The Goodness of God to Israel
Isaiah 43:1-4
But now thus said the LORD that created you, O Jacob, and he that formed you, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed you…

In the latter part of the preceding chapter we read of the sins, not of the obedience of Israel. After this, what might have been expected but that He would punish them still more severely, if not abandon them as incorrigible? In the text, however, He promises to magnify His mercy in doing them good. Consider —

I. THE CHARACTER OF THE PEOPLE HERE SPOKEN OF. It may be inferred from the names given to them in the text. They are addressed by the convertible names of "Jacob," and "Israel." His name Jacob was changed because he had wrestled with God for His blessing till he succeeded in obtaining it. Hence, then, we may learn the character of His spiritual children — they wrestle with God in prayer for His blessing till they prevail. But this general description of them includes several particulars. Consider —

1. What they do. They pray. And does not this at once distinguish them from thousands around them?

2. To whom are their prayers addressed? To the true God. who is also their own God — the God of Israel. This also separates them from an immense number of the human race; for how many, alas, are there in the world who are totally mistaken as to the proper object of worship!

3. They pray to Him alone. There are not a few in the world who unite the worship of Jehovah with that of their own idols.

4. But what does Israel pray for? For God's blessing. This implies that they feel their need of it, and, by consequence, that they differ essentially from all persons of a self-righteous and self-sufficient spirit.

5. How do they pray? In faith. They pray also fervently. They are not like many, cold, formal, and lifeless in prayer. They persevere, too, till they prevail. But were they always such characters? No; there was a time when they were as prayerless as others. Who, then, has made them to differ? God alone.

II. WHAT HE HAS DONE FOR THEM IN TIME PAST; or what are the steps which He has taken to make them what they are. These steps are three —

1. He has created them. "Thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob," etc. They are subjects of a creation to which all others are entire strangers. What renders this creation necessary is the corruption of our nature, which is total, since the Fall. It is a creation of good substituted for evil, a heart of flesh for a heart of stone, light for darkness, holiness for sin, faith for sense, life for death, happiness for misery. Every real Christian is the subject of it. It is ejected by the operation of the Holy Ghost. To God, therefore, belongs the whole glory of it.

2. He has redeemed them. "Fear not; for I have redeemed thee."

3. He has called them by their names. "I have called thee by thy name." And what does this imply?

(1) "That they are made partakers of the heavenly calling," "the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."(2) That God well knows His people.

(3) We know that when a mar of superior rank and dignity calls an inferior by his name, he is considered to treat him with uncommon marks of kindness and familiarity, and to confer upon him a peculiar honour. Such kindness and honour, then, does God bestow upon His people. He is not ashamed to be called their God, and to allow each of them, like Abraham, to be called the friend of God.

4. This, then, is what the Lord has done for Israel His people; and He therefore calls them His, saying, "Thou art Mine." Has He not the most indisputable title to their persons and services?

III. WHAT HE PROMISES TO DO FOR THEM IN TIME TO COME, "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee," etc.

1. To pass through fire and water appears to have been a proverbial expression for passing through various kinds of dangers, trials, and afflictions.

2. But why does God suffer His people to be thus afflicted? Because they are children whom He loves.

3. And do their tribulations answer the ends which He has in view? Yes; there is not one of His afflicted ones who has not had cause to say, sooner or later, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted."

4. We are not, however, to suppose that afflictions of themselves ever bear these blessed fruits. Unblest and unsanctified, they have rather a contrary tendency, and produce very different effects. And were it not for the presence of God with His people, in the water and the fire, they would be injured and destroyed by them. But they need not fear; for faithful is He that hath promised.

5. Need I remind you how this promise has been verified, or how the presence of God has been with His people in every age of the Church?

(1) Look, first, at Israel after the flesh. See their afflictions in Egypt, and know their sorrows. Behold the bush burning with fire, and yet not consumed. God is in the midst of it. Follow them in their passage out of that house of bondage. God is with them in a pillar of cloud by day, and in a pillar of fire by night. Observe them again during their captivity in Babylon. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, the servants of the Most High God, walked in the midst of the fire, and had no hurt. They had a fourth in their company, whom even Nebuchadnezzar could not help saying was like the Son of God.

(2) Look, next, into New Testament times, and even to later ages, and you will find additional evidence of the blessed truth before us.

(D. Rees.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.

WEB: But now thus says Yahweh who created you, Jacob, and he who formed you, Israel: "Don't be afraid, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by your name. You are mine.

The Exhortation and Promises of God to the Afflicted
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