Be Strong

Be Strong

“The coastlands have seen and are afraid; the ends of the earth tremble; they have drawn near and come. Everyone helps his neighbor and says to his brother, ‘Be strong!’ The craftsman strengthens the goldsmith, and he who smooths with the hammer him who strikes the anvil, saying of the soldering, ‘It is good’; and they strengthen it with nails so that it cannot be moved. But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, ‘You are my servant,  I have chosen you and not cast you off’; fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  Is 41:5-10
This passage is during a time of upheaval in the world.  Cyrus, King of Persia, is flexing his muscles and everyone is afraid.  The nations of the world are encouraging each other and seeking to stay strong under the pressures of Cyrus. They encourage the craftsmen and goldsmiths to craft more and more gods to bring them protection.  In reality, all their encouraging words and all their gods have little power against Cyrus.
But, the Israelites, are reminded by God that he has chosen them and that he is the only true God.  He promises to strengthen them, help them and uphold them with his righteous right hand.  The right hand was always the symbol of power (sorry lefties).  Even though Israel has been disobedient and chased other Gods, God in his mercy reminds them of his desire to love and protect them.  
Let me apply this passage broadly.  The world was facing threats and sought the only encouragement it knew.  False gods and each other. Israel, facing the same threat, was encouraged by God through the truth.  The truth that God is the only true God is the only encouragement that changes things.  All the rest is hopeful thinking based on the weak and powerless.  
We are living in a world that is in desperate need of encouragement.  Everywhere we see people scrambling to find something to place their hope in.  Looking for safety in procedures, their leaders, huddling together with those like themselves, isolation, their families, the goodness of others, or the silencing of those who disagree with them.  Each of these disappoint and desperation grows and their cries for hope grow louder.  Their anger at finding none grows with each disappointment.  Divisions and strife are emphasized as people demand we cling to their false hopes with them.  They believe that if more people would chase their false god, then it will deliver as it has promised.  
In the midst of this chaos, God speaks to his children.  He reminds us that he is our God.  He has chosen us and has promised to strengthen, help, and deliver us by his right hand.  We live in this true hope and it brings peace, strength, and compassion for others.  Now, maybe more than any other time in our lifetimes, can shine the brilliant light of hope to those around us.  We can live our lives based on truth and we can open our mouths to share how God truly is bigger than all the issues of our world.  We can a share truth that the world cannot know apart from our sharing and God opening their eyes.  Some may accuse us of being the problem.  They will accuse us of not joining together with the rest of the world.  But others, will run to Jesus and find the hope and peace that God has given to us.  
Now, maybe more than ever, we share many of the same concerns with our co-workers and neighbors.  The struggles of working from home.  The fears we have for our children and their health.  We face the same rise in prices as others.  We share the same struggle with many who are seeking what is right in the face of radical changes in how we view each other.  We must take this opportunity to share the peace of God in the midst of chaos.  We must share the power of prayer and the wisdom found in the Scriptures.  Our testimony is powerful and needed.  Our conversations should find their way to the truth of who God is.  Whether we vaccine or not, mask or not, like this president or not, love working at home or not, etc, should not dominate all that we talk about.  Sharing our hope found in God should be our goal.  Commiserating with those around us about how bad it is will not bring hope to those who so desperately need it.  God spoke of the issues of the day but then he spoke of himself...the only hope.  We must do the same.

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