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Stephen Scholtz - 28 January 2024

God With Us (Isaiah 41:10)

The book of Isaiah is known for its majestic view of God: his power over the nations; his judgement of sin; and the vindication of his righteousness. All the more striking, then, is the truth communicated to us in Isaiah 41:10. This well-known verse speaks so personally of God’s loving and protective relationship to us. Yet, if we’re not careful, we may confuse God’s care for us with his indebtedness to us. Studying this verse in context will help us appreciate it more, for it teaches us the significance of being loved by the one whose wrath we deserve.

Scripture References: Isaiah 41:10

From Series: "Rightly Handling the Word of Truth"

A series examining some of the most misapplied verses of Scripture.

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This study continues our series titled “Rightly Handling the Word of Truth.” That’s a phrase taken from 2 Timothy 2:15, where Paul tells us, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”

But with the Bible being as popular as it is, it is likely to be mishandled—misused for intentions other than that of the divine Author. The Bible is too frequently taken out of context.

It is misapplied in either legalistic or licentious ways, either binding people’s consciences in ways the Bible doesn’t teach, or allowing people free rein where they should really be convicted. As the saying goes, “A text without a context becomes a pretext for whatever we want it to say.”

So let consider Isaiah 41:10 as we humbly trust God to reveal to us his intention for this passage and, through this passage, his intention for us.

We’ll first consider the context, to see where Isaiah is coming from and where he is going. Then we’ll ask two simple questions of this passage, which I hope will help us rightly handle the word of truth: (1) Who is this God who is with us? and (2) How has he promised to help us?

As we do this, considering the context and asking these questions, we’ll learn that Isaiah 41:10 teaches us something very moving and special about God: that he is with us.


The book of Isaiah is long: 66 chapters of long, poetic, Old Testament prophecy. But it contains a threefold division or structure that will help us see where 41:10 fits within the whole book.

Chapters 1–39 are spoken to Israel and the surrounding nations during the time of Isaiah’s ministry. They contain words of judgement upon Israel and judgement upon Assyria and Babylon.

Isaiah lived during a time in Israel’s history when they were spiralling out of control, disregarding God’s law and thereby incurring the covenantal curses that God had promised to bring upon his wayward children. Listen to some of the opening words of the book:

Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the LORD has spoken: “Children have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.” Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the LORD, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged.

(Isaiah 1:2–4)

So the message of chapters 1–39 is about impending destruction and exile.

But then chapters 40–55 take a noticeable turn. They speak comfort to God’s people during the time of the exile. The section opens with these warm words:

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.

(Isaiah 40:1–2)

While Israel was rightly in exile for national sin, God had nonetheless remembered his people and had a plan to fulfil, similarly to Jeremiah 29:11.

Then chapters 56–66 continue addressing those in exile, but with words of future hope about the new creation.

So Isaiah 41:10 falls in the middle section of the book, speaking to those who were in exile, wondering what their covenant God was going to do with this sinful and rebellious people who were experiencing his wrath. We can see this in vv. 8–10:

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 out”; 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.

(Isaiah 41:1–10)

 So, who is being clearly addressed in these verses? Israel, God’s “servant”, his “friend.”

But if this is a message to Israel, what do we have to do with it? How do we move responsibly from God’s word to Israel to God’s word to us? That’s where our two questions come in. We have to ask, who is this God of whom Isaiah speaks? And how does he help his people?

Who is This God?

Isaiah has a lot to say about who this God is.

Not an Idol

First, he is not an idol. In other words, he is not fashioned by human hands. He is not the mere invention of the faculty of religious studies or the imagination of blind zealots. He is the God who is. Look at how Isaiah expresses it in 40:18: “To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him?” Isaiah is asking us the same question we’re now asking: Who is this God? To whom will you compare him? An idol! May it never be! I like the way the New English Testament phrases 40:25–26:

“To whom can you compare me? Whom do I resemble?” says the Holy One. Look up at the sky! Who created all these heavenly lights? He is the one who leads out their ranks; he calls them all by name. Because of his absolute power and awesome strength, not one of them is missing.

(Isaiah 40:25–26)

God is not only different from an idol, but there is nothing and no one in creation like him. That’s the way God is described, in contrast to idols.

Mighty Shepherd

Second, he is a mighty shepherd. Again, we need look no further than the immediate context to find this glorious image. Take a look at 40:9–11:

Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.

(Isaiah 40:9–11)

Yes, the Lord is mighty, but he is not aloof. He is righteous, but he is also merciful. He is high and lifted up, but he is concerned with the humble. Who is this God? He is not an idol, but he is a mighty shepherd.

Jesus of Nazareth

But, most significantly, he is Jesus of Nazareth:

A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

(Isaiah 40:3–5)

Verse 3 is quoted in Mark 1 as referring to John the Baptist, who came preparing the way for Jesus. The coming of Jesus was the fulfilment of these prophecies. Jesus, after all, is the embodiment of the God who helps us and strengthens us.


What are we referring to when we refer to God? Who are we referring to?

The issue with overusing the generic term “god” is that we often assume everyone means the same thing when using that term.

In Israel’s day, there were many gods that were called upon: Baal, Ashtoreth, Molech, etc. But although they were designated with the same term, they were vastly different from the one true God: the God of Israel revealed in Jesus.

Especially in our own day, the word “god” may be interpreted to mean “the universe” or “mother nature” or “the spirit that lives in each of us” and many other things. This is not just about being technical. It is about growing in our relationship with the true God by getting to know him on his own terms and in his own language.

In conflict resolution, a piece of advice one might receive is to be able to express the viewpoint of the other person in terms with which they would agree. But when it comes to speaking about God, do we speak about him in terms he would “agree with” (so to speak)? Do we use God’s definition of himself?

While doing some research for this text, I came across a devotional on this passage on the Christ Embassy website. Christ Embassy is a large South African prosperity gospel, word of faith church. The devotional read, in part, “It makes no difference what the situation is; be conscious that you can neither fail nor lose; you’re attended by the presence of God.”

Attended? Isn’t that how a slave serves a master? One might interpret this more graciously and say that to “attend” simply means to be “with” someone, and that’s what Isaiah 41:10 says: that God is “with” us. But is it true that we “can neither fail nor lose”? Who is in charge in that relationship? God may be the one with all the power, but we’re in charge; he’s got to get behind our purposes.

But the emphasis of this passage, as with any passage of Scripture, is first and foremost on the character of God. And only once we see his character more truly and more deeply can we find true encouragement in how he helps his people. So if we really know God, as revealed in the Scriptures, as revealed in the context of this very passage, it will deepen the reality expressed by this verse, that it is this God who is with us. The one who judges justly, who cannot be compared to idols, who is a loving shepherd, and who revealed himself in Jesus is the God who has promised to help his people.

But now we must ask, how does he do that? According to this verse and its context, what kind of help did Israel expect and what kind of help should we expect? After all, Isaiah 41:10, as beautiful as it is on its own, doesn’t give much detail. It says that God is “with [us],” so he is near and present. It says that he is “[our] God,” meaning he has a unique relationship to us. It says he will “strengthen” us and “help” us and “uphold us.” But all these things only get their meaning from their context, don’t they?

If I told someone that I am moving house soon, and they responded by saying, “I will help you,” it would be fair for me to assume they mean they will help me move. Or if I told someone that I am struggling to keep my pool clean through summer, and they responded by saying, “I’ll be there for you,” it would be safe for me to assume they mean that they will come twice a week to do a backwash and skim the pool. It would be fair for me to infer these actions from the context of the discussion.

So, we have to look at the context, again, to really understand this verse. The answer to our second question is bound together with the answer to our first question. The kind of help that God holds out to us is in accordance with the kind of God that he is. It’s because he is not an idol, but is rather the Creator, that he can bring into existence things that are not. He can create new realities. He can create new life. It’s because he is a mighty shepherd that he can comfort us and we can be assured of his concern for us.

But according to what follows in Isaiah, the specific help he gives is dealing with Israel’s enemies, the enemies whom God used to bring about judgement on Israel because of their sin. In other words, God will help by bringing an end to his wrath.

And here’s the point about the kind of help that God gives to us: God is coming to not merely deal with the consequences of our sin (his wrath), but he has come to deal with the root cause of our sin (our hearts). He will come to do justice and take upon himself the guilt and suffering we deserve, and he will create in us a new, resurrected heart of flesh. He will restore and redeem our relationship to him. “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins” (Isaiah 43:25). This is put in other words later: “I, I am he who comforts you” (Isaiah 51:12). Then, reading a little further ahead, we come to a very familiar passage:

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and a But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

(Isaiah 53:4–6)

The God who has promised to help us, has fulfilled that promise in Jesus by taking upon himself the wrath for our sin at the cross, and by rising from the dead, conquering our greatest foe, death. Jesus now gives real meaning to Isaiah 41:10: that we ought not fear for, in Jesus, God is with us.