At the end of last year, YouVersion highlighted the top 10 Bible verses that were shared the most. I found the list interesting and thought that it could be helpful to understand them in their original context. Today we are looking at Isaiah 41:10—which according to YouVersion was the third-most shared verse in 2013.
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 ESV)
In Isaiah 41 the Lord is contending with the nations and expressing his sovereignty over all human events. It is the LORD that is behind the rise of Cyrus the Great—who will come from the east and conquer the wicked Babylonians.
“The coastlands have seen and are afraid” at what is happening in history. They can see the writing on the wall and they know that difficult times are coming. Their response is to make idols to rescue them from the invasion of this mighty army. Their fear has them scrambling for any solution.
In the middle of Isaiah 41 the Lord contrasts the fate of Israel with that of the nations. In verses 8-10 the Lord assures Israel, the offspring of Abraham, that his movement in history is to benefit them. Therefore, they should not fear—the Lord will uphold them in these tumultuous times.
Isaiah 41:10 is a specific promise to a specific people during a specific time. So is it write for contemporary Christians to apply this promise? I imagine that this is one of the most popular verses in Scripture because we live in times that are similar to the day in which Isaiah wrote. There are things all around us that can cause us to dismay and to depend upon the strength of the Lord.
There are actual historical ways in which the Lord fulfilled his promise to Israel. In that sense, this is not a promise for us today. Yet, in another very real sense we can claim this verse as our own. Because just as the Lord upheld Israel in the time of Cyrus the Great so also the Lord upholds his people today.
The Lord is with his people. The Lord is our God. The Lord will strengthen us and help us and uphold us with his righteous right hand. So, while we cannot claim the specifics of this verse the general principle and character of the Lord shown in this passage still stands.
In some ways the truths in this verse are even more true in the life of the Christian. When God says, “for I am with you” we have a much greater experience of the presence of God. Indeed, the Spirit of God, indwells believers. The major emphasis in this verse is on the Lord’s character. The call is for us to not fear and not be dismayed—but that call is grounded in the very certain and unchanging character of our powerful God. This verse is a timeless truth.