Isaiah 43:1-7 I Am The Lord Your God

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

1.  The whole chapter of Isaiah forty-three is truly filled with words of salvation full of hope and comfort.  However, this chapter should not be cut off from chapter forty-two the one before it.  In chapter forty-two and verse eighteen there is a call made out to the same people that goes like this, "O people whose ears don't hear, listen.  O people, whose eyes don't see, look carefully.  Is there anyone as blind as my servants?  Is there anyone as deaf as the messengers I send...," (42:18-19).  Harsh words are written in contrast to the prophecy of salvation in chapter forty-three.  But, these are words from the same God.  The Israelites must hear this message first before hearing the message of salvation.  But, before they are supposed to hear it there is an another message from God.

Look And Listen

2.  Having lost their country they were a people of captivity.  Their life in captivity lasted long.  Their hopes collapsed into nothing.  Instead, murmuring words were everywhere.  "My way is hidden to the Lord," they said (40:27).  There were nothing but lamentations of "Why doesn't God look upon me?  Why doesn't he listen to me?"  Those lamentations soon changed to a criticism for God filled with the opposition of "Maybe God can't see?  Maybe he can't hear?"

3.  But, the Lord says to the people like that that, "O people whose ears don't hear, listen.  O people, whose eyes don't see, look carefully."  In other words, he meant "Aren't you the ones who can't hear or see?"  The phrases repeatedly used here of "ones who can't see" and "ones who can't hear" are nothing other than the criticism regarding the people of God that is thrust back at the people by God.

4.  During difficulties people criticize God.  But, God has an answer back.  Am I the one that is off, or is it you?  Am I the one who doesn't understand things, or is it you?  Isn't the one who can't see or hear really you!?  That's what the Lord says.  The Lord says, "Listen.  Look."  There is something for us too that we must truly hear and open our eyes wide to see.  It is the righteousness of God.  And after seeing God's righteousness what we ought to do then is repent.

5.  As a result, in representing the people the prophet speaks words of repentance.  "Who is it that delivered Jacob to the plunderers and delivered Israel to the looters?  Wasn't it the Lord?, we have sinned against him.  They refused to walk in the way of the Lord and would not follow his instructions," (42:24).

6.  A person that is all but complaints of disaster is truly bad off.  The person who during the disaster blames others, criticizes God, and wallows in self pity is truly bad off.  Because there's no deliverance anywhere for him or her.  The message of chapter forty-three has no bearing on such a person.  The important thing to do is that one is to turn his or her eyes on the righteousness of God like this prophet did.  We are to humble ourselves and admit our own sins.  First of all we are to admit before God that we have refused to walk in the way of the Lord and would not follow his instructions.

I Will Redeem You

7.  But though, it is dreadful to honestly look back over one's walk and to admit one's own sins; for, we live trusting in our own goodness.  The fact is that we assert our own righteousness both to others and ourselves, we defend ourselves, and make others out to be the wrongdoers and because of that we go on living as we are.  To admit our sin is nothing more than to lose that ground.  But, when a person has lost that old ground, there is a message that they then can first begin to hear.  It is the message of chapter forty-three, where the Lord says, "Fear not.  I will redeem you.  You are mine.  I call your name."

8.  "Redeem" means "buy back."  In ancient Israel for a person to become free who became a slave on account of indebtedness, his or her nearest relatives would have to buy them back by paying a price.  It was clear to any such slave that they were helpless on their own.  The path for one's deliverance depended solely on the good graces of others.

9.  It is the same even in the relationship between God and the sinner.  The person who has admitted his or her sin knows that he or she cannot save himself or herself on one's own.  The wages that sin pays is death.  Its [wages] is judgment and its [wages] is destruction.  Wherever there is sin, there is but despair.  For anyone like that to be saved, their only recourse is purely to depend on the grace of God.

10.  Therefore, God states by his grace alone, "Fear not.  I will redeem you.  You are mine."  A person is redeemed by God's grace and becomes God's.  God is saying to those who have refused to walk in the way of the Lord and would not follow his instructions that "You are mine."

11.  This shouldn't come as no surprise, right?  But, something more surprising is written in verse three.  "I am the Lord, your God, the Holy God of Israel, your savior.  I gave Egypt as your ransom and I made Ethiopia and Seba for your compensation."

12.  God's calculations are incomprehensible to the eyes of humans.  [The Israelites] went against God and human and sinned continually and did not incline their ears to the calls of God.  The wretched Israelites became captives in a foreign land and ultimately destroyed their country.  How useless like ashes and cinders a people they were!  In contrast, Egypt was a mighty nation at that time period.  There was great power and wealth in that land.  The countries listed here, Egypt, Ethiopia, Seba, and others, you might say represented the world's powerful, great, wealthy, glorious, and every other kind of valuable in the world.  But, the Lord says those countries are as "ransom for you."  The Lord saw sinful Israel in its disobedience with its long term defilement of God's glory as having a higher worth than any other valuable thing in this world.  The Lord says, "Your value is precious and high in my eyes.  I love you."

13.  God's calculations are truly incomprehensible for us.  But, it is precisely because of how God's love and forgiveness exceed human reckoning that a so great and incomprehensible event would later take place.  God sent into this world as the price of our redemption his only son and not Egypt, Ethiopia, or Seba.  Jesus said, "The son of man did not come in order to be served but to serve and to offer his own life as a ransom for many," (Mark 10:45).  God says through Jesus to us as well that, "Your value is precious and high in my eyes.  I love you."  And he says, "Fear not.  I have redeemed you.  You are mine."

I Am With You

14.  Thus, it is because of the fact that we are redeemed by the Lord and made His that we have any grounds, and since we are the Lord's he is with us at any time.  The Lord said the following, "Even when you pass through the waters I am with you.  Even if you pass through a great river, you will not be washed away.  Even if you walk through fire, you will not be burned and the flames will not kindle you," (43:2).

15.  The people redeemed by the Lord would soon come out of Babylon, the land of captivity, and go to Jerusalem.  But, at that time the Lord had never said, "Because you're mine, you will never go through the waters.  You will never walk through fire or experience anything of that sort."  Just as there had been a people who had been led out of Egypt, they would have experiences like going through water and getting through things they could never go through.  And they would have experiences of crisis where they would walk through fire.  But, that didn't mean judgment from God.  The people redeemed of the Lord would not be destroyed.  [And why not?]   Because the Lord himself said, "I am with you."

16.  This is truly the word of God given to us through Jesus Christ.  There will be times when we too will go through the waters and the fire.  At the end, each one of us will go through the dreadful streams of the river of death and pass through [its] fiercely burning fires.  But, even death cannot destroy us now and that's because of Him who says "I am with you."  Nothing can separate us from the love of God.  Because we are the redeemed of the Lord and we belong to God.

17.  Paul expressed his conviction with the following words.  "Who can separate us from the love of Christ?  Not hardships.  Not suffering.  Not persecution.  Not famine.  Not nakedness  Not danger.  Not the sword. 'We are like sheep being slaughtered and killed all day long for you,' says the scriptures.  However, in all these things we obtain the shinning victory by Him who loves us.  I have this conviction.  Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor authorities, nor things present, nor things future, nor the powerful, nor those in high places, nor those in low places, nor any kind of created thing can separate us from the love of God as revealed by our Lord Christ Jesus," (Romans 8:35-38).  Amen.

 
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