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Someone could say, “God, you did glorious things in the past and you have made glorious promises about the future, but where are you now?”
These are the words of a faithful person, who is struggling with their faith. God encourages the faith of the suffering with the remaining verses of Isaiah 51.
Our Cry – God’s Response
Suffering people remember God’s past deeds and appeal to him for help.
Awake, awake, put on strength,
O arm of the Lord!
Awake, as in days of old,
the generations of long ago!
Was it not you who cut Rahab in pieces,
who pierced the dragon?
Was it not you who dried up the sea,
the waters of the great deep;
who made the depths of the sea a way
for the redeemed to cross over? (Isaiah 51.9-10)
Hebrew people believed that God was stronger than the Canaanite sea monster. Their history remembered the Exodus from slavery in Egypt and how they traveled on dry land across the Red Sea.
God’s “arm” was his ruling strength that made possible their Exodus and existence as a nation.
In hard times people don’t need a history lesson. They need a God who is actively engaged in providing for them in the present moment.
When severe illness happens, when marital disharmony is present, when children make bad decisions, when the troubles of life are present, they wonder if God will intervene for the good.
Faith believes that God will stretch out his “arm” and make a difference in our lives.
God’s response to our appeal is that he will come to our assistance.
So the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain joy and gladness,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. (Isaiah 51.11)
God’s promise to an exiled nation was that they would return. The Exodus from Egypt and the return from exile in Babylon are two significant events in Israel’s history.
God set captives free from slavery and exile. He exercised the power of his “arm” and released the captives.
If you listen to the testimonies of God’s people, you will learn that God frequently intervenes in the lives of humans.
— Sick people are restored to health.
— Slaves to various addictions are released from their power.
— Parents witness the turnaround of troubled children.
— People are released from the all-consuming desire to always get their own way.
I AM HE!
One of my deep desires is for people to know God as I know him. It hurts me to see people miss his greatness and the majesty of his love.
If I am hurt over this issue, imagine how God must feel. One of the reasons why God acts in history is to reveal his nature to people.
His acts with Israel and with people make his nature known, so we can appreciate and experience a relationship with him.
I, I am he who comforts you;
why then are you afraid of a mere mortal who must die,
a human being who fades like grass?
You have forgotten the Lord, your Maker,
who stretched out the heavens
and laid the foundations of the earth.
You fear continually all day long
because of the fury of the oppressor,
who is bent on destruction.
But where is the fury of the oppressor?
The oppressed shall speedily be released;
they shall not die and go down to the Pit,
nor shall they lack bread.
For I am the Lord your God,
who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—
the Lord of hosts is his name. (Isaiah 51.12-15)
When God does not act on our timetable and when we don’t get what we want from him, the natural response is to wonder if he gets involved in human affairs.
God emphatically states that “I AM HE who comforts you.” This phrase in Hebrew is as strong as written language can state the case.
God wants suffering people to know that he is for them in no uncertain terms.
God is infinitely different from mere mortals, who fade like grass. God’s abilities reach from the foundations of the earth to the heavens.
God is the Lord of the hosts of heaven and he is completely able to meet our needs on earth.
When God delays or when God seems to be absent, it is imperative to wait for him. Trust God to be active in your life, even when he seems distant.
The Hebrew people suffered untold grief and sorrow when they were conquered by superpowers and sent to live in exile.
God’s message of comfort to them is pertinent to persons today.
I have put my words in your mouth,
and hidden you in the shadow of my hand,
stretching out the heavens
and laying the foundations of the earth,
and saying to Zion, “You are my people.” (Isaiah 51.16)
The Creator of the universe claims us to be his people. Jesus spoke of God’s desire to live with us in a love relationship (see John 14.15-24).
Let’s not minimize this reality. The Greatest Being of All wants us to be his people, who live with him in a personal relationship characterized by mutual love.
While watching our grandsons on Saturday night, the oldest took me by the hand and gently led me to a room to play.
God reaches out, takes our hand, and strengthens us. At other times, his loving hand brings comfort. Still, he grasps our hand and playfully touches us.
This is the God we serve. As we experience difficult issues in life, let’s hold to his hand and experience his care.
About This Blog
Rudy Ross and I produce a daily video of these blog articles on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel. Rudy is Jewish, a Christian, and an excellent Bible student. The videos present insights from a dialogue with the two of us.
I am indebted to Dr. John Oswalt, who has written an excellent two-volume commentary on Isaiah for insights into the Book of Isaiah.
Please email your prayer requests to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood Baptist Church prayer team will pray for you.