming of this great and terrible host of the Medes and the Persians.
And what of this slave people? Where was their encouragement?
Here it is: “But thou, Israel, art My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham My friend. Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art My servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away.”
And then follows the test of this mother in Israel whom we laid to rest last week. Here it is:
“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness.”
So, Israel does not have to turn to the vain idols of Chaldea, but her help and encouragement come from Him who made the heavens and the earth, from Him who redeemeth Israel of all the ages.
The recipients of this encouragement are historically Israel, God’s servants, Jacob whom God chose, the seed of Abraham His friend.
They are God’s peculiar people, and remained that even though they found themselves between the rivers Euphrates and Tigris; even though they had become a slave people to the heathen. They were not cast away, even though they were sorely tried in this captivity.
And they were God’s peculiar people not because of anything in them, for they were CHOSEN. They were the chosen people of God because of reasons within the Godhead.
All the years of their captivity God had kept His eye and His heart on them.
And when they also joined in with the heathen, and fell to fear and dismay because of the steamroller which advanced to Chaldea, God comes to them in this captivity and gives them wondrous encouragement: Fear not, and be not dismayed.
The beauty of all this is that Isaiah saw all these things many years before their happening. O yes, God is God, and He tells the things that are going to happen from the beginning. He knows; our Father knows!
But, beloved reader, this message of wondrous encouragement goes deeper, much deeper.
The historical Israel is a type of the Israel of God of all the ages. This Israel of Isaiah and of my text are you!
It is the church which always is in the midst of the heathen, of the world.
That church, even as the historical Israel, is chosen and called. They are His peculiar people.
They also came out of Egypt, the house of bondage; they also went dry-shod through the Red Sea, and after seeing the death of Egypt, they always set their faces to the promised land. They all dream of Jerusalem the golden, and at times cry out: For Thy salvation I wait, O Lord!
And that spiritual Israel also is in the midst of horrible things, threatening things.
Come to yourselves a moment. View the things that are happening around you.
Do you not hear the voices of calamity and dread? Do you not hear the voices of the heathen, speaking to his brother and to his neighbor: be of good courage!
Have you not seen how everyone of them speak to the goldsmith; he again to him that smootheth with the hammer, and also to him that smites the anvil? The gods are ready for soldering: soon it will stand, and it will so stand that it will not be moved.
Yes, have you not heard how everyone of them build their hopes on stockpiles of bombs and rockets?
But oh, the fear and the dismay of all the isles of the sea, and of the ends of the earth!
Did it God rub off on you? Did you not tremble and quaver at the sound of the bomb tests?
All right! Listen to this: God comes to you today with this age-old text of Isaiah, and says to you and me: Fear thou not! and be not dismayed!
But even then we have not told you all the truth of this fear and dismay.
The greatest cause of this fear and dismay is not our present-day conquerors. Forget about Cyrus, the tyrant who swallowed up all the nations before him.
Our deepest fear and dismay is because of sin and guilt and death and hell.
Who would not tremble when he thinks of the avenging God, the Judge of all the earth?
And every Sunday morning Jehovah cometh to His peculiar people and says: “Grace, mercy and peace be unto you! Fear not, and be not dismayed!”
And why not?
Because I am with thee! and: I am thy God!
Do you know, beloved reader, that the above statements are about the same as the blessed name IMMANUEL?
Listen once more to the same Isaiah: “Great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee!”
That makes all the difference in the world. They trust in chariots and in horses. In modern language that would be men, warships, cannon, bombs and stockpiles of bombs. But we trust in the NAME. It is IMMANUEL. God is in your midst.
Why then should we fear?
But even now I have not fathomed the depth of the text.
In the midst of the historical Israel; in the midst of the church of God of all the ages there is a very illustrious Personage: the lowly Christ of God. He is THE Servant of Jehovah. A little further in Isaiah’s prophecy he will draw His picture, hanging on the cross, chapter 53. He is a very peculiar Child of Jehovah.
Israel heard the thunder of hoofs and of the war chariots of Cyrus. The church hears the thunder of the wrath of men and of devils all around them. And in the offing they see the black thunder of the law of God that curseth and curseth.
But this Man of God, this Christ, not only heard all the thunder and the malevolent cries of wicked men and devils, but He was the recipient of all the waves and billows of the wrath of God!
Fear and dismay?
O, they were the portion of the Heart of Israel!
See Him as He bows into the dust of Gethsemane’s garden. Listen to the most awful cry of God’s Universe: O My God, My God! why hast Thou forsaken Me?
That is the depth of it all.
But God gives encouragement.
The historical Israel does not have to fear. Dismay is out of place. They need not fear Cyrus, even though Chaldea should.
Cyrus is God’s servant. God uses him to bring God’s people back again to Palestine. Listen to Isaiah: (God) saith of Cyrus, He is My shepherd, and shall perform ail My pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.
God was the help of Israel, the strength of Jacob, the upholding of His chosen people.
So also with respect to the spiritual Israel. God always helps His people. In deepest darkness and the thunder of events, God helps and redeems Israel.
Why? Great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee. That’s the only reason. Jesus is in our heart. And Jesus is delivered out of all His troubles. Yes, He lay on the ground of Gethsemane, while thick drops of blood fell in the dust. But an angel came to strengthen Him.
Out of the tornadoes of God’s wrath He reappeared in the resurrection. And at this time of my writing He sings the sweetest songs of God’s covenant. And the church and the angels sing with Him.
O God of eternal miracles! How did this all come about?
By the right Hand of God’s righteousness.
Isaiah: Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness.
The Church of all the ages?
Isaiah: By His knowledge shall My righteous servant justify many.
Isaiah: The pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.