8/04/2016

Assurance (Isaiah 43): I love you

"Since you are precious and honored in my sight,  and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life" (Isa 43:4).
  1. I have redeemed you (1-7).
  2. You are witnesses of my love (8-13).
  3. I am doing a new thing (14-21).
  4. I remember your sins no more (22-28).
Derek Kidner, Barry Webb
  1. Grace abounding (1-21).
    • Fear not (1-7).
    • You are my witnesses (8-13).
    • I am the Lord ... your King (14-15).
    • See, I am doing a new thing (16-21).
  2. Grace despised (22-28).
Isaiah 43 is a reaffirmation of Israel's calling to be the Lord's servant. The fact that God has pointed to another and greater Servant (Isa 42:1ff) does not mean that Israel's own servant role has been abrogated. Quite the reverse. It is confirmed here in the strongest possible terms (Isa 43:10; 44:1-2).

"But now" (Isa 43:1) is a feature of these chapters. This same Hebrew expression is found repeated in Isa 44:1; 49:5; 52:5; 64:8. It expresses the love of God, continually rebuffed yet continually returns with the initiative. Notice the shift in tone from Isa 42:25 to Isa 43:1. It is breathtaking. What is God to do after the looting and plundering (Isa 42:24)? What God will now do is grace. There is nothing the Judeans have to do in advance for this grace to become available to them. They do not have to repent or promise to change their ways. God simply declares, as in Isa 40:1-2, that he has "redeemed" them. It is a completed fact (Rom 5:8).

Fear not (43:1-7). These verses in eloquent detail give Israel the assurance Christ gives to, the church, that the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. The ominous word "flames" (Isa 43:2) from the closing verse of the previous chapter (Isa 42:25) is countered with the steadying exhortation "Do not fear" (Isa 43:1). There are some of the tenderest words here that God ever spoke to his children: "you are mine" (Isa 43:1b), "you are precious and honored in my sight" (Isa 43:4a), "I love you" (Isa 43:4a), "I am with you" (Isa 43:4). They are addressed to people far from home, still in the midst of deep waters, rivers, fire and flames (Isa 43:2). They have many  more trials to face before they reach their final rest. There is no promise of a quick fix or a trouble-free future, but of God's sustaining presence right through to the journey's end (Isa 43:5-6), come what may. God's people are still today like aliens and exiles in a violent, visious hostile world (1 Pet 2:11; Jas 1:1). But God promises to never leave or forsake them or us until he brings us home (Dt 31:6; Heb 13:5-6; Mt 28:20).