“I, the Lord, am first,
and will be with the last.”
— Isaiah 41:4c, d (NRSV)
As believers in God—the only true and living God, Yahweh—the people of Israel would draw much comfort from the prophecy of Isaiah, chapters 40 onwards.
And we, too, draw our encouragement today. We are like Jacob, the people of Israel, who were as worms and insects (Isaiah 41:14) in comparison with Almighty God; we are God’s own. The Holy One of Israel is our Helper and Redeemer.
We are not to fear, for God is with us, and the Holy One of Israel is our God who will strengthen us and uphold us with his victorious right hand (Isaiah 41:10).
Promises for Saving & Plans for Redemption
Isaiah 41, like much of Scripture, contrasts those who are justified as righteous by their faith from those who are onerously wicked. The former will be cared for. The latter will receive due judgment at the proper time.
Those who are justified as righteous by their faith, who are faithful to the Word of God as far as they are able, have roles to play towards the ends of social justice and will trust that God will provide the appropriate recompense for both the weary and the wicked (Isaiah 41:15-20).
The ongoing thread, the refrain, of Isaiah 41 is instruction through the Words of the Lord to rely solely on the Holy One of Israel. We know by this prophecy, the promises for our saving and the plans for our redemption.
The Lord is the Defender of the meek; of the oppressed; of those subjugated by life.
Without contending with our enemies, God will speak through his eventual justice. The Lord has chosen to defend us in the courts of foreign lands as well as in our home lands. This is because we are his. We are beloved.
Nothing is beyond the extension of the Lord.
Do Not Return to Idols!
There is great futility in idolatry—in setting up anything but the Lord as the source of worship. We must constantly be reminded of this resplendent truth that is both the way to death and power for life. Our faithfulness is rooted in rejecting idols. Our folly is, therefore, established in being won to them.
Much is the stimuli to go the wrong way in this life. And there are so many wrong ways. All wrong ways lead to nothing, and we can be assured that God sees our choosing of idols as an abomination (Isaiah 41:24).
We must choose the Lord with every ounce of passion, diligence and effort within us, but we must also choose to reject many representations of idolatry.
The Lord has promised to help and, indeed, does so, and has done so. Our role as true believers is to remain steadfast in the faith, which is the only way we can be justified, and the only way we can be identified as the people of God.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.