Now this is what the LORD says--He who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine!
wrath of Jehovah was but grieved affection. Its force is now for the time spent. He will now deliver and protect, reassemble and restore his people (Cheyne).
I. IT IS THE LOVE OF A PARENT. "Thy Creator, O Jacob; he that formed thee, O Israel." Of all the works of God, confessedly the noblest is man; and if man is only known as forming nations, these too are the works of God. And Israel especially is the embodied thought of God, in her laws and institutions, her place and mission in the world. Or, if we think of Israel as gradually fashioned, by schooling and by affliction, into a "new and singular product," not less is she endeared to her Maker and Builder. We cannot but love our children; and scarcely less dear to us are the children of our brain and of our heart - our schemes, our books; the house whose structure we have planned, whose arrangements have been made after ideas of our own; the flock we have overseen; the little body of disciples or friends whom we have made an organization for the diffusion of our views of life. That delight we feel in the reflected image of our mind in what is not ourself, we transfer by analogy to God.
II. IT IS THE LOVE OF A REDEEMER. And this implies sacrifice, love proved by expense of some sort. The tense gives a reference to history and to prophecy - past and future. No price can be too high for the ransom of Israel: other nations will be given up - Egypt, Ethiopia, and Seba - for her. Cambyses, son of Cyrus, conquered Egypt and invaded Ethiopia. The Persian was destined to set free the chosen People; and those other peoples given into his hand as compensation are the ransom price for delivered Israel. If the "wicked are a ransom for the righteous" (Proverbs 21:18), if the sufferings of the evil are in some way connected with the deliverance of the good, - this helps to shed a consoling light upon many a dark page of human history. But not only the suffering of the evil may be thus viewed - the suffering of the good also, in the light of the great saying, "The Son of man came... to give his life a ransom for many" - for the greater or spiritual Israel in all ages.
III. IT IS AN APPROPRIATING, SPECIALIZING, HONOURING LOVE. TO "call by name" is an expressive phrase for selection and election. So was Bezaleel the artist called in connection with the tabernacle-work (Exodus 31:2); so was Moses called by name (Exodus 33:12, 17) and designated for his work. It is to "find grace" in the eyes of God; it is to be precious and honourable in his sight. It is to be a "peculiar treasure" (Exodus 19:5, 6), a property of the Eternal - "mine art thou." We are led into the heart of the covenant-relation by these words. And every association of affection and good which has belonged in the thought of the world to the spiritual bond which knits soul to soul, may be used to illustrate Israel's relation to her God - that of child to parent, of client to patron, of confidential servant to lord, of soul to guardian spirit or angel, may be thought of in this connection. What is true of the nation must be true of its individuals; what holds good of the Church must be valid for the life of each Christian.
IV. IT IS AN ALL-PROTECTING LOVE. Israel shall go through water and through fire unhurt. No stronger figure could be used for safety amidst calamity (cf. Psalm 66:12; Daniel 3:17, 27). We may think of the salvation of Israel from the waves of the Red Sea, of the three children in the furnace at Babylon, of the ever-consuming yet never-consumed bush seen by Moses. These things are parables of the indestructibility of the spiritual life in mankind, and of the perfect integrity of the empire of souls, ruled by the redeeming God. From the east and the west and the north and the south, these scattered souls are to be gathered to their home. Impossible to limit such words to any temporal reference merely. The bounds of time fade away as we listen; and there rises before us the inspiring picture of the world as one vast scene of trial, of education, of an elect people to eternity - in which many sons are being brought to glory, that glory the reflection of God upon their renewed spirits. - J.
1. In reviewing Providence, men do not go far enough back. The Lord Himself always takes a great sweep of time. Here is an instance in point. "But now, thus saith the Lord that created thee,... and He that formed thee." No argument is built upon what happened an hour ago. Thus God will have us go back to creation day, to formation time, and take in all the childhood, all the youthhood, all the manhood, all the education and strife and discipline, all the attrition and all the harmony, all the week-days and all the Sabbath-days; and He would bid us watch the mystery of time, until it comes out in blossoming and fruitfulness and benediction. We should have no pain if we had the right line of review and pursued it, and comprehended it, in its continuity and entirety. There are many creations. God is always creating life, and always forming it. There is an individual existence; there is a national organisation; there are birthdays of empires and birthdays of reform.
But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob.
(J. A. Alexander.)
2. The Church must recognise its period of creation and formation. Jacob was not always a people; Israel was not always a significant name, a symbol in language; and individuals are gathered together into societies, and they are charged with the administration of the kingdom of Christ, and as such they must go back and remember their Creator, and adore their Maker, and serve their Saviour, and renew their inspiration where it was originated.
3. Right relations to God on the part of man should be realised. This appeal rises into climax, into convincing and triumphant words. I have "created thee"; that is the basal line — "formed thee," given thee shape and relation; "redeemed thee," paid for thee; "called thee By thy name," like a friend or child: "thou art Mine." Yet all this is in the Old Testament! Do we not fly from the Old Testament into the New, that we may have some sight of the tenderness of God? There is no need for such flight. There are tenderer words about God in the Old Testament than there are in the New.
4. This relation carries everything else along with it. After this there can be nothing but detail. "When thou passest," etc. (ver. 2).
(J. Parker, D. D.)
I. REDEMPTION. "For I have redeemed thee." From whence came the idea of redemption? (Leviticus 25:25-34.) This is the figure used in the text and elsewhere to show that God has taken away the moral disabilities under which we had fallen through sin. The principle is not without analogy. When the golden grain is enslaved in the earth, the ray of light, the drop of water, and the warm breeze come to redeem their brother.
1. The right to redeem was vested in the next of kin, hence the necessity for the incarnation of the Son of God. The transaction was confined to the family of the brother who had waxen "poor." No portion of the inheritance must ultimately go out of the family, for even if no one of the next of kin was able to redeem it, in the year of Jubilee a full restoration was made. Not only the inheritance must have remained in the family, but the redemption of it was restricted to the family, that it might ever appear of value to the members of the family as a sacred trust from God. This is the very estimate of human life which the Incarnation conveys: to redeem that life the redeemer must be one of the family. But the necessity appears, because the family of man must be impressed with the value of the inheritance which God hath given. The life of Jesus brings home to us the facts that human life is infinitely valuable, and that God has His hold upon it, although mortgaged to another. "All souls are Mine." "I know that my Redeemer liveth."
2. To free the possession the ransom must be paid. The sovereignty of the gift did not free the inheritance from encumbrances contracted by the possessor. Justice demanded the redemption price. In the interest of rectitude and the influence of the moral law, Christ "gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity," etc. As to the nature of the ransom, St. Peter says, "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ."
II. CALLED. "And called thee by thy name." The reference here is either to a legal form of calling out the name of the mortgagor, with the declaration that henceforth his possession was free; or to the trumpet of the Jubilee, which was a direct call to every debtor to resume his liberty.
1. Personal salvation. When we are accosted by name the whole being is involved, with every interest concerned. God calls the sinner to repentance.
2. Personal realisation. The brother who had waxen poor knew he was free, because his name had been called that he might be assured of his freedom. The deed was handed over to him re.conveying the property into his name. Faith leads to the realising of forgiveness and peace.
III. REINSTATED. "Thou art Mine." The idea is that by grace man is brought back to the peace and service of God.
1. The claim is universal. Wherever the new heart is, God claims it for His own.
2. The claim is absolute. We are no longer our own, but, having been bought with a price, we glorify God in body and mind.
3. We are now on trial, but there will be a final recognition. "They shall be Mine," etc.
(T. Davies, M. A.)
2. Let us approach the subject cautiously. God's revelation of Himself is intended to be a light to the mind and a joy to the heart. Everyone who knows anything of Scripture knows how gradual has been the revelation of God to the human race. Not till we reach the time of David do we get the word father as applied to Deity, and then only in a figurative sort of way. Isaiah prophesies that one of the signs of the Christian dispensation shall be that the name of God as revealed in Christ shall be "the Everlasting Father." Men had known Deity as the Self-Existent God — the source of life. They had thought of Him as the God of providence, the Great Provider, who had them in His hands, and would care for them, and that is about the utmost practical view attained to in the Old Testament. In that wonderful book of Job, the epitomised life of the human race, we have the thought of an unrealised Redeemer, — but "My Father and your Father, My God and your God" is new Testament language, and post-resurrection speech at that.
3. This speech leads us to the thought of the Divine responsibility. It is not our invention but God's revelation that, like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him. We have a right, then, to say that at least the same measure of responsibility which belongs to a father for the nourishment, education, and development of his child belongs to the great Eternal Father for us all. We are not responsible for the laws which work in our own constitutions, for we did not create those laws. We are not responsible for anything which is out of our own power. I am not responsible for the original tendency to sinfulness which was in my nature when born into this world. Nor am I responsible for being born; nor for being born where I was born; nor for having just those parents which were mine; nor for being just so high and just so heavy; nor for having the temperament and disposition with which I was born.
4. I suppose that in the generations behind us there have lived people who verily persuaded themselves that they were responsible for the sin of Adam, that they were doomed because an ancestor of generations ago was a wilful sinner. Every man inherits tendencies from past generations. When the first of men wilfully disobeyed God, he started in himself a tendency which, if not resisted, would become a habit of wrong-doing — and that habit would be propagated into the next generation, and into the next, and so on. And that is what is meant by original sin — the tendency created by generations past to wrong — stamping its impress upon mind and heart, yea, upon the physical organism. It is so in the animal world. In the past, dogs have been trained to fold sheep, and the instruction has become a habit, and the habit has created a tendency in the next generation to do the same thing, and has become fixed — a second nature, as we say. And this law runs through all creation, even into the vegetable world. Now, He who made man is responsible for the original law by which tendencies to good and evil can be propagated from sire to son. The law is not evil; it is good. But good laws are often used for bad purposes. From a reservoir of pure water pipes are laid to every house in the city. Those pipes were laid for the conveyance of pure, wholesome water for the benefit of a large population. That was the original design and intention. But suppose that city should be besieged by a barbarian army — suppose the army should surround the reservoir and poison the waters, the very pipes which were laid for the conveyance of life would be conduits for the conveyance of death. But that was not their original design. And so our guilt does not extend to Deity. He is responsible for the beneficent law, not for the sin which has been transmitted along it. The very idea of intelligence involves freedom. Either there must be freedom, or there can be no intelligence and no morality.
5. We cannot conceive of an omniscient God, without admitting that He must have foreseen that the creature He made would abuse His liberty. Does the Divine responsibility extend to making such provision as would prevent it? Clearly not. We cannot conceive how it could be made, and yet leave man a free moral agent, not a machine. The Divine responsibility extends to the providing a means whereby not simply to develop an innocent man, but to save a guilty man from the spiritual consequences of his sin. From all the consequences he cannot be saved; from the fatal consequences he can. That God did anticipate the fall from innocence of His creature, and provide for meeting man in a fallen condition, is evident from one single expression, "the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world." Redemption was no afterthought. For our own convenience, it may be necessary at times to speak of justice, and at other times of mercy. But justice and mercy in God are never represented as in antagonism. They ever go hand-in-hand, like light and heat in the sunbeams. When God opened the eyes of the great apostle he saw this truth, that "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound," or, as it is more correctly, "superabounded," abounded over and above. In this dispensation of things a lost man has not simply to reject God as a Creator, but God as a Redeemer — God in Christ — the God who has done all and everything possible to be done to nullify the fatal results of sin.
6. You remember the complimentary word uttered respecting Abraham: "I know him that he will command his children"; and in every father there is lodged the right to command — the duty to command. That weak tenderness which permits disobedience to go unrebuked and unpunished, is not Divine tenderness. It is the frailty of human irresoluteness. There is nothing of that in God.
(R. Thomas, D. D.)
I. To confirm them in the belief of such a restoration, He puts them in mind of SEVERAL ARGUMENTS AND REASONS to expect it.
1. He tells them that upon their repentance God had promised them such a restoration.
2. Isaiah calls upon the people to consider that this promise of salvation is made to them by that God "who created Jacob and formed Israel." This, indeed, is a common topic of con. solation to every pious man, that He who created him will have mercy on him, and is able, in all circumstances, to make good His promises, and preserve the work of His own hands. But it was very proper for this people, above all others, to make such inferences, because they had been in a peculiar manner created and formed of God.
3. They might conclude this from former redemptions which God had wrought for them. "Fear not, for I have redeemed thee."
4. A fourth ground of Israel's hope for God's future mercies, were the gracious appellations which He had bestowed upon them. "I have called thee by thy name; thou art Mine." He had changed their father Jacob's name to Israel. He had named them His "holy nation," His "peculiar people."
5. A further argument to Israel to trust in God, were the deliverances which He had vouchsafed to some of them. "When thou goest (or hast gone) through the waters, they have not overflowed thee; and through the fire, it hath not kindled upon thee."
II. The words are certainly a common topic of CONSOLATION TO ALL THE FAITHFUL SERVANTS OF GOD. So that, to find our own blessing in them, and to understand them as the voice of our own merciful Father, we have nothing else to do but to approve ourselves His obedient children; for He is no respecter of persons.
1. As God promised His people a restoration from their captivity, upon their true repentance and return to their duty, so will He rescue us from the slavery of sin and Satan, if we do in good earnest feel the oppression and misery of it, and would much rather be employed in doing God's will, and keeping His commandments.
2. Was it an argument to Israel to trust in God, because He had created them and formed them in so special a manner as is before represented? The like consideration is equally comfortable to every member of the Church of Christ. For in Him we are born again.
3. All the redemptions which God vouchsafed to Israel are proofs to us of His infinite power and goodness, and figures of greater things which He will do for us.
4. If God's gracious appellations of Israel assured them of His special regard for them, no less ground of rejoicing have we in the like assurance of His favour towards us.
5. In cases of extreme danger, particularly in perils of fire and water, God has shown Himself the same in the Christian u He was of old in the Jewish Church, a sufficient Helper to deliver out of such troubles.
(W. Reading, M. A.)
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.)I. THE AFFLICTIONS TO WHICH THE PEOPLE OF GOD ARE LIABLE.
1. The text intimates that they may be great. "Waters": "rivers"; calamities which seem as deep and overwhelming as sweeping torrents, and as likely to destroy them.
2. Their troubles may be diversified. They may be in the waters to-day and may have deliverance, but to-morrow they may be called on to walk through "the fire" and "the flame"; to endure trials which are unexpected and strange, different in their nature from any they have yet experienced, and far more severe and biter.
3. The text implies also that these afflictions are certain. It speaks of them as things of course.
II. HOW SEASONABLE AND ENCOURAGING IS THE EXHORTATION.
1. There is a fear of afflictions which is a natural, and by no means sinful, feeling; a fear which leads us to avoid them, if the will of God will allow us to avoid them, and if not, to receive them with much thoughtfulness and prayer; to be aware of the dangers with which they are invariably accompanied, and of our utter inability in ourselves to escape or overcome them.
2. But there is a fear of another kind. It springs from unbelief, and is the cause of tour, touring, despondency, and wretchedness. It is a fear which tempts us to choose sin rather than affliction; which prevents us from praising God under our trials, and from trusting to Him to bring us out of them. Such a fear is as dishonourable to God as it is disquieting to ourselves, and He who values nothing so highly as His own honour and our happiness commands us to lay it aside. It might have been supposed that such an exhortation from such a Being would have been sufficient of itself to dispel the fears of those to whom it is addressed; but a compassionate God does not leave it to its own unaided authority.
III. He supports and strengthens it by TWO MOST GRACIOUS PROMISES.
1. He promises us His own presence with us in our trials. "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee." His people are the objects of His special attention.(1) We are not, however, to infer that the afflicted Christian is always aware of the companion with whom he is walking. He often imagines himself left alone in his trials.(2) Neither are we to suppose that all the afflicted servants of the Lord have the same manifestations of His presence. Some do not need them so much as others. They have not the same temptations to withstand, nor the same burdens to bear, nor the same duties to perform. They are surrounded with more outward comforts, and consequently they less need those which are inward. Some also do not desire or seek the light of their Father's countenance so earnestly as their brethren. They lean more on earthly friends and succours. He who is infinitely wise, always suits the nature and measure of His gracious manifestations to the necessities and, in one sense, to the characters of His people. He gives them what they need, and what they desire and seek.
2. There is the promise of preservation under all our calamities. What does preservation imply? It implies that our trials shall not injure us. Rivers are likely to overflow, and flames likely to burn, those who pass through them. Affliction is likely to injure, and would inevitably ruin us, if God were not near. It tempts us to rebel against the Divine providence and to distrust the Divine goodness; to be thankless, impatient, and repining. The mind, already weakened, perhaps, and bewildered by the pressure of adversity, is easily led to apprehend still greater troubles, and faints at the prospect. This, too, is the season when our great adversary is most to be dreaded. It is in the night that the wild beasts of the forest roar after their prey; and it is in the darkness of spiritual or temporal adversity that Satan directs against us his most violent assaults. The fact is that our spiritual interests are much more endangered by tribulation than our worldly prosperity. It is the soul which is most exposed, and which most needs preservation; and preservation is here promised to it. The Christian often enters the furnace cold-hearted, earthly-minded, and comfortless; he comes out of it peaceful, confiding, burning with love for his delivering God, and thirsting after the enjoyment of His presence.
IV. The Lord vouchsafes to add to His precious promises several reasons or ARGUMENTS TO ASSURE US OF THEIR FULFILMENT.
1. The first is drawn from the relation in which He stands to us as our Creator. "Thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and He that formed thee, O Israel." This language refers to our spiritual as well as to our natural existence. Here, then, is a solid ground of confidence. The Father of our spirits must be well acquainted with their infirmities and weakness. "He knoweth our frame, and remembereth that we are dust." Neither will He ever forsake the work of His own hands.
2. The Almighty draws another argument to enforce His exhortation, from the property which He has in His people, and the manner in which He acquired it. "Fear not," He says, "for I have redeemed thee," etc. We are His by creation, but He has also made us His by redemption. And what a mighty price did He pay for us! Will He then abandon that which He so much values, which cost Him so dear?
3. There is yet another reason assigned why we should cast away fear in the hour of tribulation — the covenant God has formed with His people ensures the fulfilment of His promises. "I am the Lord thy God," He says, "the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour"; thus implying that He has entered into some engagement with His Israel; that He considers Himself bound to be with them in their troubles and distresses; that His own veracity, His own faithfulness, are at stake, and would be sacrificed if Israel were forsaken or injured. He thus connects His own honour with their safety. Lessons —
1. How rich in consolation is the Word of'God!
2. How essential to our happiness is a knowledge of our interest in the Divine promises! — to appropriate them to ourselves, and rejoice in them.
3. How full of confidence and praise ought they to be, who live in the enjoyment of the Divine presence in trouble!
4. How blind to their own interest are they who reject the Gospel of Christ!
(C. Bradley, M. A.)Isaiah 44:21-23)
: —(1) Notice that these three texts are very much alike in this respect — that they are each addressed to God's people under the names of Jacob and Israel.(2) These texts are like each other, again, from their overflowing with love. I do not know where the Lord's love is best seen, when He declares it and tells of what He has done and is doing for His people, or when He laments over their want of love in return, or when He promises to blot out their past sin, and invites them to return to Him and enjoy His restoring grace.
I. We have in our first text, LOVE ABOUDING.
1. Notice the time when that love is declared. The first verse begins, "But now, thus saith the Lord." When was that? It was the very time when He was angry with the nation by reason of their great sins (Isaiah 42:25). It was a time, then, of special sin, and of amazing hardness of heart. When a man begins to burn, he generally feels and cries out; he must be far gone in deadly apathy when he is touched with fire and yet lays it not to heart. It was a time of love with God, though a time of carelessness with His people.
2. The Lord shows His abounding love by the sweetness of His consolations, "But now, thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and He that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not." "Fear not" is a little word measured by space and letters; but it is an abyss of consolation if we remember who it is that saith it, and what a wide sweep the comfort takes. Fear hath torment, and the Lord would cast it out. You that are the people of God may be smarting, and crying, and sighing. But, oh the love of God to you. He hears your cries, and His compassions are moved towards you! Nothing touches Him like the groans of His children. There is a wonderful intensity of affection in this passage, spoken, as it is, by the great God to His people while they are under the rod which they so richly deserve.
3. The fulness of God's love is to be seen in the way in which He dwells with evident satisfaction upon His past dealings with His people. When we love some favoured one, we like to think of all our love passages in years gone by; and the Lord so loves His people, that, even when they are under His chastening hand, He still delights to remember His former loving-kindnesses. We may forget the wonders of His grace, but He doth not forget. He "created," "redeemed," "called." He dwells upon His possession of His people. "Thou art Mine."
4. If you desire to see the overflowings of God's love in another form, notice in the next verse how He declares what He means to do. "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee," etc. His love casts its eye upon your future. He loves you too well to make your way to heaven free from adversity and tribulation, for these things work your lasting good. But He does promise you that the deepest waters shall not overflow you, and the fiercest torrents shall not drown you, for this one all-sufficient reason, that He will be with you.
5. The overflowings of Divine love are seen in the Lord's avowing Himself still to be His people's God: "I am Jehovah thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour."
6. Though one would think He might have come to a close here, the Lord adds His valuation of His people, this was so high that He says, "I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee." Pharaoh and his firstborn were nobodies as compared with Jacob's seed. Further on in history, after Isaiah's day, the Lord moved Cyrus to set Israel flee from Babylon, and then gave to the son of Cyrus a rich return for liberating the Jews; for He made Him conqueror of Egypt and of Ethiopia and of Seba. God will give more than the whole world to save His Church, seeing He gave His only begotten Son.
7. Then the Lord adds another note of great love. He says that He has thought so much of His people that He regarded them as honourable. "Since thou wast precious in My sight," etc. He publishes His love, not only by His deeds, but by express words. What a wealth of grace is here!
8. Such is the Lord's love, that even in the time when they were not acting as they should, but grieving Him, He stands to His love of them, and sets the same value on them as before: "Since thou wast precious in My sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life." As if He said, "What I have done I will do again. My love is unalterable."
II. Our second text is in the minor key, it is LOVE LAMENTING. "But thou hast not called upon Me, O Jacob" (ver. 22). Observe the contrast; for it runs all through, and may be seen in every sentence: I have called thee by thy name; but thou hast not called upon Me, O Jacob. I have called thee Mine; but thou hast been weary of Me. I have redeemed thee with a matchless price; but thou hast bought Me no sweet cane with money.
1. Israel rendered little worship to God. May not the Lord of infinite mercy justly say to some of us, "But thou hast not called upon Me, O Jacob"?
2. There has been little fellowship; for the Lord goes on to say, "Thou hast been weary of Me, O Israel." Are we tired of our God? If not, how is it that we do not walk with Him from day to day?
3. We are moved by this passage to confess how little of spirituality has been found in the worship which we have rendered. "Thou hast not honoured Me with thy sacrifices." When we have come to worship, in public and in private, we have not honoured the Lord by being intense therein. The heart has been cold, the mind wandering.
4. Again, the Lord mentions that His people have brought Him little sacrifice: "Thou hast not brought Me the small cattle," etc. What small returns have we made! In the religion of Christ there is no taxation; everything is of love.
5. Once more, it is said that we have been very slack in our consideration of our God. The Lord says, "I have not caused thee to serve with an offering, nor wearied thee with incense; but thou hast made Me to serve with thy sins; thou hast wearied Me with thine iniquities." The Lord is thoughtful of us, but we are not thoughtful towards Him. If the Lord did not love us very much He would not care so much about our love towards Himself. It is the plaint of love. The Lord does not need our sweet canes nor our money. But when He chides us for withholding our love-tokens, it is because He values our love, and is grieved when it grows cold.
III. Our third text exhibits LOVE ABIDING.
1. Notice, in Isaiah 44:21, how the Lord still calls His people by the same name: "Remember these, O Jacob and Israel." Still are the names of His elect like music in the ears of God. One would have feared that He would have dropped the "Israel," that honourable name, which came of prevailing prayer, since they had not called upon Him. Why call him a prevailing prince who had grown weary of his God? But no, He harps upon the double title: He loves to think of His beloved as what they were, and what His grace made them. O heir of heaven, God loves you still!
2. Notice how the Lord claims His servants: "Thou art My servant: I have formed thee; thou art My servant." He has not discharged us, though He has had cause enough for so doing. This should bind us to Him. This should quicken our pace in His service.
3. Then notice how the Lord assures us in the next line: "O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of Me." God cannot forget His chosen. You that have Bibles with margins will find that it is also written there, "O Israel, forget not Me." The Lord longs to be remembered by us. Did not our loving Lord institute the Sacred Supper to prevent our forgetting Him?
4. Notice with delight the triumph of love, how still He pardons: "I have blotted out, as a thick cloud," etc.
5. See how our text closes with the Lord's own precept to be glad: "Sing, O ye heavens; for the Lord hath done it," etc. (Isaiah 44:23). Out of all dejection arise! There is more cause for gladness than for sorrow. What you have done should cause distress of heart; but what the Lord has done is cause for rapture.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. The first contrast lies in THE CALL.
1. I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name" (ver. 1).(1) God called us out of nothing. "Thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob" (ver. 1). Our creation is entirely due to God. An ungodly man can hardly bless God for having made him, for his end may be terrible. Blessed be God for our being, because it is followed by our well-being! Blessed be God for our first birth, because we have also experienced a second birth.(2) Our Lord has done more than make us, for He has educated us; He has continued the fashioning of us. "He that formed thee, O Israel." Israel is the "formed" Jacob; by God's grace, Jacob grows into Israel. Let us think of all the sweet experiences of God's forming and fashioning touch that we have had. Sometimes, it has been a rough stroke that was necessary for the moulding of our clay; only by affliction could we be made to assume the shape and pattern that the Lord had determined for us. At other times, it has been the touch of very soft fingers. "Thy gentleness hath made me great."(3) Think what wonderful,, dealings He has had, next, in consoling us, for the Lord goes., on to say, Fear not. Oh, how often He has cheered us up when our spirit was sinking!(4) That is not all, for the Lord has also called us, and conversed with us, in the matter of redemption. "I have redeemed thee."(5) The Lord has given a special nomination. "I have called thee by thy name."(6) Then comes this blessed appropriation: "Thou art Mine." This is the way that God talks to us.
2. Turn to the other side of the question, the neglected call on our part. "Thou hast not called upon Me, O Jacob" (ver. 22). That may not mean that there has been literally no calling upon God on thy side, but it does mean that there has been too little of it. Let us put this matter to the test.(1) What about our prayers? There is much less prayer than there ought to be.(2) True as this is of our prayers, it is still more true of our praises.(3) There are many, with whom God has dealt well, who do not venture to call upon Him for special help in His service. They keep plodding along the old roads, and mostly in the old ruts; but they do not dare to invoke the aid of the Lord for some novel form of service, some fresh enterprise upon which they can strike out for God.(4) Sometimes in our trouble, we do not call upon God as we should.
II. Let us consider another contrast which is equally striking — that is, upon the matter of THE CONVERSE between the Lord and His people.
1. Notice, first, God's side of it. "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee," etc. (ver. 2). Notice how God is with His people in strange places. Wherever they are, He will not leave them; He will go right through the waters with them. God also keeps close to His people in dangerous places, fatal places as they seem.
2. Now listen to your side of this matter of converse with God. "But thou hast been weary of Me, O Israel" (ver. 22).(1) Has it not been so with regard to private prayer?(2) With your reading of the Scriptures?(3) Hearing the Word?(4) Are there not some also whom God loves who get weary of their work?
III. Notice the contrast in THE SACRIFICE.
1. "I gave Egypt for thy ransom," etc. (ver. 3).(1) Here is God giving up everybody else for the sake of His people. Egypt, Ethiopia, and Seba were great nations, but God did not choose the greatest. "Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called," etc.(2) We may see another meaning in these words, for God has given for us His choicest gift. Christ is infinitely more precious than Egypt, and Ethiopia, and Seba, though they were lands of great abundance of wealth.
2. Now look at the other side. "Thou hast not brought Me the small cattle of thy burnt offerings" (ver. 23). I wonder how little some people really do give to God! I believe, in some cases, not as much as it costs them for the blacking of their boots. Then the Lord adds, "Thou hast bought Me no sweet cane with money." Not even the smallest offering has been given to the Most High by some who profess to have been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. How little is given by the most generous of us!
IV. I close with one snore contrast, which refers to THE HONOUR given by God, and the honour given to God.
1. God gives great honour to those whom He saves (ver. 4). I have known persons who, before their conversion, were unclean in their lives, and when they have been converted, they have joined a Christian Church, and in the society of God's people they have become honourable. They have been taken into the fellowship of the saints just as if there had never been a fault in their lives; nobody has mentioned the past to them, it has been forgotten. This is the highest honour that God can put upon us, that He fixes His love upon us. "Thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee."
2. Have you honoured God? He says, "Neither hast thou honoured Me with thy sacrifices." Have you honoured God by your lives? By your confidence in Him? By your patience? By defending His truth when it has been assailed? By speaking to poor sinners about Him? Are you trying every day to honour Him?
( C. H. Spurgeon.)I. A CHARGE GIVEN. "Fear not." A godly fear the believer may have; but the cowardice of the world, which is loud to boast, and slow to act, and quick to doubt, he must never know. It becomes neither the dignity of his calling, nor the faithfulness of his God.
II. A REASON ASSIGNED. "Thou art Mine." These words were spoken to Israel after the flesh, and to them they still remain a covenant of peace, sure and steadfast for ever; yet as the relations named — Creator, Redeemer, Saviour — are not peculiar to them, but are enjoyed in the same degree by every believing heart, we may take to ourselves a share in this animating promise. The certainty of the believer's hope does not depend on our holding God, but on God's holding us; not on our faithfulness to Him, but on His faithfulness to us.
III. A PROTECTION PROMISED. This does not consist in any absence of trial and danger; the expressions rather imply their presence, many in number and various in kind. The protection promised consists in the constant presence with the soul of its unseen but Almighty Saviour.
I have called thee by thy nameI. THE PERSON. "I — thee — thou — Mine." How this sentence tingles with personality! If one person can call another person, those two persons are alike. Those two persons have a common life interest. Personality in God is substantially similar to personality in man.
II. THE NAME. Would it be an untrue fancy to suppose that we each have a name before God? When you look at your little sleeping child to-night, you will, perhaps, not only think of the name that everybody knows him by, but you will murmur over him some little special name that you have given him — you hardly know how, but that gives to you the very sense of the essence of the true life sleeping there. Remember that something just like that is in the heart of your God's feeling for you. Science generalises, love particularises. Then, with this loving name, comes possession. There is a strange, yearning intensity in that language, "Thou art Mine." The mystery and rapture of life are in that strange sense of possession which comes through love, as though the loved one had become a part of ourselves to be dissevered from us nevermore. "Thou art Mine," says our God — Mine to carry, to nurture, to protect — My very own, never to part from Me for evermore.
III. THE CALL OF THE NAME. It would be very much to know that God even thought of us by our name in this personal and special way; but the text asserts that this power of God finds expression; that life is filled not only with a thought of us on the part of God, but with an expression of that thought; so that there is something vocalised, something articulate in life, which comes to us, if we can really understand that it is God calling us by this name we have.
1. The very first awakening feeling in childhood is a personal call. When you first really prayed as a little child and thought what you were doing, what a sense of individuality there was. You were yourself then, and nobody else. It was God speaking to you, and calling you by your name.
2. Then another period which comes, usually s little later, when God's call is addressed to us, is in our first assumption of responsibility. I think some of the most solitary times a man ever has are when he has just assumed a serious responsibility. Now, in that solitude, if a man listens, he can hear his God calling to him, speaking his name right then and there. How tenderly, how warmly, how encouragingly! And the reason is, because God loves the thing that that responsibility will give you. He loves the thing that will make for you, and that is character; that is manhood.
3. Then, again, in a moment of danger, a man may hear God calling his name; because danger, like duty, particularises. Supposing we see a man in danger; we ask, Who is he? What is his name? And if the man does not realise the peril he is in, you call to him by the name that will cut through the air, and strike on his ear, and arouse his individual attention. Suppose moral danger comes and God sees the danger coming, and He calls out to you by that name He knows you by. If you could hear that call, would it not cause you to repel the evil? as though the Voice said, "I remember you; you are Mine. Your name is known to Me. I am your heavenly Friend, and I call on you now to do your duty, to repel the evil."
4. He speaks our name when we are in trouble.
5. There are certain other experiences of life darker than duty or danger or sorrow. We name them by that strong, common monosyllable, sin. These moral experiences that cut into the soul within us — sin, the sting and stab of remorse, repentance, reformation — all are experiences of an arena in which God calls a man by his name.
(A. J. Lyman, D. D.)
(A. J. Lyman, D. D.)
(J. A. Alexander.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)
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