Isaiah 41:14-15 Enjoying My Vulnerabilities

Written by Paul J. Bucknell on October, 29, 2022

Isaiah 41:14-15 Enjoying My Vulnerabilities

I’m not sure it’s part of being human, but we typically dislike being vulnerable—unable, stuck, frustrated, endangered, unprotected…and the list goes on.

Somewhere along the way, I stepped into old age and have been forced to rethink my vulnerabilities. They are increasing, not decreasing, and I don’t expect that will stop!

Their power, if I can sum them up, gets more in my face each day, leaving me with issues that I can’t handle on my own and, perhaps, with no one else able to help or sympathize. Physical handicaps will persistently remain with us until our life’s end, including memory slip-ups.

An unusual verse helped me gain a better perspective on this issue and reminded me that God has everything in His hand.

A Look From Below

The Lord stirred my thoughts when reading Isaiah 41:14-15. I discovered God surprisingly used the word ‘worm’ to describe His people. 

As I dig into the compost pile to deposit another load of vegetable peelings, I regularly see worms. The worms wriggle all over the place. The naked and defenseless little worms wriggle about to make their desperate escape away from everything associated with the upper world. 

The Bible describes us as worms! We will look at this  ‘worm’ verse to familiarize us with our vulnerabilities. These can strengthen our capacity to handle complex or unwanted situations—those that make us feel vulnerable, whether we are old or young—just so we have faith in Jesus Christ.

God’s People and Worms

God Himself described Israel, His chosen people, as a worm. 

14 Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the LORD, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel. 15 Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edge (Isaiah 41:14-15).

The Lord doesn’t attach this undesirable image, a worm, to unbelievers but to those who profess to know and follow Him! 

The NET Bible provides this interesting comment on the translation of ‘worm:’ 

“Heb “O worm Jacob” (NAB, NIV). The worm metaphor suggests that Jacob is insignificant and despised.” (Net Bible Isaiah 41:14. netbible.org/bible/Isaiah+41)

Following its note, it translates Isaiah 41:14, “Don’t be afraid, despised, insignificant Jacob, men of Israel.” Although they don’t use the word ‘worm’ itself, I don’t think calling us, “afraid, despised, insignificant” makes us feel any better, though it does attach some adjectives to why we squirm at being called a worm!

The Worm Description

I don’t like this image either, but the older I get, and after being a Christian for more than fifty years, I see how much time and effort (should I add money?) I spent unnecessarily combatting this image. If I had recognized this insecurity earlier on, I could have enjoyed my inferior feelings, being afraid, insecure, down, unwanted, and insignificant.

The worm seeks life beneath the surface of the ground. It doesn’t want to be revealed. Isn’t that like us with our sins and other vulnerabilities? Everything is fine—just so my sins and weaknesses are not exposed. We want to brag about ourselves, be filled with self-confidence, and talk about getting a raise and our fancy car. The modern world is full of games of self-confidence and self-reliance, including prosperity seekers and painkillers that prop up our belief that we are doing well. But that is our pretend self—not our authentic self.

And yet, when the shovel of life digs us up and heaves us on top of the ground, reality comes to light. We desperately wriggle about like that worm, struggling to hide our exposure. Life’s unsought troubles, illness, emergencies, etc., suddenly dump us in full sight of our vulnerabilities.

With the exposure of one or more weaknesses, our worlds of pretense fall apart. Anxieties flare up. We get depressed or angry at others, blaming those we love. We quickly search for the nearest dark hole to slide into and hide from the light, trying to disguise our vulnerabilities.

There are ways to keep away from the light. The world, for example, clamors to keep God out of their lives. We can understand this mentality. We think the light will never uncover our hidden lives as long as we stay buried in darkness. Never does a worm want to stay above the ground’s surface.

Our Need for Light

But the light reveals our weaknesses, including our lust-driven and corrupt lives. The light wonderfully shines into our lives, helping us discover the need for a Savior and, by God’s grace, believe in God’s only Son that He sent to die for us. Instead of retreating into the dark, we should rejoice in our salvation in Jesus, who rose from the dead.

Blame is a guise disguising our guilt.

Our confidence should not be in delusions of our self-worth but in discovering our lack of value, our due judgment, and finding a great Savior, Christ Jesus the Lord.

Isaiah 41:14 calls us a worm to convey our vulnerabilities. However, we should welcome this exposure because of the associated phrase, “I will help you.” Though I see the worms daily, I don’t like the worm image, and I like even less to think about my weaknesses. 

Paul the Apostle wrote about one aspect of our decrepitude—our battle with our old man. "For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate” (Rom 7:15). Without Christ—apart from Jesus—we are helpless in this world (John 15:5). Or in everyday speech, “I am a wreck without Jesus."

Without Jesus, our lives look like a total mess. Most of us hide from these things. We don’t like admitting to our actual situation, but that is why God sent Jesus a Savior!

This lack of transparency about our vulnerabilities comes from several sources. 

  • We don’t like looking unattractive and feeling unwanted.
  • We hate thinking less of ourselves.
  • We despise how other people think nothing of our importance.
  • We are secretly afraid of what God thinks about our lives.
  • We are afraid of what will happen if a specific condition worsens.
  • We fear being alone.

Much like the worm, we wiggle out of the light of truth as fast as possible. John describes how we resist facing the light about our helpless and depraved lives. 

19 This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” (John 3:19-20)

Like the worm, we “loved the darkness rather than the Light.” The light exposes us and makes us feel uncomfortable. “Everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light…” 

Let me jump back to senior frailties. They are not all wrong or evil by any means. Maybe I have some cancer cells in my body. But in our weaker moments, when our weaknesses are exposed, our human pride can’t so easily deceive us—especially with intense or ongoing pain. We are so similar to that worm, trying not to see who we are.

God reveals glimpses of our lives through various life struggles, though they tend to make us feel uncomfortable. The purpose is to awaken us to our true spiritual needs.

The world says, “Be confident!” “You can handle it.” God exposes our weaknesses, announcing, “You can’t handle it. You need me. You are a worm.” 

Don’t Fight It (Isaiah 41:14-15)

At some point in our lives, we hit a pothole and everything is shaken. That’s okay. We can trust God to walk us through the disrobing of our self-confidence. Let’s take a close look at this worm verse. 

14 Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the LORD, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel. 15 Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edge (Isaiah 41:14-15).

After revealing our vulnerabilities, the Lord affirms His acceptance and protection to us. Though we are but a worm, God has pledged to be our All in All. Let me list the truths here.

  • Do not fear” (Is 41:14): We need not be anxious about the transformation that occurs by exposing our weaknesses and sin.
  • Jacob” (Is 41:14): God knows our sinful and Jacob-like ways, and yet still chooses us. (Do a study on Jacob to further reflect on one’s vulnerabilities.)
  • I will help you” (Is 41:14): What do we need the most? Help! Now we have the Maker of heaven and earth on our side (Ps 121:2).
  • Declares the Lord” (Is 41:14): God affirmatively exclaims His promises and devotion to keep His people.
  • Your Redeemer is the Holy One” (Is 41:14): This phrase points to God’s perfect redemptive plan to save us through the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
  • Behold I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edge” (Is 41:15): God has exceptional plans for His people despite His calling them worms.

The fact is that we are but worms. We can pretend to be strong, able, capable, and holy. Still, we are innately dependent on all that God puts in and around us—even the breath of life (Gen 2:7). We are desperately needy, not just because of our sin and oncoming death, but with the discovery of our frailties. 

God wants us to acknowledge the truth about our lives. Though modern man speaks much about being authentic and expressing one’s true desires, God wants us to go further and be transparent with our true needs.

Steps Towards Change

God’s first truth is for us to observe and accept our worm-like feebleness, including our tendency to dislike the process. God understands and wraps words of comfort around the exposure of our naked lives.

The second application is to accept who we are in God’s sight. We are worms, naked and defenseless.

Third, we transition from running away from the light to basking in God’s promises. We dislike the process but have learned how God uses it for our good. The sooner we accept it, the quicker we can move on. Otherwise, we can stay depressed and buried under our circumstances for a long time.

Even if you are on the verge of suicide, it doesn’t mean you are right in your assessment. God has a greater purpose for you. So we can further relish His faithfulness to us despite our wormlike character.

Lastly, learn and live out the new identity and purpose that God has for you: “Behold I have made you a new….”

We should sooner, rather than later,—unlike Jacob who discovered this later in his life—accept the truth about ourselves. If we do, we might not need to experience such difficult situations to expose our weaknesses (in Jacob’s case, many years under Laban - Gen 31:38-42). Unfortunately, we sometimes need to be taken to our knees before we realize that our temporary strength, wealth, health, and security are similar to dissipating fog. I believe we could speed up the transition process and find God’s greater plans for us if we daily meditate on God’s Word (Psalm 1).

Again, it’s not that we don’t believe Jesus is our Savior, but we don’t fully grasp the significance of Christ’s grace in our lives. When we accept any truth, it makes a great deal of change in our lives. The most significant change is when we first believe in Christ. But depending on the teaching we hear, we can be rather slow to learn, not allowing the truths to transform us. Consider: how long does it take for you to apologize?

Conclusion

I hope I can encourage us to enjoy God’s training process by convincing you that the Lord desires to rebuild us by finding our identity in Jesus. We must start by accepting ourselves in all of our insignificance—we are but a worm. This faith discovery will bring us to a new level of appreciation for God’s work in us, bringing more praise to Him as we live on the ocean of His abounding grace. 

We no longer need to prolong our old life. The sooner we die to our old man, the better. 

Jesus, again and again, stresses that we, His people, have eternal life in Christ. Our lives on earth are valuable only when we serve Him. The greater we serve Him, no matter our vulnerable situations, the more He will reward us in eternity.

Vulnerable, but changed! Isaiah 41:14-15

Bible Study Questions on Isaiah 41:14-15

  1. What is your initial response to being described as worms by God?
  2. Why does He use the term worm to describe His people?
  3. Can you identify with the tendency to reject our vulnerabilities? Explain.
  4. How honest can you be about yourself to others?
  5. How long does it take you to apologize?
  6. What are two ways Isaiah 41:14-15 helps you overcome this fight against your vulnerabilities? (Look at the six points as needed.)
  7. Do you think it’s true that God can be more glorified in our weak states than when we are strong? Why so?
  8. Pray sincerely about your vulnerabilities, thanking the Lord that though like a worm, He is your strength and shield.

Suggested Project

Read Dying to Self to help you get a better grip on the spiritual discipline of dying to oneself.

 

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