"The isles saw it, and feared; the ends of the earth were afraid, drew near, and came. They helped every one his neighbour; and every one said to his brother, Be of good courage. So the carpenter encouraged the goldsmith, and he that smootheth with the hammer him that smote the anvil, saying, It is ready for the sodering: and he fastened it with nails, that it should not be moved." (Isaiah 41:5-7)
In contrast to Abraham's rejection of idolatry, the Lord presents man's acceptance of it. The context seems to indicate that Abraham's victories over Chedorlaomer struck fear into the hearts of the surrounding nations. However, this fear did not move them to faith in Jehovah God. It only encouraged them to beautify and to strengthen their idols. Each idolater encouraged his neighbor to trust in his god. The carpenter is the engraver or the artificer. This man was responsible for carving out or forming the idol's shape. The goldsmith would overlay the idol, and the man with the hammer and anvil would form the various parts and appendages. Blinded by faithlessness, each man trusted in his idolatry while rejecting a relationship with God through faith.
"But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend. Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away. 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." (Isaiah 41:6-13)
How foolish to pine away in idolatry when God had called Israel's father out of such things. The word for friend is literally beloved. Abraham was beloved of God not for some intrinsic self-righteousness but for faith in his Creator. In turn, this faith manifested itself in a life that was noticeably different from the world. James quoted both Genesis 15:6 and this passage here in Isaiah when he wrote, "And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God (James 2:23)."
God's covenant of faith with Abraham cannot be broken, and so the Lord commands Israel not to fear. Although Israel would undergo intense judgment because of her rebellion, she will one day be delivered. Such deliverance will not come through her goodness but through the goodness of God. The emphasis is on God's ability and not man's as He says I will strengthen, I will help and I will uphold. All of these actions come through the strong hand of God's righteousness. Man's righteousness brings death, but faith in God's righteousness brings life. With great clarity, God makes it evident that "The just shall live by faith (Galatians 3:11)."
The Lord promises to destroy Israel's persecutors. In 605 BC, what was left of Assyria's power was destroyed in the Battle of Carchemish. Babylon fell under Persian control in 539. Persia gave up her dominance to the Greeks at the Battle of Gaugamela in 331. The Roman Empire came and went. Down through the years, Israel's persecutors have been many and more will arise; however, they are all destined for the same end. God's hand will preserve His people. Christ's righteousness will someday cleanse His people, and in the millennial kingdom every enemy of God will be subservient to Christ.