Sermon text: Isaiah 44:1-8
In last week’s passage, we say how our loving God is merciful and generous to his people. He is merciful and generous even though his people are sinful. He is merciful and generous even though he is about to bring about chastisement in the form of exile. The people are about to be carried away to what will come to be called The Babylonian Captivity, an enormously significant time in the history of Israel.
And so, here as we continue in Isaiah, God speaks words of comfort to his people. Words which will be so important to them as they are carried away to a foreign land. God speaks kindly to his people here, so that even while they endure hardship, and chastisement, they will not be overcome with sorry, fear, and grief. He gives them comfort so that they will remember all his acts of kindness towards them in the past, and he promises them here even greater kindness in the future. For it is His kindness which brings us to repentance (Romans 2:4).
He begins with “LISTEN…Jacob…Israel…WHOM I HAVE CHOSEN.” The people of Israel did not discover God on their own. Abraham was not seeking God, but rather, GOD CHOSE THEM. God, by his own decree decided to make Abraham and his descendants HIS. And so it is with us as well, as Paul reminds us in Ephesians 1: 4-6
… just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
Brothers and sisters, you are His because he chose you; and he chose you before the beginning of time.
But verse 2 makes it even more personal as God describes Himself as the who “who formed you from the womb.” God has been intimately concerned with us, not just in eternity past, but even as we were being knitted together in our mother’s womb; God was there, and He knew you, and He knew me.
And this God, who chose you before the beginning of time to be holy and blameless in His sight, who formed you in your mother’s womb, this God “will help you”! And this is so important brothers and sisters. It was important to them because they were about to be carried away into exile, and they needed to be reminded that God knew them and loved them.
They were not alone!
And we need to be reminded of the same. Because we are entering a time which may turn out to be very distressing the world over. But we have a God who has known us since before time began and who knit us in our mother’s womb. We have a God who has brought us to himself, who knows where he is taking us, who knows how this will end, and who is in control of it all. God knows the end from the beginning, and nothing escapes his notice. And YOU are precious in his sight; he has regard for what you are going through.
You are not alone!
And this is why we are not to fear. Because no matter what is happening around us, our God has promised to help his people!
And hear the tender terms by which he calls us: “my servant”, he says. And “Jeshurun” … “whom I have chosen”. Jeshurun means “Upright One.” And this is a reminder that He declares us holy. We are holy, not because we have innate holiness, we are holy because he has washed our sins away with the blood of His Son, our savior, and so he declares us holy. And we are being made holy by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which sanctifies us and is conforming us to the image of Christ. And one day, that transformation will be complete, and we shall be like Him, and then we shall be holy indeed.
In verse 3 we see the promise of the Holy Spirit: “For I will pour out water on a thirsty land” and “I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring.” And it is by this promise that most of us, that is all Christians who are not also Jews, have come into the kingdom.
We are the ones who have ‘sprung up’ like poplars by streams of water. Because God has poured out his spirit like water, WE say “I am the Lord’s.” Because the Lord our God showed us both our need for repentance, and the promise of his kindness, WE call on the name of The Lord, WE have written on our hands “Belonging to the Lord”, and Christ’s name is held in highest honor.
That phrase “…write on his hand “Belonging to the Lord”’ is an interesting one. It is a reference to how slaves were often marked or tattooed in the hand with their master’s name. We belong to Christ, and so we who are in Christ “bear the marks of the Lord Jesus”, just as Paul writes in Galatians 6:17.
In verse 6, God begins a great discourse in which he reminds his people how He is God, and idols, or anything else we might put our trust in, are worthless.
“I am the first and the last” He says in verse 6, “And there is no God besides Me”. God is outside of time. One commentator wrote:
An idol can never be the First, because an idol needs someone to make him. An idol can never be the Last because they wear out and break. But the Lord GOD of Israel is both the First and the Last; He is completely unique, and besides Him there is no God.
In verse 7 He reminds us that only He knows the end from the beginning. Only God knows what is coming. Only God can declare what will be, because He is the one who brings it to pass.
And why brothers and sisters, does he remind us of this? He reminds us of this so that we will NOT BE AFRAID! Verse 8 says “Do not tremble and do not be afraid.”
Why should we not be afraid?
Because God has already told you that these things will happen, and He loves you and He is in control, and your eternal destiny is secure! Jesus, our Savior, said in John 6:40:
For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”
And listen also to what Jesus says in Matthew 10:28-31
Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.
So brothers and sisters, do not fear this present pestilence, which can destroy the body, but fear God, and serve him. The Father has placed his love on you! If you are in Christ, the very hairs of your head are numbered, and you are so valuable to God, that he sent His Son to die for you.
Now if you are not in Christ, these promises are not for you. If you believe that you have no need of a savior, or that you are good enough on your own; if you think that you somehow merit God’s favor, or if you deny that God’s favor is even something to be sought, then your sin is on your head, as it was once on each of our heads. Because we have all sinned and earned the wrath of God. But despite our sin, God has only done good to us. He brought each of us to a place where we saw our sin for what it is, and he showed us the kind intention of His will to pardon our sin in Christ. So if you see that you are naked before him, with nothing in your hands to offer, no good deeds to buy your way in to God’s good graces, if you will humble yourself before God, and beg his forgiveness for your sin and rebellion against Him, and turn and follow Him, then these promises are yours as well. Because Jesus said that he will not turn away ANYONE who comes to him. And whosoever comes to him, he will save. And HE will raise us up on that final day, and we will live together with Him, forever.
I would plead with you submit to what I am sure your conscience is already telling you. Trust Christ to save you.
And to all who are in Christ, the Lord God commands us: “Do not fear!”