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God’s Word for You

Isaiah 41:11-16

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, May 20, 2008

11 “All who rage against you
     will surely be ashamed and disgraced;
those who oppose you
     will be as nothing and perish.

God is talking in the strongest possible language here. The word for “disgraced” is not the usual word bosheth (as in Ish-Bosheth, 2 Samuel 2:8, 4:1). This is the word translated “dishonor” in Jeremiah 20:11 and “shame” in Psalm 44:15. Finally, those who oppose God’s people are in opposition to God. They will be “as nothing.” The perishing described here is eternal damnation. They will perish. To “cause” someone to perish is what the Lord describes in Deuteronomy 12:2 when he says “destroy completely.” But here, the people are not annihilated; they suffer eternally in hell. They are “always perishing,” forever.

12 Though you search for your enemies,
     you will not find them.
Those who wage war against you
     will be as nothing at all.
13 For I am the LORD, your God,
     who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
     I will help you.

There was a scene, not long ago in Isaiah, when the people of Jerusalem were being threatened by the Assyrians, and God made war on them. That time, 185,000 died (Isaiah 37:36). Another time, the city of Samaria was under siege from the Arameans, and God caused them to run away in terror (2 Kings 7:7). Remember the enemy soldiers at Jericho (Joshua 6:21)? Or the Egyptians at the Red Sea (Exodus 18:8)? Or the Amalekites who kidnapped the families of David and his men (1 Samuel 30:17)?

What battles against you? Temptation? Anger? Fear? Worry? Do not fear: God will help you.

14 Do not be afraid, O worm Jacob,
     O little Israel,
for I myself will help you,” declares the LORD,
     your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.

The Lord uses “worm” in the sense of a small, helpless thing. It’s not derogatory, but it is meant to wake the people up so that they would see themselves in the context of their place in the universe, with all the terrors of the devil and his demons arrayed against them.

The word “Redeemer” in the Old Testament is a word that refers to a relative who would be a legal defender and protector of all of his family’s interests. This is the role that Boaz knew he had in the story of Ruth (Ruth 3:12). The breadth of the role is also expressed this way: “Deliver me…defend my cause and redeem me; preserve my life, according to your promise” (Psalm 119:153-154). The redeemer provided an heir if his brother or cousin died without one (Deuteronomy 25:5-10). He redeemed land if someone was forced to sell it outside the family, and he redeemed a family member sold into slavery. In certain circumstances he was also permitted to avenge a family member who was killed (Numbers 35:19-21). The Lord tells us that he himself is our Redeemer, the one who would redeem all Israel, just as he had when they were oppressed by the Egyptians (Exodus 6:6).

15 “See, I will make you into a threshing sledge,
     new and sharp, with many teeth.
You will thresh the mountains and crush them,
     and reduce the hills to chaff.
16 You will winnow them, the wind will pick them up,
     and a gale will blow them away.
But you will rejoice in the LORD
     and glory in the Holy One of Israel. (NIV)

God now calls on the Bible’s image of a threshing sledge, a heavy farming tool, pulled by a team of animals with sharp metal teeth that ripped apart the harvested grain before winnowing. Then the farmer would toss the threshed grain into the air with a kind of pitch fork so that the wind would carry off the lighter hulls and chaff, and the heavier heads of grain would fall back to earth. (Notice that God does not talk about a summer breeze here, but a full gale taking the chaff away—nothing would be left).

God may also be invoking the people’s memory of leviathan, the terrible sea creature from the book of Job, by telling his people, “The leviathan is awesome and destructive—and this kind of unstoppable power is the power that is on your side.” In Job, God had described the leviathan this way: “His undersides are jagged potsherds, leaving a trail in the mud like a threshing sledge” (Job 41:30).

God is on our side. Our sins have made an insurmountable barrier between us and God, and only our Redeemer could and did batter down that barrier of our own sins and rescue us from our own self-destructiveness. Jesus gave up his own life to spare ours—to spare yours. Jesus is more than a hero to each one of us. He is our Redeemer.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.