New King James Version (NKJV)
43 But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.
3 For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I gave Egypt for your ransom,
Ethiopia and Seba in your place.
4 Since you were precious in My sight,
You have been honored,
And I have loved you;
Therefore I will give men for you,
And people for your life.
5 Fear not, for I am with you;
I will bring your descendants from the east,
And gather you from the west;
6 I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’
And to the south, ‘Do not keep them back!’
Bring My sons from afar,
And My daughters from the ends of the earth—
7 Everyone who is called by My name,
Whom I have created for My glory;
I have formed him, yes, I have made him.
I’ll never forget my first experience using an automatic car wash. Approaching it with the dread of going to the dentist, I pushed the money into the slot, nervously checked and rechecked my windows, eased the car up to the line, and waited. Powers beyond my control began moving my car forward as if on a conveyor belt. There I was, cocooned inside, when a thunderous rush of water, soap, and brushes hit my car from all directions. What if I get stuck in here or water crashes in? I thought irrationally. Suddenly the waters ceased. After a blow-dry, my car was propelled into the outside world again, clean and polished.
In the midst of all this, I remembered stormy times in my life when it seemed I was on a conveyor belt, a victim of forces beyond my control. “Car-wash experiences,” I now call them. I remembered that whenever I passed through deep waters my Redeemer had been with me, sheltering me against the rising tide (Isaiah 43:2). When I came out on the other side, which I always did, I was able to say with joy and confidence, “He is a faithful God!”
Let us turn to Isaiah 43 and catch up with God’s promise for His people and check it out to see how it applies to us today.
God’s favor and good-will to his people speak abundant comfort to all believers. The new creature, wherever it is, is of God’s forming. All who are redeemed with the blood of his Son, he has set apart for himself. Those that have God for them need not fear who or what can be against them. What is Egypt and Ethiopia, all their lives and treasures, compared with the blood of Christ? True believers are precious in God’s sight; his delight is in them, above any people. Though they went as through fire and water, yet, while they had God with them, they need fear no evil; they should be born up, and brought out. The faithful are encouraged. They were to be assembled from every quarter. And with this pleasing object in view, the prophet again dissuades from anxious fears.
How does God care for those who are precious in His sight?
1. Redeems the Precious (vs. 1 – 2)
The opening statement lays the foundation of the Word of promise by affirming that this is the nation that God had formed. The language is covenantal: You are mine. The expression “he who created you” (bora’aka) uses the main word for creation (bara’), a term that means to fashion or refashion something into a new and perfect creation. It can have the idea of renewal or transformation. In the biblical texts only God is the subject of this verb. So the formation of the Israelites into a nation, the people of God, is being called a creation. Likewise, Paul uses creation terminology for our salvation in the New Testament. It is the word for an artist – the participle is the Hebrew word “potter.” So the expression says that God is the creator of the nation, and that His creation is by design.
This is the context – Israel is damaged and God (as the Artist and ‘Shaper’ in verse 1 is the restorer). Despite Israel’s blindness due to their sin, God says a restoration process is already under way. The process of restoration begins with redemption.
When we are redeemed, we are bought back. And this is the implication: Within the very act of redemption, there lies a central hope – no one is a slave to the misfortunes of life or consequences of sin. Because in the Mosaic Law, God made provisions by which a friend or a family member may pay back a debt, may secure deliverance, and may commute a sentence. Oswalt says it like this: “In God’s world fate does not have the last word.” When God says he has “redeemed them” he is saying “I’ve paid your debt for you, I’ve delivered you, I’ve commuted your sentence.”
But the restoration process includes more than just redemption (deliverance). It also involves being “called” by God it says in verse 1. This is a reference to the Ancient Near Eastern custom of naming – if you ‘named’ someone you possessed authority over them. When God created the world, in Genesis 1, he immediately named everything he created – the day, the sky, the land. Then God delegated this authoritative role to Adam, who was commanded to “name” all of the animals (Genesis 2:19-20). Isaiah tells us in chapter 40:26 that God calls each of the starry host by name.
But this sense of calling also indicates that God was forming the Israelites into a people for himself – he is setting them apart for himself. That’s why God can say “You are Mine.” He is saying, I’ve created you, I’ve redeemed you, I’ve called you, and as such, he is saying “you belong to me.” The verb tenses of ‘redeemed’ and ‘called’ are in the perfect tense. So, they are written as having happened in the past, but they have continuing effects into the future. They are timeless facts that apply to us today.
In Isaiah 43 there is a principle from which you and I draw today. And the principle is this: you and I belong to God.
• We belong to him, because He created us.
• We belong to Him, because He redeemed us (saved/delivered us).
• We belong to Him, because He called us (named us).
God says to you, “You are Mine.”
In verse 2, we see that God preserves us in the midst of trials. This is the implication of “belonging to God” – when trials come our way, we have no reason to fear because He is with us, He says in this verse. But notice the language. God says “When you pass through the waters” and “When you walk through the fire…” The idea is God doesn’t promise us a life free of troubles or worry. He is saying you can count on the fact that trials will come. But just as sure as the coming of those trials, is the fact that I will be with you. And this is the key to the people’s preservation – the presence of God! The key is not simply that God preserved his people from sure disaster (from drowning or getting crispy) but rather, that God’s people were preserved by His presence.
Our relationship to God is based on God’s gracious love toward us – not the other way around. Thankfully, our relationship to God is based NOT on how much we demonstrate our love to God. Thankfully, our relationship to God is based NOT on our own personal worth before our restoration. Thankfully, our relationship to God is based NOT on our own loveliness. But rather:
Our relationship to God means that we belong to Him, because He has created us, redeemed us and called us His! Our relationship to God means that we are preserved in Him, because He draws us into His presence. What a relief to know your relationship to God is based on God alone – his activity in your life. What a comfort to know that despite our raging sin and our failure at being his servants, that God’s people can still enjoy the hope of a relationship with God!
Illustration: Lorrie Anderson, missionary to the head-shrinking Candoshi Shapra Indians of Peru, was looking for a quiet place for her daily time of Bible reading and prayer, so she went down by the edge of the river. After reading the Bible, she took up her prayer list. Eyes closed, she did not see the deadly anaconda weaving through the water until it struck, burying its fangs into her flesh. It withdrew to strike, hitting her arm again and again as it held her, screaming, in its coils. It reared up for the death blows. Then suddenly the giant snake, never known to release its prey, relaxed its grip and slithered off through the water. While Lorrie was being treated, a witch doctor from a nearby village burst into the hut and stared at her. She couldn’t believe Lorrie had survived. She said her son-in-law, also a witch doctor, had chanted to the spirit of the anaconda that morning and sent it to kill the young missionary. “I’m certain,” Lorrie said, “that except for the protection of God, it would have worked.”
2. Ransoms the Precious (vs. 3 – 4)
The word for “your ransom” (kophreka) is from the verbal root kipper, which means “atone, expiate, pacify, set free. The noun means to set free through some means of expiation. In this context the term is applied a little differently (as are the terms for salvation and redemption): God will set His people free from bondage – at the expense of the oppressors. So their destruction will be the ransom price – the exchange given to set Israel free.
We know that ultimately God gives himself as the ransom for our sin. The restoration process is costly, and He pays that cost out of himself – with his own body, with his own blood. Scripture tells us that God sent his Servant to give his very own life “as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).
Consider Hebrews 9:15 (NIV): “For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.”
And the result is we’ve been bought back from the slavery of sin that surely leads to death, just as Hosea says in 13:14: “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O Death, I will be your plagues! O Grave, I will be your destruction!”
Our relationship with God means He has given himself to us. And, verse 3 reveals HOW the holy, transcendent Creator can give himself to us – as a ransom. But look at verse 4, because it reveals WHY such an exalted God would do such a thing: “Since you were precious in My sight, You have been honored, And I have loved you; Therefore I will give men for you, And people for your life.” God ransoms you, because he loves you. Our relationship to God is governed by his love – He has given himself to ransom you, to buy you back from sin. There was no price too high for your redemption.
John Oswalt says that verse 4 subtly hints to bridal language in the words a groom might share with his bride. He says: “Just as a groom finds his bride precious and worthy and lovable when others fail to see those qualities in her at all, God sees these things in us and is willing to pay any price to redeem his bride from her captors.” God is under no allusions. He knows His bride isn’t that spotless. He knows we bear some stains and smudges. He knows our canvas is ripped and torn. Yet, our hope is secure in him, because we belong to Him. He (inexplicably) has given himself to us. Our relationship to God is governed by his great love for us.
Illustration: During the Exodus, the Egyptians pursuing the Israelites died in the ‘Red Sea.’ During the Six-Day War in 1967 between Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, the Arab states of Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria also contributed troops and arms. At the war’s end, Israel had gained control of the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights. The results of the war affect the geopolitics of the region to this day.
3. Delivers the Precious (vs. 5 -7)
If that’s true, then, Isaiah is saying: God delivers his people from much more than simply PHYSICAL exile; God delivers his people from SPIRITUAL exile as well. God is going to deliver his people from sin. There is a very important truth, then, to be drawn from the text. Mainly, that Isaiah is intentionally speaking to a wider audience than merely the believing Jews of the exile. If this is true, Isaiah 43 can be applied to the lives of both believing Jews and believers among the nations.
Rather, when we read Isaiah 43, we want to let the author speak for himself. We want to discern his intended meaning. And if you were to fast forward one chapter to Isaiah 44:1-5, you would see that the author does, in fact, have something very interesting to say about the nature of God’s people – something very interesting to say regarding a future deliverance from a spiritual exile.
And as such, the promise of spiritual deliverance is promised not just to Isaiah’s immediate audience, but TO ALL PROSPECTIVE audience members who BEAR THE NAME OF GOD, who have been shaped, redeemed, and called by God FOR HIS GLORY. This includes you and me. We aren’t spiritualizing the text. We aren’t reading the NT back into the OT. We are discerning the author’s intended meaning. And because the author is speaking of a future sense of renewal (probably occurring in his mind in the last days), then we can say with confidence that he is envisioning a future people of God.
Isaiah is speaking of all those whom God gathers unto himself. As sons and daughters of Israel (having been grafted into this special people), we are loved by God and promised help to become His servants. The point is this: Isaiah is not restricting deliverance to the physical realm alone. Isaiah is telling us deliverance does include a spiritual deliverance. And because of this Isaiah is not restricting the fulfillment of these prophesies to the nation of Israel alone – it includes both believing Jews and Gentiles.
Now, turn back to our main passage to Isaiah 43:7. God says he is going to gather “all who are called by my name, those whom I created, whom I shaped, yes, whom I made, for my glory.” All those who are ‘called’ will be fully restored back to God. God saying we have been shaped, redeemed, and called not just for ourselves, but for a larger purpose – as a demonstration of God’s glory to a watching world.
Application: Are you precious in God’s sight? That however depends upon your relationship with your Creator. If you are truly precious in His sight, then be assured that He has redeemed you by His blood, He has become a ransom for you by paying the price with Christ’s body and finally He has delivered you from sure eternal death which was yours alone in the taking. Christ took your place on the cross and delivered you from sin and damnation. How are you going to respond to Him now and daily?