What a Year!
Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
Without a doubt, 2020 was a peculiar year. It was particularly challenging to stay focused on the right things. I liked how Winston Churchill put it:
You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.
In a year like 2020, there was a lot to throw stones at, and it was easy to become distracted. Your true mission in life is lost in an avalanche of concerns around you. This brings me to Isaiah.
According to Christianity Today, the most searched passage of Scripture in 2020 was Isaiah 41:10. No surprise there! “Fear not, for I am with you!” But when knowing the context of the quote, you see the bigger picture.
Keep in mind this important point: The pride and joy of the Jewish was their “promised land.” When they entered the land under the guidance of Joshua, that land was divided between 12 tribes. I suppose you can call it the “United Tribes of Israel.”
For about 300 years judges ruled over the people as emissaries from God. But the people wanted a king. Saul became the first, followed by David, and then Solomon. After Solomon things really fell apart. Tribes argued over the amount of control they should have and how much control the king should have. There was a divided allegiance to the true God and a bucketful of distractions. Somewhere around 930 B.C. the “promised land” split. Ten smaller tribes formed the Northern Kingdom and used the name “Israel.” Two larger tribes formed the Southern Kingdom and used the name “Judah.”
The kings of Israel never worshipped the true God. They forged dangerous alliances and set up altars to foreign gods. Eventually, the Assyrians took them over, and the Northern Kingdom was lost – half the “promised land” was gone – and so were the people.
Isaiah loved God, and he loved his people. He saw their stubborn hearts and their meandering ways. So, after the fall of the Northern Kingdom, he was inspired to write a warning to the Southern Kingdom. The message? It is looking like “déjà vu all over again!”
The first 39 chapters are called “The Book of Judgment and Promise” and chapters 40-66, “The Book of Comfort.”
Isaiah wrote to real people who witnessed a horrible spiritual decline and loss. They lived in Judah, and they saw how some of their own rulers refused to walk in God’s ways. How demoralizing! They knew what had happened up north. The lost land and shirttail family members. It seemed like Judah was next.
For those people, the believers who saw what was happening and were tempted by the distractions brought on by the turmoil, God instructed Isaiah to write:
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins. (Isaiah 40:1–2)
You and I have seen the life issues multiply over the years, and it does not look like they are getting any easier. The turmoil can be terribly distracting. We worry about what a new administration will do about these issues. We worry about the next pandemic. We worry about discouraged pastors and congregations closing. We may be tempted to ignore it all and pretend it isn’t happening. But God says, “Fear not.” Our eternity is secure in Christ. Stay the course. Love God and love others (Matthew 22:37ff).
God’s love moves us to think more of others than ourselves (Philippians 2:3-5). It teaches us to turn the cheek, walk the extra mile, and be all things to all people with the singular mission to share the truth of salvation in Christ.
At Christian Life Resources we have a grander mission than to morally purify society. Our mission is to use each issue as a bridge to connect with others and talk about why they need to “fear not.”
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