God Is Our Strength

Isaiah

God Is Our Strength

January 18th, 1976 @ 8:15 AM

Isaiah 41:10-14

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with thee shall perish. Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find them, even them that contended with thee: they that war against thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought. For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee. Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the LORD, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.
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GOD IS OUR STRENGTH

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Isaiah 41:10, 13-14

1-18-76    8:15 a.m.

 

We welcome you who listen to the service over the radio of the city of Dallas, WRR.  You are sharing with us the service of the First Baptist Church, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled God Our Strength.  It is an exposition of a beautiful and glorious word from heaven, written by God’s servant Isaiah, in the forty-first chapter of his prophecy; beginning in verse 10:

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness.

[Isaiah 41:10]

Verse 13:

For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.

Fear not, thou worm Jacob . . . I will help thee, saith the Lord, and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.

[Isaiah 41:13-14]

Then in the following message we shall look at these verses that follow after in our exposition.  Do you notice the address, “thou worm Jacob?  I will help thee; I will strengthen thee, I will uphold thee by My right hand, thou worm Jacob.”

There is not a humanist and a rationalist in the earth but would categorize that as an insult.  “What?  I am a worm?  I am a man of great and lofty dignity.  I write my own Bible.  I fashion my own letter.  I lay it against the stars, and I mount up to heaven by my own strength.  I have even walked on the moon.  My right arm will sustain me, and my mighty sword will strengthen me.  I am no worm, and it is an insult to my intellectual abilities and my scientific achievements and my personal advancement to categorize me as a worm.”

I find that drifting over everywhere, even into the world of theology and ecclesiology, in our church life.  In the latest Baptist hymnbook, you read the first stanza of Isaac Watt’s famous hymn.

Alas! and did my Savior bleed

And did my Sovereign die?

Would He devote that sacred head

and Issac Watts wrote it,

For such a worm as I?

[from “Alas and Did My Savior Bleed,” Isaac Watts, 1707]

And you read it in the hymnbook.  They have changed it to, “For sinners such as I.”  The category of a worm is too big an insult even for the ecclesiastical leaders of our modern day.  But God said, “Thou worm Jacob, I will help thee and strengthen thee and holden thee with My right hand, thou worm Jacob” [Isaiah 41:10, 13-14].  And in my humble persuasion, and in the years of my pilgrimage, I cannot think of a descriptive epithet that is more appropriate for a man made out of the dust of the ground and out of the ash heap.

“What is man,” cried the psalmist, “that Thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that Thou visitest him?” [Psalms 8:4].  He is like a worm.  Before the ages of eternity, our life is a flash.  It’s a moth.  It’s an autumnal leaf.  It perishes in a moment.  Before the great infinitude of the vast, illimitable creation, we are nothing but a passing atom.  The weakness of a man is known, and felt, and experienced by us all; “thou worm Jacob.”

We have no ableness before sin.  There is no man that lives righteously, and holily, and purely, and sinlessly.  He is a victim of a black drop, in which he finds himself inextricable.  It’s in his veins.  It’s in his life.  He is helpless before sin and the judgment that follows it.  He is a worm.  He is helpless before death.  Name any great and mighty man who ever lived.  I can write the whole biography.  “He lived, and he died, and turned back to the dust of the ground” [Genesis 3:19].  He is a worm in the presence of death.  He is a worm in the presence of the vicissitudes and fortunes that overwhelm him, over which he has no control.  He is drowned sometimes in rivers of sorrow and in streams of anguish and hurt and tears.

Some of the mightiest men in our own city have been reduced to penury and want and poverty in these last few years.  He is a worm before the fortunes that overwhelm him, the rivers of disappointment and discouragement that faze and drown him.  And he is a worm before the great assignment that God has mandated him.

If a man doesn’t attempt anything, then he doesn’t miss anything, doesn’t miss the help, doesn’t miss the strength.  If he is not doing anything, then there is no need for him to look upon, or look forward to, or up to any help or strength in his work.  But if a man attempts something for God and accepts a great assignment from God, you’ll find that man down on his face and down on his knees.  He’s like a worm.  He’s not able and he’s not strong to achieve it.

I was thinking this week, “Lord, Lord, into how much have I led our church?”  In our building program and in our outreach, we are more than $5,000,000 in debt, and every year out of our giving program, there’s something like $450,000 that pays for interest.  And then I think of our academy.  What a tremendous responsibility to build that school gloriously.  Then I think of our Bible Institute and these young men and young women who are asking me from the ends of the earth about attending our Bible Institute.

And then this TV ministry; our men are getting ready to take our televised service and to place it in all the great populated cities of America, and if God would bless, beyond the sea; this side the carrying through and onward, and upward the vast assignment of shepherding and teaching the thousands that are in the membership of this congregation, and the other thousands we are trying to reach for Jesus. Lord, Lord, I’m like a worm on my face in the dust.  The work is so great, so mighty, so vast, and I am so weak.  Can you realize therefore how much this heavenly passage has meant to my own soul as I have prepared the message and how much I pray it will mean to us?

“Fear not, thou worm Jacob . . . for I will help thee, saith the Lord, saith the Redeemer, and saith the Holy One of Israel” [Isaiah 41:14]: all three in the Godhead are summon to stand by the side of the man who will attempt God’s work in the earth—“thou worm Jacob; I will help thee, saith the Lord”—capital L-O-R-D—it could be translated maybe Yahweh, Jehovah God the Father—“saith the Redeemer,” our Savior, “saith the Holy One of Israel,” the Holy Spirit of God [Isaiah 41:14].  All three in the Godhead marshal themselves to stand by the man who will attempt God’s work in the earth.  And he repeats it:  “Fear thou not; for I am with thee . . . I will strengthen thee, yea; I will help thee, yea; I will uphold thee with My right hand.”  “I am the Lord thy God.  I will hold thy right hand, yea, Fear not, I will help thee” [Isaiah 41:13].  And again, “Fear not, thou worm Jacob: I will help thee, saith the Lord Jehovah God the Father, saith thy Redeemer,” the blessed Jesus, “saith the Holy Spirit,” who lives in our heart [Isaiah 11:14].

Why shouldn’t we therefore be holpen, helped when God so promises His Spirit of victory if we will do God’s work in the earth?  When a cherub or a seraph is called before the throne of grace and God assigns the cherub or the seraph a mission, could you imagine that cherub or that seraph saying, “O Lord, I am so weak.  I do not have the strength to do it.”  It is inconceivable when God would call one of His heavenly messengers to stand before Him to be sent on a mission, I can think of no other thing than that—the cherub or the seraph bows in meekness and says, “O my Lord, I fly.  I fly.  I fly”: the mandate carries with it strength for the mission.

So it ought to be with us.  If God has assigned us a task and mandated to us a mission, we ought to bow, worms that we are, made of the dust and the ashes of the ground, and say, “O Lord God, lead me in the way.  Stand by my side and help me.  I move.  I try.  I work!”  Think of the strength of God when He bestows it upon a man in the task.  The strength of God in a man’s right hand; and with the jawbone of an ass, the Philistines lay in heap under the great strength of God in heaven [Judges 15:14-16].  Think of the strength of God’s hand in a man’s hand, and with just a sling, the shepherd boy brought down the great and towering Goliath [1 Samuel 17:49].

Think of God’s strength in a man’s word, in a man’s mouth.  And at Pentecost, there were thousands, some of whom had crucified the Lord Himself; there were thousands who turned to the faith [Acts 2:14-41].  And I have not time to speak of the heroes, who, by God’s strength, stopped the mouths of lions, were delivered from the edge of the sword, wrought righteousness, the subdued kingdoms [Hebrews 11:32-33].  What God can do!  “Fear not, thou worm Jacob; I will help thee, saith the Lord” [Isaiah 41:14].

In these weeks between Sundays, I am preaching, as you know, through the State Evangelistic Conferences; this coming week through Tennessee and Ohio; this last week in Florida and Alabama.  Wednesday night of last week, concluding the Evangelistic Conference in Florida, they gathered a vast throng for a patriotic, spiritual convocation.  They had two speakers that night, the governor of the state, Reubin Askew, and your pastor.

The governor spoke first, and what he said was headlined in the paper the next day.  He described his election to the highest office in the state, and then described his going to Tallahassee, Florida, the capital city, weeks early in order to form his government and appoint the men who were to work with him on his commission.  And he said, “As I worked, the burden and the responsibility became so great that I couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t keep down my food.”

He facetiously said, “I thought I was going to be the first governor in the history of the state to resign before he was even inaugurated.”  Then he said, “In my desperation, I sat down in my room and said, ‘What am I doing wrong?  I cannot sleep, and the burden is so great I cannot keep down my food.  What am I doing wrong?  What has happened to me?’”  Then he said, “It came to my heart like a message from heaven.  ‘You are attempting all the work in your own strength.  Let God help you.  Let Him stand by your side.’”

He said, “I fell on my face before the Lord.  I fell down on my knees before God.  I told God all about it.”  And he said, “I rose from my knees in the strength of the power of the Almighty.”  And he said, “From that moment on, I have slept like a child every night.  I have been strong in my physical frame, and the Lord has been with me and has blessed me.”  A tall, handsome man, one of the finest looking men you’ll ever see is that Reubin Askew, the governor of Florida.

He said, “The people have said to me in my governorship, ‘How is it that you speak so plainly of Christ and what Christ has done for you?  How do you do that being a politician?’”  The governor replied, “I say to them, ‘I was a Christian before I was elected governor.  I shall be a Christian after I cease being governor, and I see no reason to change in between.’”

“Thou worm Jacob, fear not; for I will help thee, saith the Lord, saith the Redeemer, saith the Holy Spirit of God” [Isaiah 41:14].  You look what He does.  The man may have some great assignment, and God says in verse 13, “I will hold thy right hand” [Isaiah 41:13].  The man may be in a warfare.  Look in verse 15: “I will make thee a sharp threshing instrument having teeth: and thou shalt beat the mountains, and make the hills as chaff” [Isaiah 41:15].

He is likened, this man of God on a mission from heaven, he is likened to a man in a great wilderness, and “there is no water, and the tongue faileth for thirst, I will hear Thee saith the Lord.  I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valley: I will make the wilderness a pool, and the dry land springs of water” [Isaiah 41:17-18].  Then he likens the man doing His work to someone in a great, weary desert without food.  And he says, “I will plant in the wilderness the cedar and the oil tree” [Isaiah 41:19a].

“Thou worm, I will help thee, saith the Lord” [Isaiah 41:14].  A young Christian, and he’s starting out on the pilgrimage to the Holy City, he’s just saved.  And he will find it always, you’ll find, that young Christian will find, the host of hell will assail.  As long as you drift downstream, you’ll have no trouble; it’s when you turn to go upstream that you’ll find trouble.  And the young Christian finds trouble, and he says, “This is a warfare that I cannot win.  This is a pilgrimage, a goal of which I cannot reach.  This is an assignment I cannot do.”  And discouraged, he says, “I’ll go back into the world.  I’ll turn back into the world.”

“Oh,” says God, “do not be discouraged and do not turn back, for I will help thee, and My right hand will uphold thee” [Isaiah 41:10].

Here is a veteran Christian.  We’ve been in this pilgrimage for the years of our lives.  We have asked.  We have assumed and attempted a great thing for God.  But, oh dear! the trials and the problems and the difficulties in the way for this vile world is oppressing me.  “Fear not, thou worm Jacob; I will help thee and hold thy right hand” [Isaiah 41:13-14].

Standing before the rolling Red Sea, the crack of the whips of the Egyptians [Exodus 14:9-12], the flame there at the backs of us [Exodus 14:21-24]; journeying through a trackless wilderness, in a desert where there’s no food to eat [Exodus 16:3], finally coming to a swollen Jordan River [Joshua 3:1]: “Fear not, thou worm Jacob, I will help thee; saith the Lord” [Isaiah 41:14].  “The waters shall divide.  You will pass over dry-shod [Exodus 14:16].  My pillar of cloud by day and My pillar of fire by night shall guide thee through the trackless wilderness [Exodus 13:21-22].  I will feed thee manna from heaven [Exodus 16:12-18].  I will part the waters of the swollen Jordan [Joshua 3:13], and you shall enter in triumph into the Promised Land [Joshua 4:1-24].

Fear not, thou worm Jacob, I will help thee” [Isaiah 41:14]. It’s something that God promised to us in all of the assignments that the Lord lays before us; He asks us to be unafraid, even in the presence of death.  Be unafraid.  And it is in His goodness and in His mercy that He saves us when we cannot save ourselves.

Where is a man who could forgive his own sin?  Where is the man who could write his own name in the Book of Life?  Where is the man who can deliver himself to heaven someday?  Thou dying, helpless worm; “Fear not, I will help thee; saith the Lord God, saith thy Redeemer, the blessed Jesus, saith the Holy Spirit of God [Isaiah 41:14]. I will save you.  I will keep you.  I will deliver you.  I will raise you up. I will.”

As you know, I came to pastor the church from Muskogee, Oklahoma, the seat of the five civilized tribes.  There were so many things I learned from those Indians.  About the oldest association, certainly the oldest association in our part of the world is the Cherokee Association.  They brought with them about a hundred sixty or seventy years ago, over the Trail of Tears, to eastern Oklahoma.  I love talking with those Indian preaching fellows.  One of them was asked, “You say you’re saved, that God saved you.  How did He do it?  How did God save you?”

The old Indian took some dry leaves and placed them in a circle.  And he took a worm, and placed it in the center of those dried leaves.  Then he set fire to the circle of leaves.  And as the fire raced around the circle and began to burn, the worm crawled to this side, and then to this side, and to this side, and to this side.  And wherever he crawled, he met a wall of fire.  And finally, the little helpless creature drew as far away from the flame as he could, and in the middle of the circle, curled up to die.  The old Indian took his hand and lifted up the worm and placed it in safety and said, “That is what God did for me.”

Oh, oh, oh, oh! what He’s done for me.

Oh, oh, oh, oh! what He’s done for me.

Oh, oh, oh, oh! what He’s done for me.

I never can forget what He’s done for me.

He lifted me out of the fiery pit.  That’s what He’s done for me.

He lifted me out of the fiery pit.  That’s what He’s done for me.

He lifted me out of the fiery pit—worm that I am.  That’s what He’s done for me.

I never shall forget what He’s done for me.

Will you sing it with me?

Oh, oh, oh, oh! what He’s done for me.

Oh, oh, oh, oh! what He’s done for me.

Oh, oh, oh, oh! what He’s done for me.

I never shall forget what He’s done for me.

[from “What He’s Done For Me,” James Hall]

“Fear not, thou worm Jacob; I will help thee, saith the Lord,” [Isaiah 41:14] He who spread over us the skies like a curtain, who founded the pillars of the earth, who laid the foundations of the deep. “Saith the great Jehovah God, I will help thee.  Fear not, I will help thee, saith thy Redeemer,” the Lord Jesus Christ, the One who said, “Fear not. I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and I have the keys of Death and of Hell” [Revelation 1:17-18].  “Fear not saith the Holy Spirit of Israel.”  “I am the One that brooded over the face of chaos and brought form out of the deep [Genesis 1:2].  I am the One that raised from the dead the Lord Jesus Christ [Hebrews 13:20], the great Shepherd of the sheep [Romans 1:4].  I am the One who regenerates the heart [Titus 3:5].  I am the One who elects, and calls, and sanctifies, and glorifies [Romans 8:29-30].  Fear not thou worm, I will help thee,” saith the triune God [Isaiah 41:14].

That’s why we’re ever to be encouraged.  God is with us.  His strength is ours to command [ 2 Corinthians 12:9-10; Philippians 4:13].  We cannot fail.  Victory, blessing, and assurance forever are ours.

Our time is far spent.  In a moment when we sing our hymn, on the first note of that first stanza, to give your heart to Jesus, would you come?  A family, a couple, or one somebody you, make the decision now in your heart, and in a moment when we stand up, stand up walking down one of these stairways, walking down one of these aisles.  And God speed you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.

Congregational singing. . . . .

It is not possible ever that in a throng so great, there is not someone to whom the Holy Spirit speaks, always.  There those in the presence of the great, Mighty God, to whom the Lord speaks.  Some, inviting to faith, salvation; some inviting to consecration and dedication of life; some inviting into the fellowship of the church.  It is so this hour!  In so great a throng there are some to whom God is speaking.

Now in the presence of our blessed Savior, may we bow in humble prayer?  Our Lord, is this not the word and the promise of God?  And have we not faithfully preached it?   Is this not God’s heavenly and inspired promise?  Is it not sweet to our soul?  Is it not dear to our hearts, what God hath said?  Then Lord, may the Holy Spirit honor His word this precious hour.  Someone to whom God speaks, may they answer with their lives, “here I am here I come.”  While our people pray, praying the best you know how.  In a moment when our choir sings the appeal, out of a balcony round on this lower floor, a family, a couple, or just you.  The Lord speaks to thee and I am coming, here I am, do it now, make it now, while we stand before God and while we sing this appeal.

Down one of the isles, down one of the stairways, here I am Lord, I am coming now.  While we sing, while we make appeal.  (Congregation singing). . . .While we wait, while we wait.

Our Lord, I feel a rebuke.  There are more than two hundred people on the payroll of our church. There are almost a hundred staff members who work in some way with our people.  And there are thousands of us who are out in the business world and yet we are not able to bring to Thee, one soul, not one.  Lord, Lord what has happened to us that we have gotten so complacent and so indifferent and at ease in Zion.  Lord, we need God’s help, we need God’s right hand to uphold us and strengthen us.  Our Master, I cannot believe that we could ever have a service here at the church and no one respond, not one.  Lord, Lord, forgive us, help us Lord  We claim the promise “I will help thee, that God the Father who made us, God the Son who died for us, and God the Holy Spirit who convicts us, convinces us, who woos us, who brings us to the feet of Christ.  Lord, may it not be, “it’s his fault, it’s her fault, it’s their fault,” Lord let it be “I have that responsibility, I must witness, I must work, I must testify, I must ask God to bless the witness unto thine hand. . . .

GOD OUR STRENGTH

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Isaiah 41:10-20

1-18-76

I.          The address “Thou worm Jacob”

A.  Humanist and rationalist insulted

B.  But what is man? (Psalm 8:4, Job 42:5-6)

C.  Our helplessness

II.         The heavenly promise

A.  In our great tasks

      1.  Cherubim and seraphim

      2.  Given strength

B.  In our Christian pilgrimage

III.       The triune God will help

A.  Lord Jehovah Father

B.  Redeemer Christ (Revelation 1:17-18)

C.  The Holy Spirit