Main Street Community Church

Isaiah 43

This talk was given by Martin Ansdell-Smith on as part of our worship service at Main Street Community Church and over the Internet.

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This chapter looks at the redemption of Israel from their captivity and exile, a dislocation of their lives that had lasted for seventy years. It looks through and beyond that to the redemption by Jesus the Messiah, and the grace of the gospel which his followers receive through him.

Isaiah 43:1–7   Unchanged Divine Care

The chapter starts with the words “But now.”

The context for this is chapter 42. Israel, the Lord’s chosen people, had shown they were blind (v19), inattentive (v20), failing to follow the Lord’s plan (v20), and disobedient (v24).

How will the Lord respond to this? As they are his, his family, he is willing to take on their needs and burdens.

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.

Isaiah 43:1 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)

The Apostle Paul reminds us in Ephesians that Christians have this same relationship with the Lord, being created and formed by him:

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:10 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)

The Lord’s people may desert him, may give up on him, but he doe not give up on them or desert them. He acts faithfully throughout, though his people may go through hard times:

In all that has happened to us, you have remained righteous; you have acted faithfully, while we acted wickedly.

Nehemiah 9:33 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)

We are familiar with this willingness of the Lord to accept back the repentant from, for example, the parable of the prodigal son. Isaiah’s prophecy has that aspect and emphasises the Lord’s help through hard times.

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.

Isaiah 43:2 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)

The Lord does not promise that his people will not go through hardship and suffering. Rather, the testimony of scripture and the lives of the saints who have gone before us show we will face hardships, as do all who live in this fallen world. The Lord’s people often experience more hardships because of allegiance to the Lord. Following Jesus includes carrying a cross. What the Lord does promise is that he is with them.

Why is the Lord so faithful to his people? Let’s look at the the next few verses:

For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead.

Isaiah 43:3 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)

The Lord is holy. The title ‘The Holy One of Israel’ recurs in Isaiah. The Lord does what is right and just; he does what is needed to be the saviour of his people. Our God does not give up, whatever the cost.

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.

Isaiah 43:4 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)

The Lord loves his chosen people, they are precious and honoured in his sight, worth more than entire nations.

Isaiah then continues his prophetic words by repeating that the Lord is with them and therefore his people should not be afraid. Verse 5 reads “Do not be afraid, for I am with you;” not just ‘it will work out in the end’, or ‘ne day you will be with me’. That is true, but the Lord is with us, here, now. If we are his, he is with us and will never leave us or forsake us, whatever situations we are in. Why is this relationship so special?

… everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.’

Isaiah 43:7 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)

God created and formed Israel for his glory.

All of creation is for his glory. [Psalm 19]

God created and forms his people for his glory. God creates and forms the church, including each Christian, each follower of Jesus, for his glory.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Ephesians 3:20–21 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)

God’s deliverance may not come as quickly as we would like, but he alone sees the end from the beginning. We should be grateful that the Lord delays his wrath, not only his deliverance, to achieve his plans. As Isaiah records when the Lord says,

For my own name’s sake I delay my wrath; for the sake of my praise I hold it back from you, so as not to destroy you completely. See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another.

Isaiah 48:9–11 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)

And so with our faith, our following of, Jesus the Messiah

… through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.

Romans 5:2 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)

No matter where his children are or what conditions they are, the Lord knows them and is with them.

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 43:6–7 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)

A similar form of words to these two verses is found in Psalm 107, verse 3. Psalm 107 has a pattern of refrains helpful to us when stressed. Each time the Lord’s people are in distress they turn to him in anguish and the Lord delivers them, because of his steadfast love. In the refrain the psalmist reminds us that the Lord should be thanked and explains why. Then comes more stress and the cycle repeats. The heart of the psalm is the recognition of the Lord’s steadfast covenant love always coming towards his people, even when they fail towards him.[From conversation, Abbot Jeremy Driscoll, OSB, 21/10/2020] As the psalm ends,

The upright see and rejoice, but all the wicked shut their mouths. Let the one who is wise heed these things and ponder the loving deeds of the Lord.

Psalm 107:42–43 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)

Isaiah 43:8–13   Challenging worshippers of idols

We don’t have time to look at this section today, other than to read the last verse where the Lord says,

Yes, and from ancient days I am he. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?’

Isaiah 43:13 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)

Isaiah 43:14–21   Assurance of release

’Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. The wild animals honour me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.

Isaiah 43:18–21 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)

These words are to people who have been in hardships for seventy years: most had suffered trauma beyond any we have faced. Homes destroyed; many friends and family killed or enslaved, exiled; their temple destroyed, its treasures put to profane use; the capital city burned down. The prophecy reminds them of the Exodus from Egypt when the Lord gave up the firstborn and army of Egypt to redeem his chosen people from slavery. Yet even after this redemption, this deliverance from slavery, his people hankered for the life they had had in Egypt and complained about God’s provision for them. They must forget about life in Egypt, thank their God for their deliverance, for the life they now have, for God’s goodness and mercy towards them, and be obedient to him, acknowledge him as their Lord.

Do we need let go of what could have been, and be open to new possibilities? In whatever circumstances we find ourselves, we are still servants of the Lord, the most high God, called to be thankful to him; to be obedient to him; loving, serving, our Lord and others [waiting on, not waiting for], and to bring glory to him. We need to learn from the Bible and in prayer, growing in spiritual life.

What we are asked to do may not be great or wonderful deeds. To paraphrase Oswald Chambers,

… it does require the supernatural grace of God to live twenty-four hours in every day as a saint, to go through drudgery as a disciple, to live an ordinary, unobserved, ignored existence as a disciple of Jesus. It is inbred in us that we have to do exceptional things for God; but we have not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things, to be holy in [everyday](mean) streets, among [everyday]{mean} people, and this is not learned in five minutes.

Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest: Selections for the Year (Grand Rapids, MI: Oswald Chambers Publications; Marshall Pickering, 1986).

Do all things, great or small, with great love. This is no more than the Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:1–3.

God’s people are never to forget what the Lord has done for them, never to cease to give him thanks and praise. As we read in verse 21:

the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.

Isaiah 43:21 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)

Our focus is not to be on present hardships, pain, disappointments, or problems. Still less on how much better things were. As the Apostle Paul puts it,

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:13–14 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)

Paul wrote Philippians while imprisoned, but even there he insists that we must always rejoice in Christ Jesus:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.

Philippians 4:4–5 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)

Isaiah 43:22–28   Repentance and mercy

‘I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.

Isaiah 43:25 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)

The words are not only for the faithful believers rejoicing, obeying, and adoring the Lord their God. The section continues,

‘Yet you have not called on me, Jacob, you have not wearied yourselves for me, Israel. You have not brought me sheep for burnt offerings, nor honoured me with your sacrifices. I have not burdened you with grain offerings nor wearied you with demands for incense. You have not bought any fragrant calamus for me, or lavished on me the fat of your sacrifices. But you have burdened me with your sins and wearied me with your offences.

Isaiah 43:22–24 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)

It was too much trouble for them to worship, or to give thanks to God.

We must never attribute what we have to our good fortune or having worked hard: they are gifts from God, given through his grace and mercy. Our skills, abilities, life itself are all undeserved. The praise and glory must always be the Lord’s, never ours. We cannot add to the Lord’s glory but we acknowledge it and we demonstrate its reality, to others and ourselves.

We have no grounds to resent or to demand what we do not have, or no longer have. Read again the story of Jonah and, in chapter 4, when the plant that had conveniently grown up and gave him shade withered, or the words of Job after a day of multiple catastrophes:

At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.’ In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.

Job 1:20–22 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)

God does not owe us anything. Whatever we do for him or give to him is no more than we, as faithful servants, should do and give. We cannot offer more to deserve something from him, yet he is delighted when we offer gifts to him out of love and gratitude. God needs nothing from us, but he delights to receive what we give to him: because it comes from his child, his friend.

We must seek more of God, not more of his blessings. The reward we are to look for is not earthly treasure or an easy life but, at the end, to be acknowledged as good and faithful servants. God may, in his grace and mercy, give us many good things along the way and we must be thankful for them and give praise and thanks to the Lord who is the source of all good. God is our sole master. We are to seek the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, what else we need will be added. Hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. [Heb 10:23].

Our time is at an end but the riches of this chapter are not. Do find time to read it and put it into practice.

Finally, the Apostle Paul’s instruction to the church at Philippi, and to us:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4–7 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)

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Scripture quotations marked NIV on this page and in the audio are from the Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.