Our first reading comes from the second major section of the book.
After the twelve tribes of Israel split into two Kingdoms (ten in the North around Samaria and two in the South around Jerusalem) the Northern Kingdom was defeated by the Assyrians in 721BC. The Southern Kingdom and Jerusalem were miraculously spared from the Assyrians, but continued to sin in spite of repeated warnings from Isaiah.
Eventually, as Isaiah predicted, the Babylonians invaded the Southern Kingdom and besieged and destroyed Jerusalem in 587BC dragging her people off into exile by "the rivers of Babylon." Isaiah predicted that the exile would last 70 years...
After 70 years the Persians invaded Babylon and freed the exiles. The exiles returned to Jerusalem, but their confidence was shattered and their hope was unsure.
After all, they had been through, landing up in exile because of their disobedience and stubborn rebellion, the Israelites must have felt insignificant, incompetent, disqualified, and disconnected.
Isaiah captures their zeitgeist (the "spirit of the age") when he calls them both Jacob and Israel. Jacob was the sneak, cheat, fixer, and ankle-tapper. After wrestling with God he became Israel, the father of a nation.
God offers this promise to those who come out of the exile of fear and failure:
"I am Your God.
I hold your right hand.
Don't fear, no don't be afraid - I will help you!
I am the Holy one of Israel - your Redeemer"
When you feel like a worm—either because of your own failure or the brokenness that surrounds you—know this:
Your God, the Holy One,
the Redeemer (who rescues kidnapped and captured people)
Holds your right hand and says "Do not be afraid!"