3–9 December 2017.
When the ancient Israelites looked at the world, they had a lot of reasons to be afraid. The Babylonians were always attacking and fighting for power, and there was little that tiny Israel could do. The strong and powerful did what they wanted, and there was simply nothing the weak could do. It’s a feeling we all know too well. We too get stuck in the swirling storms of life as others use their pride and power to hurt us and influence our lives. And when that happens, we too feel so helpless.
But here Isaiah opens our eyes to wonderful news. The powerful often think they are in control, that they can push us around and control everything. And sadly, it’s true that many people can indeed influence our lives and hurt us. But Isaiah tells us that not all power lies in people’s hands.
Through Isaiah, God tells the Israelites to turn and look: a “king from the East” is coming, King Cyrus II of Persia (vv. 2–3). Cyrus is coming to destroy Babylon’s power. This isn’t by chance; no, God says that he is the one behind this. God is the one especially preparing Cyrus to come and put an end to the power of Babylon.
Here we see that even though powerful people influence us, God’s power is still greater, and he reaches into our lives to undo the work of the powerful and move things the way he wants them to go. Sure, people may influence us in all sorts of bad ways, but the final word belongs to God. And the word God speaks to us is a word of blessing.
Powerful people trust in violence, in their own strength, or in the hundreds of other idols that we people think are important. But in verses 21–24 God tells us that all such idols are finally useless. True power lies in God’s hands alone. And the good news (that we hear in vv. 11–16) is that God uses his power to reach into history, to reach into our lives and sweep aside everything that is harmful and painful, and to sweep away all those who want to hurt us. In v. 12 God tells us: Just wait and see; you will look around you for those who tried to hurt you, but you won’t find them anywhere.
So when the troubles of life seem so overwhelming and when we are surrounded by the attacks of others, remember the true promise that God gives us in verse 10: “Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. And I will hold you up high with my victorious right hand.”
Pastor Stephen Lakkis