John Piper, in a sermon, “Fear Not, I Am with You, I Am Your God” (Isaiah 41)
When God calls you to be free from fear as you do evangelism, as you take a test, as you face an interview, as you take a stand against an unjust business practice, as you confront someone with sin in their life, when you leave a secure position and take a risk in a new venture, when you face an operation or a treatment, when you lose a spouse or a friend—when God calls you to be free from fear (to overcome this natural emotion and have peace), he does not leave the command hanging in the air. He puts pillars under it. Five of them. That’s the nature of all biblical commands. They come with divine support.
- Fear not . . . God is with you;
- Fear not . . . God is your God;
- Fear not . . . God will strengthen you;
- Fear not . . . God will help you;
- Fear not . . . God will uphold you.
The Key to Overcoming Fear
The key to overcoming fear is resting on the pillars of the promises of God.
We’ll come back to these pillars in a moment. Look with me for a minute at the verses leading up to verse 10 to see how they intensify these promises and strengthen these pillars.
If the key to fearlessness is believing that God is your God and is with you and will strengthen you and help you and uphold you, then knowing the greatness of this God will intensify your faith and your fearlessness.
Four Glimpses of God’s Greatness
So look at the Glimpses of God’s Greatness that Isaiah gives.
Glimpse #1: The Judge of All the Earth
In Isaiah 41:1 God says, “Coastlands, listen to Me in silence, and let the peoples gain new strength; let them come forward, then let them speak; let us come together for judgment.”
Here is a picture of God calling all the coastlands and all the peoples to gird up their strength and come before him for judgment. The God of Isaiah 41:10 is the judge of all the earth. He calls all nations to give an account of their lives and their religions and their thoughts. He is not called to account. He is not on trial. They are. They come into his courtroom. He is the judge of all and will pass sentence on every person. That’s the God who is with you to strengthen and help.
Glimpse #2: The Ruler of All Rulers
In Isaiah 41:2–3 Isaiah asks, “Who has aroused one from the east [probably Cyrus the Persian king that God stirred up to come against Babylon] whom He [God] calls in righteousness to His feet? He delivers up nations before him, and subdues kings. He makes them like dust with his sword, as the wind-driven chaff with his bow.”
Here is a picture of God rousing a king and leading him in conquest and delivering up nations before him. So the God of Isaiah 41:10 is Ruler of the rulers of history. He controls the affairs of men and nations for his purposes. That’s who gives the pillars for fearlessness in Isaiah 41:10.
Glimpse #3: The Uncreated First, Yahweh
In Isaiah 41:4 Isaiah asks, “Who has performed and accomplished it, calling forth the generations from the beginning? ‘I, the Lord, am the first, and with the last. I am He.’”
Here is a picture of God not only judging the nations and ruling the rulers of the earth but calling all the nations of the earth into being—”calling forth the generations from the beginning.” God is the first—he is the absolute reality before all other reality and on which all other reality depends. He is the uncreated first. And he will be there with the last when all is accomplished according to his eternal purpose.
When God answers, “I, the Lord, am the first . . . ,” the word “Lord” is “Jehovah” or Yahweh. Franz Delitzsch comments on this verse: “It is the full meaning of the name Jehovah which is unfolded here; for God is called Jehovah as the absolute I, the absolutely free Being, pervading all history, and yet above all history, as He who is Lord of His own absolute being, in revealing which He is purely self-determined; in a word, as the unconditionally free and unchangeably eternal personality” (cited in E.J. Young, The Book of Isaiah, vol. 3, p 76). That’s the God of Isaiah 41:10 who strengthens and helps and upholds.
Glimpse #4: The God Who Chose His Own People
In verses 5–7 Isaiah shows us the desperate attempts of the nations to persuade themselves that they and their gods are strong. Verse 5: they are afraid and they come together. Verse 6: they try to encourage each other not to be afraid, and say, “Be strong!” Verse 7: the idol makers who smooth the metal and nail up the idols with nails try to encourage each other and say, “It is good.”
In other words, there is a picture of the unrepentant nations desperately trying to convince themselves that their self-wrought gods, made with soldering and nails, are really adequate for their needs.
Over against this desperation of self-reliance and idolatry God says to his people in verses 8–9, “But you [are] Israel, My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, descendant of Abraham My friend, you whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its remotest parts, and said to you, ‘You are My servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you.’”
In verses 1–9 there is a picture of the God who judges the nations, and rules the rulers of the nations, and calls the nations into being, choosing his people for himself, calling them from their hopeless distance from him, and taking them to be his servant.
That is what God has done for us in Christ. He chose us before the foundation of the world. He called us out of darkness and death. And he took us for himself to be his. To make himself our God.
These Glimpses Intensify the Five Pillars
Now all that, I say, intensifies the five pillars of fearlessness in Isaiah 41:10.
- The God who judges all the earth and calls the coastlands to give account . . .
- The God who rules the rulers of history . . .
- The God who calls the nations of earth into being because he is first and last . . .
- The God who calls his own people and makes himself their God freely and graciously . . .
That God says to us who believe,
- I am your God.
- I am with you.
- I will strength you.
- I will help you.
- I will uphold you.
Then Comes the Command—On These Pillars
- Therefore—because I am the judge of the nations . . .
- Therefore—because I rule the rulers of history . . .
- Therefore—because I call nations into being . . .
- Therefore—because I choose freely my own . . .
- Therefore—because I—this great and sovereign God—
- am your God and
- am with you and
- will strengthen you and
- will help you and
- will uphold you . . .
Therefore, do not fear.
Or change the image for a moment. Not five pillars. But God in five relations to you expressed in five different prepositions.
- I am your God—over you.
- I am with you—by your side.
- I will strengthen you—from inside of you.
- I will help you—all around you from wherever the enemy comes.
- I will uphold you—from underneath you.
Over you, by you, inside you, around you, underneath you.
Therefore do not fear.
Our Final Ground for Fearlessness
We come to the end of this series with one great ground for fearlessness—GOD!
- I am your God.
- I am with you.
- I will strengthen you.
- I will help you.
- I will uphold you.
I call you this morning to stop defining and limiting your future in terms of your past and start defining it in terms of your God.
I call you to recognize that God is greater than your personality. God is greater than your past experiences of timidity. God is greater than your “family of origin.” And God calls you to joyful fearlessness.
The crucial factor in your fearless living is not your family but your God.
“Let not your hearts be troubled, BELIEVE IN GOD.” Believe in God! Trust God! Let God be your God! Your help. Your strength. He will uphold you with his righteous right hand.
To read or listen to the rest of the sermon, click here: