“But you, Israel, my servant,
Jacob, whom I have chosen,
you descendants of Abraham my friend,
I took you from the ends of the earth,
from its farthest corners I called you.
I said, ‘You are my servant’;
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.
“All who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced;
those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish.
Though you search for your enemies, you will not find them.
Those who wage war against you will be as nothing at all.
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.
Do not be afraid, you worm Jacob, little Israel, do not fear,
for I myself will help you,” declares the Lord , your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.
Ever been given a backhanded compliment? You know, the kind of thing someone says that is meant to be encouraging or complimentary, but also seems to put you down at the same time? Like when someone says, “Thanks for helping me, I never expected you to come through like that.” or “Wow, you did really well, I didn’t think you had it in you!”
That’s sort of the way I feel about what God says here. God is giving all this encouraging support and these wonderful promises to his people:
“I have chosen you…do not fear…I will strengthen you and help you…I will uphold you….[I will] take hold of your right hand…Do not fear…I will help you…”
Really great stuff! And right in the midst of it he refers to his people as a worm!
“Don’t be afraid, you worm Jacob.”
It’s kind of like saying, “I love you, ugly.”
So it feels like a backhanded compliment. God is saying how valued his people are to him and how he has chosen them and won’t reject them and then he refers to them as a worm!
But the more I think about it the more I appreciate it. It’s the brutal honesty of deep and genuine love.
God doesn’t give false compliments. He doesn’t butter us up with empty or flowery words about how great we are just to get us to behave a certain way. Instead, he chooses us and loves us and holds our hand through the tough stuff and all the while says, “You’re a worm, but I love you anyway.”
It’s as if our Father wants us to recognize the fact that he sees us for what we really are. And if I’m honest with myself, if I look at my behavior, my thoughts, my quick temper…it’s hard to argue with God’s assessment. I am a worm. I’m not exactly “lovable” or equal to the gifts I’m given. Not even close.
But God says, “I know who you are…and I love you.”
There is something magnificently freeing about the realization that God loves us even though he knows it all. So in truth, it’s not a backhanded compliment at all. It’s really the greatest of compliments.
God loves us, and not for what we bring to the table. He loves us because he loves us. As we are. Where we are. Worms that we are.