I want to hold your hand – Thursday, 2nd Week in Advent – Isaiah 41:13-20
Today we read of mercy in the midst of madness. For seventy years the people of Israel were. in exile. Chapter 41 offers hope that now seems to take on concrete form. In 41:2 we read, “who has roused a victor from the east, summoned him to his service? “This is certainly a reference to Cyrus the Great of Persia, though he is not named until (44:28). The Lord anointed Cyrus the Great, king of Persia who ruled from 550 – 530 B.C., to accomplish His righteous will by conquering Babylon (in 539 B.C.), and allowing some of the Jewish exiles to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple.
Scattered through the text of Chapter 41 is the reassurance of God, seen in the form of assurance, protection and providence.
Assurance is experienced in the words “do not fear” which appears in verse 10, 13 and 14. On reading the text of verse 14 one is left a bit perplexed. The verse reads, “ do not fear, you worm Jacob, you insect (men of) Israel. I will help you says the Lord.” While Israel and Jacob certainly needed to be called out for the years of disobedience and rebellion against God, did they really need insult to injury?
While we may think that the analogies could have been a bit more sensitive we need to keep in mind what God wants to communicate and sometimes the most unexpected examples serve to fully draw out a point being made. A worm is an insect that has no spine and in reality is at the bottom of the food chain. Yet it is this creature that could be so easily crushed in a fraction, that will be taken and made into a threshing sledge; new and sharp. It will be able to crush the mountains and grind the hills into chaff. God’s assurance is for us too; we have ‘mountains’ in our lives, those insurmountable obstacles that challenge us. At times we feel like we are at the bottom of the food chain, ready to be devoured by forces around us. God assures us this advent that we will not be crushed, that no obstacle is too great for God and that shows us He is with us.
Verse 13 reads, “ For I the Lord your God, hold your right hand.”
How many of you are right-handed? If yes, you are among the group of 85 to 90% who are. Have you ever wondered why? Scientist has pondered this question for centuries. Most agree that it was evolutional in nature. Observe people with their children; you will notice that most parents hold their child’s right hand with their left. I am sure that they are probably not aware of this tendency. But perhaps there is a grain of protection to this decision. Very unaware, perhaps they felt better able to protect their child with their dominate hand. Also making the child feel more secure by having their hand in control of a greater power. Yet God chooses to hold us with OUR right hand which means that he is using HIS left hand ( unlike most parents).
God paints a picture here. We see a heavenly Father holding his child by their right hand. His left hand enfolds ours while his right hand is free to protect us. He doesn’t ask us to reach out our right hand to him. Rather He reaches down to clasp our right hand. He did this when He sent his Son to be born in a manger as a human. Jesus was God reaching down to grab our right hand.
Man’s reaction to such a compassionate move was to be afraid. When the angel appeared to Mary, his first words were “Don’t be afraid.” When the angel appeared to the shepherds, their first words were “Don’t be afraid.” When Jesus performed the miracle of catching the fish, He told Simon Peter, “Don’t be afraid.”
Finally the text talks about providence made explicit by references to thirst in verses 17 and18. Thirst is used here because it is a powerful image of every deep human need – physical, spiritual, and emotional. It expresses the thought that at any time the needy, those who thirst, are driven to seek God’s promises. He will relieve us, when we are brought to this thirsting condition. God will respond to our cries personally (I, the Lord, I will answer them).
As we continue our journey through Advent may we be blessed by knowing that God wants to hold our hand. Now sing the song…..