How do we know something? by experiencing it. Imagine listening to two people talking about flying on a plane: one person makes the same flight every week for business and the other is a first-time flyer. Picture the scene as they both enter the beginning of a bumpy patch of air (turbulence) that goes uninterrupted for the next three hours. As they talk to each other the frequent-flyer is going to be a lot more comfortable and confident at that moment because they have more experience of flying when compared to the first-time flyer who wonders if they are about to die. We know nothing until we experience it. The same is true in our relationships we know by experience. If someone tells us they are always on time, yet they are forever late, our experience of them tells us otherwise. We cannot know someone truly until we experience them.
“Love” is perhaps one of the most diversely experienced words in the English language and if we are being honest we all have mixed experiences with it. However, regardless of our experience, we can all recognise it when we see it: we know a parent loves their child by how they act towards them; We know a husband loves his wife, by his body language etc.… Love becomes incarnated before our very eyes. Experience gives flesh to words and our understanding of them.
Today’s passage is about the love of God towards his people. It is not just a passage where God says: “I love my people!” No, it is a passage where God speaks, and then shows us how we have experienced it and will know his love. The question is do you know his love for you and how far it goes?
But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead.Since you are precious and honoured in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west.I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth — everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made. ”
Isaiah ministered in a context of trouble; God’s people have chosen the way of the world over trusting him. Thus, Yahweh has used the forces of the world to teach his chosen people how foolish a choice that was. For 39 chapter’s Isaiah prophesies and lay’s the blame squarely at the feet of Israel: they sinned, they chose the world over God, and they must suffer the consequences of it: being exiled. In the second Part of Isaiah (40-55) the mood changes as Isaiah begins to prophesy a new redemptive-hope: the promise of a return to Jerusalem and their relationship with God would be restored.
The Love of God: Redeemed and Called by Name (43:1-4)
WHAT YOU WHERE
Chapter 43 begins with the phrase “But now” meaning as we read everything following it we must be mindful of what was before it. Specifically Isaiah 42:21-25. A passage that warns of the effect of sin and how God feels towards it, and how he will deal with it by fire (judgement). Thus, Isaiah 42:21-25 reminds us of what we are in sin without God’s active-redeeming love:
- Defeated (42:2)
- Blind (42:19) They are spiritually blind and cannot see his Goodness
- inattentive (42:20) they cannot pay attention to him
- Fallen short of God’s plan (42:21)
- Bent on disobedience (42:24)
- Spiritually stupid and insensitive (42:25)
Isaiah has outlined the state of God’s chosen people. In them we must see ourselves; we also need saving from sin. Yet as we read this, we have hope because we know God’s active-redeeming of which this passage is talking about historically was made known for all of humanity at the Cross of Christ. Love for us is so real and so powerful because it does what no other love can do, it saves, acts and transforms in light of eternity. Any picture of God’s glorious love must be grounded in an understanding of our depravity and the effect of sin on every area of our being.
We Belong to God (43:1)
We could easily miss the second half of verse one. as Isaiah reminds us that we belong to God. God’s love can be trusted because it brought us into existence by his own choice, not to want or lack but for our benefit. Then, he formed (present forms) us in the sense of a potter moulding clay into the desired shape. The passage tells us that because of his love we need not fear; because by knowing and trusting God we know the one who is bigger than anything we can face and who because of his love has dealt with our biggest problem – sin. In God our eternity is secure, and everything temporary pales into insignificance, so when faced with any earthy power or problem; It is as Paul says:
“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31).”
Hear that again: we can be confident in whatever we face today: because of Christ we have been rescued from our must hopeless situation – our eternal destination. For Israel, this was an exile as a result of their sin, an event to which they could see no end, no light at the end of the tunnel and for us today, we are exiled from God because of our sin. In both cases, God shoulders the needs of his people himself as he redeems them and then enters a personal relationship with them – “Calls them by name.”
This is an amazing picture of a work done and the work of Christ that was to come. Here God is giving us a glimpse of the greatest act of his redeeming love – the cross. He will bear the cost of our sin on himself, then by grace draw us into a relationship with himself. The New Testament further develops that first-name imagery by the use of sonship imagery. Those whom God redeems he makes his children. God declares because of his love for we who have placed our faith in him, have nothing to fear – in our redemption we have all we need. We can Know Gods love because of how he acts towards us, something which this passage further highlights.
AN ALL POWERFUL SAVIOUR WITH AN ALL POWERFUL LOVE (2-4)
What we see listed: waters, river, fire and flame basically summaries the fears of this nation throughout their history: Think about their journey as a nation: from the fires of Slavery in Egypt to the crossing of the dead sea, and crossing the river Jordan. Isaiah is summarising their worst fears as a contrasting picture against the power of God. The love of God does not only rescue us, but it also sustains us. So no matter what we face today, we trust that God is with us and working in it. Who God redeems he will sustain by his love and because of his love. It is language and imagery similar to Romans 8:37-39:
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
God’s love can be trusted to save because God is by his very nature a saving God both temporally (today) in whatever situation’s we face God is at work and eternally (through the cross of Christ). God saved Israel from Egypt, he will deliver them from Babylon and so he will deliver her and the new Israel to the promised spiritual salvation. In summary, God will do what he said he will do – he will save.
Then the second part of verse three read in conjunction with verse four present’s us with one of the most potent biblical pictures: God’s are precious to him, so much so that he is willing to save them at a cost, any cost. This passage talks about the giving of the most powerful nation in the world as ransom – Egypt, a picture that glimpses of what would come as God would pay the ultimate price on the cross to save his people. Through Jesus death and resurrection God took the curse and cost of our sin upon himself and saved his chosen from their external exile. So precious is God’s elect that he was willing to take the cost of his wrath upon himself so that we could know a relationship with him.
The Gathering of All People (5-6)
The final picture in our passage this morning is one of gathering. Historically this was gathering of the dispersed-exiled that would come under Sheshbazzar, Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah. A historical reminder of God at work, yet, this is more than a historical reminder. It is an image of what is to come, the inauguration of God’s Kingdom. The God who created and formed his chosen people; redeemed them at a cost and knows them by name, will also gather all of his faithful from every corner of the earth. To those who hold them back: he will say: “Give them up! Do not Hold them back!” As Nations learned, the words of God are not just spoken, they carry an unmatched power. For us, as Christians, we can say for those of us who are his children through the work of Christ on the cross (we who bear his name 43:7).
What an amazing picture of the Love of God. It is a love that creates, the forms us like the clay of a potter, then rescue’s us temporally and eternally at a price and then guides us home from every corner of the earth to the security of an eternity with God the father. This is love, real love that can be experienced and know – this is God’s love.
CONCLUSION: CREATED FOR A GLORIOUS PURPOSE (7)
As we finish the challenge for all of us is: What does this love of God made know to us through the ultimate redeeming act of Christ in the cross mean for those who place their faith in it and bear his name today? We find the answer in verse seven:
everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made
As a people who are loved, we are to live like a people who know love by doing good in every area of our lives, acts which bring glory to his name because he is the source of the act. We who bear his name have been created for a single purpose – his glory. That means that in our daily existence when God is forming us into the likeness of his Son and we are known by his name then we are to live and work for the sake of his name, by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us every area of our lives must point to him.
Israel was called to be a missionary nation, bringing the light of Yahweh into a dark world so that those around them would know the same redeeming love. The problem was they failed and where selfish instead abandoning that love, or even worse wanting to keep it for themselves. We as the body of Christ are called to the same purpose, that in our bringing of Glory to God in every area of our lives – as individuals and a church – we are to make known the love of God to the world around us (Matthew 5:16, 1 Peter 2:12, Romans 15:7 1 Cor. 6:20/10:31).
This is our call as children who know him by name, to make known his name. It is through the body of Christ that his name is made known and his love is experienced positively by the world around us. We as the church live as Christ called us to live: we feed the hungry; minister to the hurting; speak for the voiceless; bring light into darkness; we love one another in the Church, not superficially but sacrificially; we pursue the unity of the church under the name of Christ; we look different from the world around us; live with integrity, humility, honesty and love.
Most of all we proclaim and live out the Good news of Jesus – we preach the Gospel by our words and lives. In summary: we follow the example and teaching of Jesus and walk the road less travelled as we journey from the corners of the earth. Then we live as a people who were created for a purpose and are being formed as we continually bring Glory to his name, by identifying with his name. The final question is do you bear his name? And if you do, are you living as one who identifies with it until that day when we are all gathered and the rule of Christ is made complete? So today my prayer is that you experience God’s love, then through you may others experience to so he is glorified and more come to know the power of his redeeming love.