11 January 2012

Isaiah 41:1-16

"For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, 'Do not fear, I will help you.'" (v. 13)


The kingdoms of Israel and Judah existed in an almost constant state of war with their neighbours, as well at times with each other. Assyria finally overcame the northern kingdom of Israel and remained a constant problem for Judah. But ultimately Assyria began to weaken and their place as regional superpower was taken by the Babylonians who defeated Judah and took the leading members of that society back to Babylon, leaving only the poorest Jews behind.

In 550 BC Cyrus, the ruler of a small Persian kingdom, attacked and dethroned the king of the Medes. Very quickly he moved west and within a few years the empire of Cyrus the Great covered the known world, from the far east to the "coastlands" of Asia Minor (v. 1).

The exiled Jews could have been forgiven for fearing the worst. They had been subjected to empires that had taken them from their homes. If the ends of the earth tremble (verse 5), what would happen to them under this new and more powerful ruler? However Isaiah makes it clear that Cyrus has only achieved his success because God was using him (verses 2-4). It would not have been possible for anyone to move so quickly and achieve so much without the help of God. Those that make false idols (verse 7) might try to comfort each other but the Jewish people should not fear.

Verses 8-10 and 14-16 are examples of 'salvation oracles', the three typical features of which include:

  • an encouragement not to be frightened
  • a statement of the power of God
  • a promise of hope for the future.

Even though they do not deserve it (verse 14) God will be with them, holding their hand and protecting them from all adversity with the final result being that they shall rejoice in the Lord.


To Ponder

Do you see God at work in the leaders of our world? Pray for those with positions of power and influence.

War and conflict continue to plague the people of the Middle East. Reflect on recent news stories and pray for peace and justice.

Meditate on the words "I, the Lord, am first and will be the last" (v. 4).

Bible notes author

Dr Richard Vautrey

Richard Vautrey is a local preacher and church steward in Leeds, and a former vice-president of the Methodist Conference. He works as a GP, is an elected member of both the BMA council and Royal College of GPs council as well as being the deputy chair of the BMA's GP committee.