But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour. I gave Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes, and honoured and I love you, I will give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you. I will say to the north, ‘Give up’, and to the south, ‘Do not withhold’; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”
(Isa 43.1-7; ESV, with amendments by A Motyer)
We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus… May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.
(1 Thess 1.2-5; 5.16-18,23&24)
How good it is to read words that nourish our spirits, that refresh and soothe us, that strengthen and invigorate us. This is what has happened for me as I revisit Isaiah, in company with a masterful and pastoral commentator who unpacks every line and shows me how the whole fits together, and fits into the great story of scripture. It is like dining on the richest foods, or being given a fresh access of vigour for the challenges of life.
I thank God for this blessing, for the skill and gifts of the commentator, and for the opportunity to share my thoughts with others, finding that I learn best when I put things into words for myself. Thank you to all who read, and I rejoice to know that sometimes the things that God helps me to understand and wrestle into print prove to be a blessing to you too – how good He is!
I have been pondering what lies behind the great promises in Isaiah 43, promises of protection, of preservation through all kinds of trials, and of a great summoning and uniting of all God’s children which will mark the new creation and our entry to eternal joy. I think it is in those first lines, where the Lord lays out the full extent of his commitment to his chosen people, the ground for our trust and security in him.
He created us, humankind, as the culminating act of creation. Our existence originates in his will, his life sustains us, and we live within his overarching purposes for creation.
He formed us, not only as a species, but as individuals, with attention and intention, each one unique and crafted to reflect his glory in our own ways.
He redeemed us, that is, He acts as our kinsman-redeemer, a role demonstrated for us clearly in the story of Boaz and Ruth, where Boaz takes as his own the needs and concerns of his kinswomen, rescuing them from the threat of destitution and protecting them from harm. What we need, He supplies; our helplessness is his opportunity to provide.
He calls us by name, addressing each individual as known and precious, and not only that, He gives us His name, taking us into the most intimate of relationships and making us his prized bride, beloved and cherished and provided for.
What grounds for confidence! What reason to face the future steadily and prayerfully! Should we not rejoice then in our identity in Christ? We are joyfully claimed by our God and Saviour, to be his own, to bear witness to his power, love and mercy, to live in trust through the trials of life and to give thanks because He who called us is absolutely faithful and will do all he has promised.