My Favorite Verse
Written October 6, 2014
“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.”
We’ve all had those moments in our life when we see the foundations of our world begin to shake. For one it might have been when the doctor came in and gave the test results that were life changing. For others it was when the boss called them into the front office and told them that because of the economic downturn they were losing the job that had provided for their family for years. For others it was the death of a loved one, or a call in the night about a terrible accident, or the departure of a spouse and the filing of divorce papers. Whatever it was those moments are not easily forgotten.
For Judah a moment like this came around 710 B.C. Hezekiah was king over Judah and had instituted tremendous reforms in the kingdom that greatly honored God. There were dangers around his kingdom but there was nothing that could stand against a kingdom that had God on its side. In Isaiah chapter 38, God saves King Hezekiah’s life and things were looking up for this monarch and his people, but in Isaiah 39 Hezekiah made a mistake. In chapter 39 of Isaiah, Hezekiah received heartbreaking news that shook the foundations of every life under his rule.
In Isaiah 39 Hezekiah received messengers from the then king of Babylon, Merodach-baladan. Babylon, at that time, was powerful but by no means superpower in the region and neither was it a God fearing nation. During their visit, Hezekiah showed these messengers all the glories of his kingdom and in doing that he showed his heart. First, he showed a heart of pride and also a heart of mistrust as this was most likely a ploy to gain an alliance with Babylon against the Syrians that had their hearts set on conquering the region. This also showed a mistrust of God and His Almighty power to save. Finally this also revealed a prideful heart for all the things that were in his realm. Because of this God pronounced judgment upon kingdom.
Now to be true this judgment would not come for over 100 years, and it would come after a great deal of sin but this was the beginning. Hezekiah’s actions began to set the stage for the judgment that would come. Therefore at the end of chapter 39 Isaiah states
“One day everything you and your ancestors have stored up will be taken to Babylonia. The LORD has promised that nothing will be left. Some of your own sons will be taken to Babylonia, where they will be disgraced and made to serve in the king’s palace” (Isaiah 39:6-7 ESV).
Judgment was coming and it would be terrible.
Looming over the people was a dread that God Himself was going to deliver them into the hands of their enemy and not only that, but all of what they had worked so hard to accumulate was to be taken away as the enemies’ plunder. This was that moment for the people where gloom, doom, depression, and fear could easily take root in their hearts and lives.
However, God as He always provides, gives hope in the midst of the darkest of hours. The beginning of Isaiah 40 is the beginning of the poetic and prophetic part of Isaiah. In fact if you look at chapters 40-66 of Isaiah it is written entirely in poetic verse. You’ll also notice that it is written with liberation and justice in mind. These chapters do not dwell on the time of captivity for God’s people but rather the coming overthrow of the Babylonian empire by Cyrus. It is in the midst of these chapters I find my favorite verse in all the Bible that gives me encouragement, peace, strength, and joy in the hardest of times.
Isaiah 41:10 says this”
“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.”
In context God is bringing comfort to His people who will, in another century, be in turmoil. At the same time He is giving His people a promise that, regardless of their circumstances, He will not abandon them, forsake them, or leave them helpless. He makes to them some amazing promises. He promises of His presence (I am with you), His Person (I am your God), His power (I will strengthen you), His assistance (I will help you), and His perseverance (I will uphold you with my righteous right hand). What a wonderful anchor to hold onto in the storms of life! What a magnificent rock to run to in trouble! What is wonderful is that all the things that God promised to His people are also things we can rely upon from our Heavenly Father.
Our Savior and Lord is our Good Shepherd who has promised to never leave us or forsake us. He has promised His care, His love, and His protection throughout all of our lives, so the things penned so long ago to a nation that was about to be plunged into chaos are words we can rely upon today as well.
WHAT DOES THIS VERSE MEAN FOR US TODAY?
When I am fearful about the future or events that are unfolding in my life I remember this verse and its first words “fear not.” Where my comfort comes from is in what follows because what comes next contains all the power, “for I am with you.” I love that last phrase. Contained within those five words are the reason why I or you or anyone who knows Christ as their Lord and Savior never has to fear any circumstance in life. God gave the promise that He, the King of kings, the Almighty, the Alpha and the Omega, and the creator of the Universe who holds this world together by the word of His power, is with us. If this verse had ended with the simple statement of “fear not” our minds would have wandered to the very obvious question of why? Why should I not fear? My problems are very real, the circumstances I face are very real, the pain that I am enduring is very real, why should I not fear? It would have been like receiving a flashlight without batteries in blackout, you would have the instrument that could help you but lacking the power to use it. Here God provided the power with His simple words “for I am with you.”
When times of trouble come we need not fear or fret, and not because God has told us not to but rather because He has supplied the greatest reason, that He is with us.
I know who goes before me
I know who stands behind
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side
The one who reigns forever
He is a friend of mine
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side
Beyond the specter fear that comes and haunts my life from time to time, frustration another thing that enters into my life and is a feeling that I know we are all familiar with. I remember back at Christmas time a few years ago that my Grandfather had to have open heart surgery. Being a pastor the situation was familiar to me. I knew the diagnosis well as I’ve had many friends, church members, and friends’ family members have blockages in their hearts requiring them to go through by-pass surgery. I was beyond familiar with every aspect of Duke hospital. I knew the waiting rooms, hospital rooms, ICU waiting areas, ICU rooms, cafeteria, parking deck, and basically every other thing you can think of when it comes to the hospital. I’ve been there more times that I can count in situations, either exactly like my grandfather’s or very very similar. However, I found myself frustrated at the fact that I had very little control over the situation, and I had no idea what the outcome would be. Again, I found myself looking back at my verse and the second part of this passage is very powerful. It says “be not dismayed, for I am your God.” That word dismayed is a neat word. It is the Hebrew word shâ‛âh, in the context it is used it means to look in dismay, or to gaze about in anxiety. What a good word to use for us in the frustrating times of life. We look around in anxiety saying I’m helpless and that is when the Lord whispers in our ear “I am your God.” Here is a reminder of the person of God and Who He has been and will always be to His people. That He is and ever shall be their Deliverer, the source of direction, and the One Who is Almighty and in control. For me it is a reminder that there is no situation I am in, nor is there any situation that will ever arise that God does not have absolute control over. That is true for a tiny blockage in my grandfather’s heart, the surgeon’s hand that worked upon him, or king Nebachanezzar upon his throne in Babylon oppressing God’s people. The LORD is our God and it is He Who is the Almighty.
Who has told every lightning bolt where it should go
Or seen heavenly storehouses laden with snow
Who imagined the sun and gives source to its light
Yet conceals it to bring us the coolness of night
None can fathom
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name
You are amazing God
All powerful, untameable,
Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim
You are amazing God
Another aspect of this verse that is so powerful is the promise that God will give us strength. He says “I will strengthen you.” What a wonderful promise and comforting resource available to us 24 hours a day 7 days a week. What is just as interesting is the type of strength God is promising here. The Hebrew word used for strength comes from a root word meaning to be alert. The idea of strength here carries with it the elements of being alert with courage and confidence. It is to have the determination needed to get through a situation. It isn’t the strength we think of Olympic athletes having as the pick up world record breaking amounts of weights or the strength that professional boxers have in being able to knock another fighter out in the ring. Rather, the strength spoken of here is the fortitude of character to persevere in the most dire of circumstances. It is to endure the hardships that are set before us. Truly that is strength and that is something needed far more often in life than mere physical strength. I also think that within this promise is a very potent truth for our lives. It is the only way to live life is in complete dependence on God. Notice the situation in which this verse is given. It is given to a people who were going to be exiled, captured, conquered, and living in a foreign land. Temptation would be everywhere. False idols would beckon them to offer up their worship in disobedience to God. They would be living in a strange land in need of spiritual strength each day. That is a picture of every Christian. We are strangers in a strange land on a journey to our eternal home. There are temptations we face daily, trials that test our will and resolve, and what we need is strength. We need strength to persevere and to win the battle. We need strength to help us through each day. Praise be to God that He has promised that strength to us.
His strength is perfect when our strength is gone
He’ll carry us when we cant carry on
Raised in His power, the weak become strong
His strength is perfect, His strength is perfect
HELP. It is a simple word. It has only four letters but it is one of the most profound words we can ever utter. Help is what we say when we are in distress. It is the word that instantly brings our senses to full alert when we hear it. It is what we want others to ask for in times of need but, if we are honest with ourselves, we resist asking for it ourselves. Help is what gets us through rough times, it is what makes our burdens lighter and our journey more pleasant and it is what God promised when we go through the dark parts of our life. Here’s the thing, if help is so great and does so much for us why are we so slow in asking for it and so reluctant to receive it? If I might garner a guess I would say that many times we look at asking for help as a sign of weakness. Now I know that is not the case 100% of the time because there are times we don’t want to inconvenience others or burden other people with our problems. The fact still remains that many times we think I don’t need help and we have the mentality that I can do it myself, or if I ask for help people will think I’m weak. The fact is this, life is impossible without help. One of the reasons this verse is so great it that it is a reminder that each hour we live we need help from the Lord. God knows exactly what we need and when we need it and provides it at just the right time. The biggest question is are we looking for it? Back in college I had a friend named Nathan in my Greek class who was training to be a pastor. While there he lost his job that provided the income he needed to go to school and take care of his family. When this happened Nathan went throughout Lynchburg putting in applications, trying to find a job. Interestingly after running around and going through a lot of anxiety, he came home and found that he had a message on his answering machine telling him about a job that was available that would fit his schedule perfectly. I’ll never forget the words he said to me in class, “I should have been on my knees at home in prayer instead of running around town burning up gas in my car.” Let us remember that our life should be a constant journey of seeking the Lord’s help not running away from it.
Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You’re the One that guides my heart
Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You
Finally, there is a promise of God’s perseverance. God says “I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” The truth that is so comforting here is that God’s presence in our lives is always an active presence it is not a passive one. When God is with us He is active. God is not like a potted plant that sits on your window sill, He is the grand conductor of you life’s symphony directing every part that things work in harmony. He is active and ever working whether we see Him or not. While out visiting in a home the other week, I noticed a beautiful cuckoo clock hanging on the wall. It wasn’t anywhere near the top of bottom of the hour so I didn’t stand a chance at seeing the bird pop out but as I looked at it my mind began to think, “I wish the outside of the clock was clear so I could see what was going on inside.” The truth is there is much more going on inside a cuckoo clock than there is on the outside. Numerous gears, wheels, and levers are constantly moving and it is through that the clock works and is able to do the marvelous things that cuckoo clocks do. In our lives the presence of God is many times like the inner workings of a clock, unseen yet without it nothing would work. This verse reminds us God is working and His presence in our lives is active, what we are called to do is submit to this working, to look for His working, and to rejoice in it.
Through His love the Lord provided
A place for us to rest;
A place to find the answers
In the hours of distress.
Now there is never any reason
For you to give up in despair;
Just slip away and breathe His name
He will surely meet you there.
In the presence of Jehovah
God Almighty, Prince of Peace
Trouble vanish, hearts are mended
In the presence of the King
This is my favorite verse. It is a verse I have cherished since I was in high school and it has helped me through many difficult times and has helped me minster to others. My hope is that you have a verse like this too, cherished beloved and ever ready to give comfort and to remind you so some of God’s greatest promises.