July 6, 2008
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
1. In today's passage of scripture, the words "Fear not!" appear twice. "Fear not! I redeem you. You are mine. I call your name," (verse one). "Fear not! I am with you," (verse five). The God in whom we believe is a God who says, "Fear not!" The Lord knows how we got here to this place from out of the courses of our every day lives and the kind of thoughts we are sitting here with. We are hearing a message from that same Lord. The Lord says to us, "Fear not!" But in what type of sense [does he say that to us]?
Oh You Who Cannot See, See Clearly!
2. So, I would like for us to go back a bit and ask why does the Lord say "Fear not!?" Please look at chapter forty-two and beginning with verse eighteen. There the text says the following. "Oh you who cannot hear, listen! Oh you who cannot see, see clearly! Is there anyone as blind as my servants? Is there anyone as deaf as the one I send? Is there anyone as blind as the one whom I have given my trusted responsibility, as blind as the servant of the Lord? Even though many things appear to the eye, nothing is seen, even though the ear is opened, nothing is heard," (42:18-20).
3. Where the text says "my servant" and "the servant of the Lord" it is referring to the Israelites. The time period is the sixth century B.C.E. So, the ones who were hearing the words of the prophet were these Israelites who had their homeland destroyed by the Babylonian troops, their capital city Jerusalem demolished, their temple burned down, and they became captives after being captured and transported to Babylon. These people had experienced deep sorrow. They were considered captives but they were not made into slaves. They were given places to live, they built houses, they were permitted to tend to their home lives. They were able to make a normal living. However, there was a deep darkness among them. The words they frequently heard are found in the Psalms. It is the words, "Where is your God?" Mocking the Israelites, the people of the conquering nation would say, "Where is your God?" This foreign government over them lasted a number of decades. That being said, they couldn't help but wonder, "Where is our God?" "Why are we still ruled by foreigners? Where is the Lord? Assuming he was around, isn't the Lord blind? Isn't the Lord deaf?" [The people] had voices of grief such as that.
4. However, through the prophets the Lord did speak to these people. "Which ones are blind? Which ones are deaf? Are you the ones?," he said. That's what "Oh you who cannot hear, listen! Oh you who cannot see, see clearly!" means. While hearing the grief of the people, the Lord truly was grieving. The Lord grieved, saying, "Even though many things appear to the eye, nothing is seen, even though the ear is opened, nothing is heard."
5. What in the world did they need to see? What were they blind to? [What] were they deaf to? The prophet spoke to them as follows. "Is there anyone among you who hears the meaning of this? Is there anyone who is listening, taking heed for the days to come? Who is the one who handed Jacob over to robbers and who handed Israel over to looters? Was it not the Lord? We have sinned against Him. They refuse to walk in the way of the Lord and were not willing to listen to his instructions," (42:23-24). That's how it was, and right now they needed to see. They needed to hear. That God is there behind the scenes of the world they were living in, of that miserable captivity. For that very reason then, they must admit their sins, and not just grieve and groan. That's what they meant, when they said, "We have sinned. We have not been willing to listen."
I Redeem You
6. From there [we] go into chapter forty-three. Speaking through the prophet, to [their] broken and repentant spirits, who cannot help but admit their sins, the Lord says the following. "Fear not! I will redeem you. You are mine. I call your name."
7. "To redeem" is "to buy back." For a person who becomes a slave because of a debt or something to become free, [his] relatives had to buy him back by paying a price. That's what it means by "to redeem." The reason [you] redeem [somebody] is to set [him or her] free. The Lord announced to them their release from captivity. But, the really joyous thing was not the act itself of their being released. Something a whole lot bigger than that is being said. The Lord says, "You are mine." This is indeed very good news. To those who had sinned against God, to those who had been unwilling to listen to God, even still, God says, "You are mine."
8. What's more, the Lord even goes on to say the following in verse three. "I [am] the Lord, your God, the holy God of Israel, your savior. I make Egypt as your ransom, I make Ethiopia and Seba as your reparation payment." What is this saying? Here he is saying that starting with the great nation Egypt and then Ethiopia and Seba, he is using [them] as "the payment for the redemption." It means, in effect, that "Since I consider you mine, I will pay any price [for you] no matter how much." Why does God go that far for these persons who had rebelled against him? Since they were defiled by sin, why won't he [just] cast them off? -- The Lord tells [why]. "It is because you are valuable in my sight, you are precious. It is because I love you."
9. Once ago, the Lord had spoken like that to Israel when it had rebelled against him. But God's heart like that was not just inclined towards only Israel. That's right, it wasn't only the Israelites who were valuable and precious in the sight of the Lord. When the one named Jesus appeared on this earth, God said to this world, "Since I consider you mine, I will pay any price [for you] no matter how much." Having said that, God, even unsparingly, crucified his only son. [He did it] for the sake of the world that was in rebellion against him. [He did it] for us. To make us his, he paid with the life of his only son. "Why are you going so far for me when I have rebelled against you?" When you ask that question, the Lord will give an answer like this. "It is because you are valuable in my sight, you are precious. It is because I love you."
10. The one who sees us as precious beings and redeems us says, "Fear not!" "Fear not! I redeem you. You are mine. I call your name." Even today the Lord is addressing broken and repentant spirits with [those words]. This is the first "Fear not!"
I Am With You
11. And then the Lord says "Fear not!" a second time. He says, "Fear not!, I am with you," (verse five). In verse two also, the Lord says, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. Even if you pass through great rivers, you will not be washed away. Even if you walk in fire, you will not be burned, the flames will not scorch you," (verse two).
12. The Lord who says "I redeem you. You are mine," is [also] a God who is walking with you. He does not say, "Since you are mine you will never go through waters. You will never walk in fire." He says even though you have passed through waters and might have had times of walking in fire, I have been with you.
13. The time period has shifted from the Babylonian government to the Persian government. The captives have been given permission by the Persian King Cyrus to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the city. The time of release had certainly come. If they believed that they had been redeemed by the Lord and if they believed that [their] sins were forgiven, then now was the time to take a step and begin walking out with the Lord. If they had truly believed that even though they had been rebels, but [God] had stated that "You are valuable in my sight, you are precious, and I love you," then it was time [they] should begin walking as persons redeemed by the Lord, as the Lord's.
14. Walking with the Lord is also an adventure. [One] may be destined to pass through the waters. Just like the people of Israel had gone through the waters before when they had escaped from Egypt. Or maybe, a harsh world like one where a person walks through fire is awaiting. In fact, upon leaving Babylon since they were facing a Jerusalem that was in ruins, the fact that many hardships awaited them was obvious from looking at the fire. But, the Lord says that he is right in [their] midst and is with [them]. Everything is fine when the Lord is with [you]. There is no need to be afraid. The Lord says, "Fear not!" Only one thing matters. We are to follow the Lord who says, "I am with you." We are to follow and trust him everywhere and never distance ourselves from him.
15. "Fear not! I am with you." Once ago the Lord addressed the captives with that, and the Lord had guided them to a new step in walking with him. And the same message has also been given to us believers in Jesus. Jesus Christ was crucified in order to redeem us, then after he rose from the dead, did he not say the following words? "I will always be with you even to the end of the world," (Matthew 28:20). Yes, he did. We, too, are walking with Him. We will not be afraid, but believe in Him and follow him no matter where.