In Isaiah 41:1–12, we find a quick summary of God’s redemption plan for the exiled remnant of Israel, a plan that is further developed in later chapters. With words of comfort and assurance, God promises to bring His chosen “offspring of Abraham” back to their homeland: “I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:9–10).
Motivated by an enduring love for His people, God encourages Israel to trust Him for the future. Despite their past rebellion, Israel was not abandoned by the Lord. Throughout every twist and turn of Israel’s long history—from slavery in Egypt, wandering in the desert, conquering in Canaan, to captivity in Babylon—God wanted His people to understand that He had always been and was still “with you.” He was still “your God” who “will strengthen you and help you.”
God’s promise, “I will strengthen you,” is packed with more meaning than meets the eye. In the original Hebrew, the verb translated “to strengthen” entails making someone stronger and stronger; it means “to grow and develop; to prevail; to have or show courage; to seize, grasp, and keep hold of.” God was aware of His people’s weaknesses; He used everything in their personal experience and journey of faith to develop strength and courage in them. The Lord was with them; He had seized hold of them and would never let them go.
Scripture pictures God’s strengthening presence as a strong, piloting hand: “If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (Psalm 139:8–10; see also Psalm 63:8; 73:23). God’s “right hand” symbolizes His power and strength.
The Lord’s presence with us, along with our trust in Him, brings strength: “He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:29–31, NLT). Because of his close relationship with the Lord, the psalmist Asaph could say, “My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever” (Psalm 73:26, NLT).
That same awe-inspiring power God demonstrated throughout Israel’s history is still available to us today through a relationship with Jesus Christ (Philippians 4:13). If we are born of God’s Spirit, Jesus is our source of strength to overcome the trials and temptations of this life (John 16:33; 1 John 5:4). Through Him, we are “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37). When we are weak, He is strong in us (2 Corinthians 12:9–10).
The apostle Paul testified that it was God’s strength alone that enabled him to preach the gospel: “But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:17–18; see also 1 Timothy 1:12). Paul trusted God—who stood at his side—to give him strength and deliver him safely through every hostile experience until he reached his heavenly home.
As God used Israel’s personal experiences of hardship and adversity to strengthen them, He uses our suffering today. Peter wrote, “In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation” (1 Peter 5:10, NLT). James also taught that our suffering produces character and strength (James 1:3–4).
Some days, believers may feel like Israel did in captivity: abandoned, rejected, disheartened, alone, and afraid. If you need God’s strength today, remember His comforting assurance: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”