So Do Not Fear, For I Am With You

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ISAIAH 39:1-41:16 | EPHESIANS 1:1-23 | PSALM 66:1-20 | PROVERBS 23:25-28

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Hezekiah’s health is restored, and in time his kingdom flourishes, as can be seen from his own accounts of how he receives envoys from Babylon in times of peace.  Isaiah, however, foretells of a time when the kings of Babylon will take captive all the children of Israel, but it will not be during Hezekiah’s reign. 

Isaiah also foretells of the first coming of the Messiah in these words that are many hundreds of years later, repeated by John the Baptist when he sees Jesus approaching him. Isaiah says:

3 A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the LORD;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
5 And the glory of the LORD will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

Isaiah continues to speak of the Lord’s promise to the nation of Israel, and in due course, to all mankind.  He says this of the Lord Almighty:

10 See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power,
and he rules with a mighty arm.
See, his reward is with him,
and his recompense accompanies him.
11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.

And in these questions, Isaiah reveals the great majesty and power of the Lord Almighty:

12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,
or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?
Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket,
or weighed the mountains on the scales
and the hills in a balance?
13 Who can fathom the Spirit of the LORD,
or instruct the LORD as his counselor?
14 Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him,
and who taught him the right way?
Who was it that taught him knowledge,
or showed him the path of understanding?

Isaiah offers answers to the questions above in these lines:

15 Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket;
they are regarded as dust on the scales;
he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.
16 Lebanon is not sufficient for altar fires,
nor its animals enough for burnt offerings.
17 Before him all the nations are as nothing;
they are regarded by him as worthless
and less than nothing.

And to leave no doubt to the omnipotence of God Almighty, Isaiah reminds the people with these words:

18 With whom, then, will you compare God?
To what image will you liken him?
19 As for an idol, a metalworker casts it,
and a goldsmith overlays it with gold
and fashions silver chains for it.
20 A person too poor to present such an offering
selects wood that will not rot;
they look for a skilled worker
to set up an idol that will not topple.

Next, in these oft-quoted lines, Isaiah has forever set forth the most fundamental of questions, albeit rhetorical, that serve to allow for deep reflection:

21 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood since the earth was founded?
22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
and spreads them out like a tent to live in.
23 He brings princes to naught
and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.
24 No sooner are they planted,
no sooner are they sown,
no sooner do they take root in the ground,
than he blows on them and they wither,
and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.

And again, Isaiah reaffirms the inconceivable power and might of God’s provision to those that trust in him.  He says:

28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

These next verses are some that most likely are held very dear by the Jewish people from time immemorial, even to the present day.  They speak of the everlasting covenant between the Lord God and the people named Israel who descended from this one man called Abraham.  What a long love and promise that to this day has been evidenced in the manner in which the state of affairs of mankind have unfolded over time. 

The Lord God’s promise to these people is a most wondrous thing in that just as a parent might tell a child to not fear, God Almighty is likewise reassuring Israel in these verses:

8 “But you, Israel, my servant,
Jacob, whom I have chosen,
you descendants of Abraham my friend,
9 I took you from the ends of the earth,
from its farthest corners I called you.
I said, ‘You are my servant’;
I have chosen you and have not rejected you.
10 So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
11 “All who rage against you
will surely be ashamed and disgraced;
those who oppose you
will be as nothing and perish.
12 Though you search for your enemies,
you will not find them.
Those who wage war against you
will be as nothing at all.
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.

Turning now to our second reading of the day, we commence a new book titled Ephesians, which is, in essence, an epistle or letter written by Paul to the young church in Ephesus, a city in modern Turkey.  Paul opens with warm greetings and then wastes no time in getting to the meat of the matter. 

Referring to the great work of Jesus Christ on the cross, Paul presents the entire gospel in these lines:  7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. 

There is no longer any distinction between Jew and non-Jew, i.e., Gentile because this is a redemption that is available to one and all without reservation.

The only requirement is faith or belief in this great gift of redemption.  Paul says, When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. 

Paul goes on to offer praise and thanksgiving to this young church, and so sincere are his words in building up this group in love and encouragement, they are in fact, words that we might wish to offer up to one another in uplifting our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Paul’s exhortation and words of encouragement are as follows—reproduced in their entirety, because I cannot bear to omit even a single sentence! 

He says this:  15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.

Next, we turn to our psalm for the day, and find that the Psalmist is offering up thanksgiving and praises to the Lord Almighty for the many instances of help and deliverance during the course of the checkered history of the people of Israel. 

May it be that we also lift our own voices in offering up similar offerings of thanksgiving and praise to a God who is no longer only a God of the children of Israel, but a God to everyone who believes in him.  David says this:

8 Praise our God, all peoples,
let the sound of his praise be heard;
9 he has preserved our lives
and kept our feet from slipping.

Finally, two sets of wise verses from Solomon, the wise king of Israel as recorded in the book of Proverbs.  The first verse is indeed one that one hopes would be said of ever person:

25 May your father and mother rejoice;
may she who gave you birth be joyful!

This second set of verses are part of a series of “sayings”, and this one concerns the value of a good wife:

26 My son, give me your heart
and let your eyes delight in my ways,
27 for an adulterous woman is a deep pit,
and a wayward wife is a narrow well.
28 Like a bandit she lies in wait
and multiplies the unfaithful among men.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.

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