The Prevailing Promise
August 22, 2004 / No. 3216
Dear Radio Friends,
Today we consider a beautiful passage of the Word of God as recorded in Isaiah 41:10. There we read, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”
I would call that verse God’s prevailing promise, that is, that it is a promise that goes over, and through, all the struggles of our hearts. It has the victory over all that apparently contradicts the hope that we have in Christ.
What is in your way today? What causes you fear? What is it that you see that mounts up and says that the hope that is yours in Christ is impossible?
What is really in our way and causing us fear is always unbelief, the weakness of our own faith. The promise that we just read in Isaiah 41:10 goes over, pushes aside, prevails. “Fear thou not; for I am with thee … I am thy God … I will strengthen thee.”
This promise prevails because it stands upon something. The promises of God, of course, stand upon a foundation. This promise stands, first of all, along with all of the promises of God, upon the foundation of the blood of Christ. In II Corinthians 1:20, 21, we read that all the promises of God are Yea and Amen in Christ. We ask the question, then: Will God forsake me? Will the promise that He gives to me be found faithless? Will He lead me in such a way that destroys my hope? Will He ever abandon one of His own? Well, the blood of Jesus Christ says, No, that cannot be. The blood of Calvary seals the promises of God. Through the cross, God says, “As I have given Christ to experience the death and hell of My children, so I will not forsake them but save them to the end.”
Secondly, this promise stands upon the being of God. If you have your Bible handy, open to Isaiah 41:10 and you will see that four times in that verse God says, “I.” God’s promises, therefore, rest upon His own character and being. We read in II Timothy 2:13 that He cannot deny Himself. We read in Titus 1:2, “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.” God is true. God is faithful. God is righteous. Shall the eternal, faithful, righteous, true God abandon His own promise? Shall He forget? Shall His love cease? The answer is, No! A thousand times, a million times, No!
This promise is sure because it stands upon the blood of Christ. And it stands upon the being of God.
The promise is found in a very significant chapter in the prophecy of Isaiah. The prophet Isaiah is bringing warm words of assurance to Judah as they are in the captivity of Babylon. They are prophetic words, words that see ahead to that situation. In that situation, the people of Judah would see Cyrus king of Persia coming upon the kingdom of Babylon with a power even greater than that of Babylon. Many of the other nations would respond to Cyrus by taking counsel together, thinking that their strength would be in their numbers and in confederation against Cyrus. Then they would turn to their idols. But the Lord God commands His people to do otherwise. He says to them in verses 8 and 9, “But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend. Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away.” God’s counsel to Judah was to trust in Him. That is God’s word to us as well — a word that is fitted for our personal situation and for our need. The Word of God brings to us a prevailing promise. And that prevailing promise is this: Fear not; I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God.
Note that it is, first of all, a command. We read, “Fear thou not.” Fear is when we see looming on the horizon a great evil, which we believe is going to be utterly dreadful and destroy everything in which we hope. Fear is when there stands on our pathway an obstacle that we estimate surely will take everything away from our hearts and prvent the good thing that God has promised to us in Christ. We estimate things, and to our eyes, as far as we can see, the good hope that God has given to us will fail us. Fear is when we walk by sight, not by faith. Then we find much reason to fear. We become scared. Anxieties come and overwhelm us and drive us to a panic.
God was speaking to Judah who would be in the captivity of Babylon. It is very hard to put ourselves in that situation. But they certainly would have great reason to fear and to be overwhelmed with anxiety. Their strength was God. They had no home. They had no protection. They had no military. They were in a strange country. In fact, the prophet says to them in the opening verses, that they were accounted as dust in the eyes of the nations. Then the mighty Medes and Persians, that kingdom under Cyrus, was looming on the horizon about to destroy Babylon. And the question was: What is going to happen to us?
So also we can look out. We see great evils coming. We say, What’s going to happen to our child? Am I going to be able to bear this burden much longer? What about our marriage and the difficulties and the weariness that we experience in dealing with them? What about my health, cancer, death? And then those personal and inward fears that beset us?
But God says, look to Him. Fear thou not; for I am with thee. In the chapter, when He commands “Fear not,” He always gives reason why we should not fear. If you read the chapter yourself you will see that the eye of faith has very much to look at. Do not fear, says God. But believe. Look by faith to Me. He says to us in verse 9, “I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away.” There God is calling us to look by faith to the decree of gracious election, the truth that from eternity God has determined to love His children in Christ, to pick out and to choose His own redeemed in Christ in order that He might bring them to glory. And He says, Not only look at My eternal election; but look at My covenant (v. 8). You are the seed of Abraham, my friend. I am with thee. That means that God says to us, “I have established a bond of fellowship and love with you in the blood of My Son. In that bond you have become My servants and My friends. You are My peculiar people. And in this covenant, I will remain ever married and bound to you. Look to that.”
Then the Lord God says, “Look at Me! Look at My omnipotence and My omnipresence, that is, My all-power and My everywhere-presence. I am with thee.” Now faith looks at these things. Faith does not simply stare itself blind at all the impossibilities that come up against us. But faith looks to God, looks to the God of our salvation. And in God we are strengthened.
That is very important. God comes to us and He does not simply say, “Now forget your feelings. It does not matter what you see.” But God says, “Look to Me.” That is the answer: Look to that which is greater than anything, and all things, that could ever oppose you. “Look to Me. Learn to know Me. Learn to place your trust in who I am.”
The command is repeated: “Be not dismayed; for I am thy God.” The word “dismayed” is a little different than fear. It means to be discouraged at the prospect of trouble, to be alarmed. The word refers to those who are nervous, on edge, their eyes darting around and the slightest noise making them jump. They become nervous and they greet every bit of news with alarm. Judah was tempted to be like that. They saw all that was happening among the nations and they became jumpy; they were on edge; they became discouraged.
So our minds, too. We can easily begin to magnify the obstacles. We are like little children — we exaggerate our trials and our difficulties, and the power of God shrinks in our hearts and minds. That is something very odd about our human nature, our sinful nature. It shows itself in that in the midst of difficulties we can talk up and we can magnify everything that is against us, and we imagine how great it is and how impossible it must be and how hopeless it is, and at the same time we minimize God. We say, O yes, we know God is faithful. Yes, we know that we have that glorious salvation in Christ. But, but…. Then we magnify the obstacles as if those things that are against us are greater than our God. Once again, faith sees God as great. And then, no matter the obstacles, faith sees them in their true dimension.
The command, then, is “Be not dismayed; for I am thy God.” Once again, the idea is that of the covenant: God’s eternal commitment to His people in the blood of Jesus Christ. “I have established, by My grace, a bond of love and fellowship with you, a relationship with you in My Son. I am thy God.” That is entirely of grace. “I have become thy God.” You see, salvation is exclusively of God. It is from God to us. “I am thy God. All that I am is thine. Therefore, be not dismayed nor fear.”
If we are then to have this precious promise in our heart, we must understand the reasons why we must not fear or be dismayed. First of all, it is because of our God and because of the fact that He is omnipresent. He says, “For I am with thee.” What does that mean? It means more than just the truth that God is present everywhere and always. He is. The Scriptures teach us that He is in every part of His creation. Read Psalm 139 for an example of that. There is no place where God is not. God is constantly upholding all and every thing, from the most distant part of the universe to the tiniest speck on the earth. All things are in His hands.
But when God says, “I am with thee,” He means that He is present with His people in His love. He is present with us in Christ. He is present in His grace and favor. Note the words, “I am with thee.” What name of God is that? What is the name that means “God is with us”? Immanuel. Immanuel means “God with us.” So when God says “I am with thee,” we must see the promise of Christ. We must see the Son of God walking in our human nature, dying for us upon the cross solely of grace, uniting us to Him as His body. “I am with thee, thy Savior, thy God.”
But that God is with us also means that He controls all things by His providence for our good, that God is working by a mighty power in and through all things to accomplish a perfect and a holy end for each one of His children. Think of that. The child of God, belonging to God by grace, is not simply meandering through life. It is not just another day. It is not just the same-old, same-old. But God is working in a perfectly wise way as the glorious God — a perfect counsel and plan of salvation — all directed for our good. “I am with you in My favor in Christ. I am with you by a perfect, wise control, directing all things as your glorious God.” Why must we not be afraid? Why must we not be dismayed? “I am with thee — thy Savior, thy loving Father, to direct all things for thy good.”
But there is another reason. We could say that the reason is yet deeper and more profound. It is the reason found in who God is. All of His perfections work in the behalf of His people. That is an awesome thought. In all that God is, He is for us. If God (read Romans 8) be for us, who can be against us? All the virtues and powers of God are focused on and funneled to the glory of His children. It is very important, then, for you as a child of God to study your God. The philosopher says, “Know thyself.” Man says that he must make the object of his study man. And more and more in the church, men make man himself their focus. Now, there is certainly a need for that. The Word of God will certainly tell us what man is and will certainly unfold to us our problems in every sphere of our life. But the focus must be upon God. We must know God! We were created to know God. We must delve into the being of God. We must put aside all other interests. We must be consumed by the amazing truth of our God. “I am thy God. I have loved thee.” Always the object of our study must be the greatness and the majesty of our God. “I will strengthen thee, I will uphold thee.”
The child of God who knows God the best will also possess the best of all comforts. Our comfort will be rooted in God Himself.
God says, “I will strengthen thee; I will help thee.” That means also that the strength of God is granted to us only in the way of working in us humility. Every saint of God must learn this. The strongest Christian is one who knows God in His truth, in His sovereignty, and in His power, and who knows himself in his weakness, sinfulness, and total inability. God brings that out in verse 14 of Isaiah 41 when He refers to Jacob as a worm: “Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel.” A worm! When God shines upon you, He gives you to know that, of yourself, you are nothing. He will empty you of your own strength. He will bring you down low. He will expose to you your pride and your weakness, and then He will fill you with the fullness of Himself. That is always the way it is. First we must know that vain is the help of man. First we must know our own unworthiness, our weakness, our inability, our damnworthiness as sinners before God. Then God says, “I will strengthen thee.” Look unto God.
He goes on to say, “Yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” The right hand in Scripture is, of course, the symbol of authority and power. But it is also the idea of dexterity, of that which is coordinated, that which is skillful. The right hand of God’s righteousness refers to the fact that God will exercise all of His power in a skillful and in a faithful manner toward us. God will uphold us skillfully and wisely. Sometimes we say to the Lord, “But the way is wrong, the load is too heavy. It is not right, Lord. It’s too much — the demands upon me, what is going on in my family. I’m going crazy. The obstacles to my marriage, the future of the church, my personal struggles — it’s all wrong,” we say. God says, “I will uphold thee by my right hand of righteousness, by my skillful, faithful, omnipotent hand. Even though all hell should endeavor to take you, even though the devil would try to pluck you from My hand, he will not. I will uphold you skillfully, wisely, according to My own commitment as it is revealed in the cross of Calvary.”
Let us lay hold of this promise. Let us lay hold of the prevailing promise of God, “Be not afraid, fear not, be not dismayed.” Will we distrust the omnipotent God? Shall we say, “His promise is not true?” Will the faithful God fail you?
The answer, of course, is No. In fact, to say “Yes” is blasphemy. Then we see that our fear is our unbelief. And to unbelief we must say, “Get thee hence, Satan. Thou honorest not God.” Let us leave our fears. Our fears are painful and make us miserable. Our fears are weakening us and making us jump at shadows. Our fears are a dishonoring of God. It is not pious to doubt God. Lay hold of His prevailing promise: I am thy God; I will strengthen thee; I will uphold thee. That is the Word of God to you, now in the situation in which His hand has led you this day.
Through faith in His promise we have comfort. Upon this promise God’s children have put the enemy to flight. God’s children have stood secure in this wonderful promise of God. It is no different for you and it is no different for me. God is with us. I am thy God, fear not nor be dismayed.
So there may be many obstacles, there may be many things that we do not understand. There may be many things that are simply too much, and, according to our estimation, tomorrow may look very dark to our eyes. But we know who holds tomorrow, who holds all things. We know the One who has said, “Fear thou not; I am thy God; I will be with thee; I will strengthen thee.”
Let us then lay hold of the prevailing promise of God.
Shall we pray.
Father in heaven, we thank Thee for Thy infallible Word, the Word that is above all true. We pray that the Holy Spirit may seal it to our hearts and engrave it upon our hearts, that we might confess this truth: Thou art our God who has promised never to forsake us and to help us always. We pray that we might possess that strength even today in the midst of every way of trial and difficulty. We ask that Thou wilt forgive us of our many sins. They are with us in all that we do. Oh, Lord, pity us. Give us, O Lord, to turn from our sins, and give us to believe and thus to honor Thy name. In Jesus’ name, Amen.