By Tim Herwaldt
1 But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
3 For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
4 Because you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you,
I give men in return for you,
peoples in exchange for your life.
5 Fear not, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you.
6 I will say to the north, Give up,
and to the south, Do not withhold;
bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the end of the earth,
7 everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.”
This passage from Isaiah 43 holds great promise and encouragement for the saints of the Lord. Chapter 42 closes with Isaiah’s account of the sinfulness of God’s chosen people, the Israelites, and the consequent chastisement that the Lord has poured out on them. Chapter 43 begins with an abrupt change in tone. The proclamation of wrath that concluded chapter 42 turns to the declaration of a promise of the Lord’s care and provision for his chosen ones.
It is good to notice that there is not a promise that there will be no suffering. “When you pass through the waters” and “when you walk through the fire” do not suggest a pathway free of trouble. In fact, it seems that the opposite is true. Each phrase begins with “when” rather than “if.” Trouble, it seems, is on the horizon. But the trouble that comes will not be a consuming trouble because the Lord promises, even as his people walk through these things, “I will be with you,…the flame shall not consume you.”
These are words of encouragement that we should take to heart. They were written to the Jews in a particular historical context, but we can also say that they were written to the chosen people of God. And in our own context, those of us who are in Christ are also the chosen ones of the Lord. His promise is to be with his people in the midst of the troubles that they must live through, and we know from the consistent teachings of the Bible that God intends to be with his people in every circumstance.
Notice the strong foundation that God gives to his people to know that the rivers will not overwhelm them, and that the fire will not consume them. At the most basic level, the reason they (and we) will not be overwhelmed is God himself: “For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” This, more than any other thing, is the firm foundation we stand on. In verse 1 and again in verse 7 God reminds his people that he has made them, and in verse 7 adds to this that he has done so for his glory. Since he has redeemed us (v.1), he has no intention of abandoning us. Our sure foundation, our ever present help in trouble is the Lord our God, the Holy One of Israel, our Savior, and he has redeemed us for his own!