THE LETTER OF JOY ISAIAH 43:1-28: “But now [in spite of past judgments for Israel’s sins], thus says the Lord, He Who created you, O Jacob, and He Who formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you [ransomed you by paying a price instead of leaving you captives]; I have called you by your name; you are Mine.” (v1)

Here we are again with ‘in spite of’ and not ‘on account of’. Each morning, with a coffee within reach, I consult yesterday’s to-do list. I commiserate or celebrate according to how much was achieved, and then create a new list for the day ahead. Life is busy, being busy and I will admit I even have lists of lists! But sometimes it helps to step off the treadmill and remember what we are called to and who has called us and try to ask questions like does He who called us have a purpose for calling us? God has a plan for our lives! There are things only we have been distinctively designed and destined to do; there is a race that we alone can run. We should realize that since there are things only we are distinctively designed and destined to do and accomplish; it there means that if another is covetously placed to do it, the system will fail. As we explore themes found within the Book of Philippians. I believe we will be inspired again by Paul’s sense of calling and by the consistent friendship of the Philippian church, who Paul encouraged to be faithful in their own calling despite the challenges they faced. Do you ever forget that you have been called by name? What does it mean to know that Lord Jesus has a plan and a purpose specifically for your life? Consider that calling again and pray that God will renew and re-establish His vision (and His to-do list) for your life in the days ahead. This re-establishment of the Lord vision and His to-do list for your life in the days ahead is very essential especially those who have lost sight of why they are on earth.

  Fear Not! Isaiah 43:1-28:

The contents of Isaiah 43 contain the following: 1. God's unchangeable love for His people as seen in verses 1-7 2. Apostates and idolaters addressed as seen in verses 8-13; remember that an apostate person is one that is unfaithful or disloyal to religion, party or cause who betrays or deserts his cause, religion or party or friends. 3. The deliverance from Babylon, and the conversion of the Gentiles as seen in verses 14-21, which is a figure of the Lord God’s deliverance of His people just as He is about to deliver us in this part of the globe and the Gentiles of our time; the unbelievers will see and behold that marvellous work of God’s deliverance to His people and this will bring about great conversion to true Christianity from other religion and even from the atheist group, that is those who do not believe in God. 4. Admonition to repent of sin as seen in verses 22-28; this act of repenting of our sin is very essential because God will and does not tolerate sin, He abhors it. This is why God looks unto Christ being the only sinless being and when Christ indwells us it make the Lord God to see us as being holy and righteous because from the moment an individual is truly in Christ he becomes a new creature who now try to live life sinless. Isaiah 43:1-7: God's favour (grace) and good-will to His people speak of abundant comfort to all believers. God aims that His people will boost the showcasing of God’s great favour to His people so that those who are not of Him will behold and see for it to marvellously touch their heart and be a means of conversion. The new creature, the born again child of God wherever he or she is, is of God's forming. All who are redeemed with the blood of His Son, He has set apart for Himself. Those that have God for them need not fear who or what can be against them; hence the word of God said ‘if God be for us, who can be against us’. What are Egypt and Ethiopia, all their lives and treasures, compared with the blood of Christ? True believers are precious in God's sight, His delight is in them, above any people. Though for the sake of preparing them and make them fearless and courageous; true believers are permitted to go through fire and water in, yet, while they had God with them, they need fear no evil; they should be born up, and brought out. The faithful are encouraged. They were to be assembled from every quarter. And with this pleasing object in view, the prophet again dissuades them from anxious fears. Isaiah 43:8-13: Idolaters; those who worship other things except the true God are called to appear in defence of their idols. Those who make idols, and trust in idols, are like unto idols. They have the shape and faculties of men; but they have not common sense, they reason abnormally different from the normal real man. But God's people know the power of His grace, the sweetness of His comforts, the kind care of His providence, and the truth of His promise because they have all witnessed all of these in their lives one way or the other. All servants of God can give such an account of what He has wrought in them, and done for them, as may lead others to know and believe the Lord God’s power, truth, and love. Isaiah 43:14-21: The deliverance from Babylon is foretold, but there is reference to greater events of deliverance ahead both individually and collectively. The redemption of sinners by Christ, the conversion of the Gentiles, and the recall of the Jews, are described. All that is to be done to rescue sinners, and to bring the believer to glory, is little, compared with that wondrous work of love, the redemption of man. Isaiah 43:22-28: Those who neglect to call upon God, are weary, tired or reluctant of Him. The Master tried not the servants with His commands, but they tried Him with disobedience. What were the riches of God's mercy toward them? I, even I, am He who yet blotteth out thy transgressions. Transgression is an act that goes against a law, rule, or code of conduct; an offence. When we become aware that He blots out our offences against Him, this encourages us to repent, because there is forgiveness with God, and shows the freeness of Divine mercy. When God forgives, He forgets. It is not for anything in us, but for His mercies' sake, His promise' sake; especially for His Son's Jesus Christ sake. He is pleased to reckon it His honour. Would man justify himself before God? The attempt is desperate: our first father broke the covenant, and we all have copied the example of our first father Adam. We have no reason to expect pardon, except we seek it by faith in Christ; and that is always attended by true repentance, and followed by newness of life, by hatred of sin, and love to God. Always remember that the Lord Jesus Christ brought us out of Adam and placed us in Himself which now made us the righteousness of God. Let us then put Him in remembrance of the promises He has made to the penitent, and the satisfaction His Son has made for them. Plead these with Him in wrestling for pardon; and declare these things, that thou mayest be justified freely by His grace. This is the only way, and it is a sure way to peace. Now let us read Isaiah 43:1-28: But now [in spite of past judgments for Israel’s sins], thus says the Lord, He Who created you, O Jacob, and He Who formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you [ransomed you by paying a price instead of leaving you captives]; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned or scorched, nor will the flame kindle upon you. 3 For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt [to the Babylonians] for your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba [a province of Ethiopia] in exchange [for your release]. 4 Because you are precious in My sight and honored, and because I love you, I will give men in return for you and peoples in exchange for your life. 5 Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east [where they are dispersed] and gather you from the west. 6 I will say to the north, Give up! and to the south, Keep not back. Bring My sons from afar and My daughters from the ends of the earth— 7 Even everyone who is called by My name, whom I have created for My glory, whom I have formed, whom I have made. 8 Bring forth the blind people who have eyes and the deaf who have ears. 9 Let all the nations be gathered together and let the peoples be assembled. Who among [the idolaters] could predict this [that Cyrus would be the deliverer of Israel] and show us the former things? Let them bring their witnesses, that they may be justified, or let them hear and acknowledge, It is the truth. 10 You are My witnesses, says the Lord, and My servant whom I have chosen, that you may know Me, believe Me and remain steadfast to Me, and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after Me. 11 I, even I, am the Lord, and besides Me there is no Savior. 12 I have declared [the future] and have saved [the nation in times of danger], and I have shown [that I am God]—when there was no strange and alien god among you; therefore you are My witnesses, says the Lord, that I am God. 13 Yes, from the time of the first existence of day and from this day forth I am He; and there is no one who can deliver out of My hand. I will work, and who can hinder or reverse it? 14 Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: For your sake I have sent [one] to Babylon, and I will bring down all of them as fugitives, [with] all their nobles, even the Chaldeans, into the ships over which they rejoiced. 15 I am the Lord, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King. 16 Thus says the Lord, Who makes a way through the sea and a path through the mighty waters, 17 Who brings forth chariot and horse, army and mighty warrior. They lie down together, they cannot rise; they are extinguished, they are quenched like a lampwick: 18 Do not [earnestly] remember the former things; neither consider the things of old. 19 Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. 20 The beasts of the field honor Me, the jackals and the ostriches, because I give waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to My people, My chosen, 21 The people I formed for Myself, that they may set forth My praise [and they shall do it]. 22 Yet you have not called upon Me [much less toiled for Me], O Jacob; but you have been weary of Me, O Israel! 23 You have not brought Me your sheep and goats for burnt offerings, or honored Me with your sacrifices. I have not required you to serve with an offering or treated you as a slave by demanding tribute or wearied you with offering incense. 24 You have not bought Me sweet cane with money, or satiated Me with the fat of your sacrifices. But you have only burdened Me with your sins; you have wearied Me with your iniquities. 25 I, even I, am He Who blots out and cancels your transgressions, for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins. 26 Put Me in remembrance [remind Me of your merits]; let us plead and argue together. Set forth your case, that you may be justified (proved right). 27 Your first father [Jacob, in particular] sinned, and your teachers [the priests and the prophets—your mediators] transgressed against Me. 28 And so I will profane the chief ones of the sanctuary and will deliver Jacob to the curse (the ban, a solemn anathema or excommunication) and [will subject] Israel to reproaches and reviling.

  Introduction:

Purpose: To comfort God's people who fear they've been abandoned, with three salvation promises. Dear People of God, What would you guess to be the most common command or encouragement in the Bible? Is it the command to love? That is an important command and the core of God’s desire for human life. And yet, it is not God’s most frequent instruction to His people. Is it the command to be humble, or perhaps the command to trust the Lord, our God? Or maybe the command to guard our sexual purity, or to walk with moral integrity and holiness? Can you now see why the Lord God is particular about our sex sin; because to a good extent it is the means that aids or helps the devil to attack the purity of man’s spirit, it is the means that brings about the peopling of the earth with humans whose humanness is not rugged enough to withstand spirit contamination tendencies. As important as all of these are, the one command in Scripture that occurs more often than any other - God’s most frequently repeated encouragement is the command to “fear not”, or “don’t be afraid” of this or that fear. According to Lloyd Ogilvie there are 366 “fear not” verses in the Bible - one for each day of the year, including one for leap year. Our list of fears seems endless: Some of us are afraid of flying. Related to this is the fear of heights, for which we like the Scriptural promise, “Lo, I am with you alway”. Some of us are afraid of mice, or of creepy crawly creatures, including snakes, which are tied with public speaking as the number one fear. In fact, more people are afraid of snakes or of public speaking than of death and dying, though death is a very real fear for some of us. Many of us fear cancer or some other debilitating or weakening disease. There’s also the fear of poverty - how are my needs, or the needs of my kids going to be taken care of, especially if I lose my main provider? There’s the fear of growing old, the fear of loneliness, the fear of failure or insignificance. There are all kinds of fears and anxieties that all of us have to face. On and on it goes, the list of fears and phobias and of other, lower grade fears, like anxiety and worry, which tend to come from the inside and mostly never happen. But they’re still fears, nonetheless, that are no less debilitating. So one may argue that fear is among our most basic problems, resulting from the Fall. When we look at the opening chapters of the book of Genesis we find that the first negative emotion recorded in the Bible is the disturbing emotion of fear. It isn’t pride that’s recorded, though pride was certainly involved in the first human sin. But the first negative emotion recorded in the Bible is fear. When Adam and Eve sinned, and God sought them out in the garden, calling to the man, “Where are you?”. We read in chapter 3:10, that Adam answered, “10 I heard the sound of You [walking] in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” In today’s passage from Isaiah, the prophet is also addressing the issue of fear, specifically the fear of abandonment, specifically, abandonment by God. Israel, was in exile in Babylon. And she was afraid. Afraid that God had forgotten her. Afraid that He'd abandoned her as a people. In Isaiah 42:22 we see that this was what it said “But this is a people robbed and plundered; they are all of them snared in holes and hidden in houses of bondage. They have become a prey, with no one to deliver them, a spoil, with no one to say, Restore them! [This shows the condition that will ensue as Israel’s punishment for not recognizing the Servant of the Lord and the day of His visit among them.] [Luke19:41-44.]” “plundered and looted, all of them trapped in pits or hidden away in prisons. They had become plunder, with no one to rescue them”, says Isaiah “. . . with no one to say, "Send them back." Luke 19:41-44 reads, “41 And as He approached, He saw the city, and He wept [[a]audibly] over it, 42 Exclaiming, Would that you had known personally, even at least in this your day, the things that make for peace (for [b]freedom from all the distresses that are experienced as the result of sin and upon which your peace—your [c]security, safety, prosperity, and happiness—depends)! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For a time is coming upon you when your enemies will throw up a [d]bank [with pointed stakes] about you and surround you and shut you in on every side. 44 And they will dash you down to the ground, you [Jerusalem] and your children within you; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, [all] because you did not come progressively to recognize and know and understand [from observation and experience] the time of your visitation [that is, when God was visiting you, the time [e]in which God showed Himself gracious toward you and offered you salvation through Christ].” Certainly, Israel deserved to be in exile. She had reason to be afraid. Because of her sin, God Himself had driven her there, in order to humble her. But even before He punished her, in grace, He promised that, one day, He would rescue her. One day her hard service would be over, her sins would be paid for as seen in Isaiah 40:2 “2 Speak tenderly to the heart of Jerusalem, and cry to her that her time of service and her warfare are ended, that [her punishment is accepted and] her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received [punishment] from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins” and God would bring her home. As the new Israel, that's what we wait for too. Sometimes it can seem like a long wait. Sometimes the challenges of life in this broken and sinful world can make it seems like God has forgotten us, like He has left us to fend for ourselves, like He has abandoned us. The surgery that never seems to heal. The loneliness that never gets alleviated. The bad habits that continue to bind us. The depression that doesn’t go away. Sometimes, it makes us wonder if God still loves us. Maybe we've really blown it; and we can't believe that God wouldn't leave us in our sin. Not every child of God faces this kind of struggle, but many of us have times when we wonder if God has forgotten us, if He’s left us alone in our miserable situations, whatever they may be. Maybe it doesn't seem that way in our heads. But it can sure feel that way in our hearts. "But now” . . . in the face of our fears, whatever they may be, “this is what the Lord says, He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel”: Fear not! Because of My salvation PROMISES, you don't have to be afraid anymore. I'm not going to abandon you, not even to your sin. In our passage for today, God proclaims 3 salvation promises to comfort His people who fear they've been abandoned. 1) FEAR NOT BECAUSE I HAVE REDEEMED YOU: First of all, fear not, declares Yahweh, in verse 1, fear not because I have redeemed you as seen in Isaiah 43:1, 3,4 “But now [in spite of past judgments for Israel’s sins], thus says the Lord, He Who created you, O Jacob, and He Who formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you [ransomed you by paying a price instead of leaving you captives]; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. 3 For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt [to the Babylonians] for your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba [a province of Ethiopia] in exchange [for your release]. 4 Because you are precious in My sight and honored, and because I love you, I will give men in return for you and peoples in exchange for your life. You don't have to be afraid any more. I'm not going to abandon you. I'm not going to leave you in your sin. I have and will redeem you. The kind of redemption God proclaims here is the kind paid to get a family member out of prison for debt. Here, sin is compared to an impossible financial debt that you can never, ever repay. But you're part of My family, says Yahweh God, and because you a part of Me I'm going to buy you back from sin domination. In fact, I've pre-paid your release. Verse 1 proclaims our future redemption in the perfect past tense (it’s called the “prophetic perfect”). That means it's as good as done. God has spoken! It will happen. Because I’ve already paid the price. I've paid a huge price in exchange for you with My Life. And not only with My Life, I've given up entire nations for you: Egypt, Cush, Seba or Ethiopia, and others, so I could form you into My own special nation. And I've exchanged thousands of people for you, whoever has gotten in the way of making you into My own special people. And from this side of the cross, we can see that God has exchanged one special person for us. You are so precious to Me, I love you so much, He says in verse 4, that I paid the biggest ransom I could ever pay. I exchanged My own Son for you. Imagine that! Imagine you're in debtor’s prison - which may be harder to imagine because we don’t have debtor’s prisons in Nigeria - but imagine you're in debtor’s prison and you can't pay the fine. Your father wants to get you out, but he can't pay it either. So instead, he sends your oldest brother, with his full agreement, and exchanges him for you. That’s what God did. He gave up His only Son, to become our older brother. And God sent Him to prison in our place. 1 Peter 3:19 “19 In which He went and preached to the spirits in prison,” calls hell a prison where God sent Lord Jesus to redeem all His other children from their bondage to sin and its fearful, lonely consequences. So fear not people of God! I have redeemed you. And I will redeem you.

  2) FEAR NOT BECAUSE I HAVE SUMMONED YOU BY NAME:

God's exchange of others, in our place, is directly linked to His second promise at the end of vs 1: Children of God, “But now [in spite of past judgments for Israel’s sins], thus says the Lord, He Who created you, O Jacob, and He Who formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you [ransomed you by paying a price instead of leaving you captives]; I have called you by your name; you are Mine.” Out of all the sinful people God could have possibly chosen for redemption, God picked you. And He called you by name. One by one, God is calling His children out of spiritual exile and on to a journey home. Come home Eileen, you are mine. Come home Angela, you are mine. Come home Vivian, you are mine. Don't be afraid. I have summoned you by name. I've called you on a journey home to the Promised Land. I've called you out of the consequence of sin bondage and into life glorious freedom as the children of God. Has He called you by name? Then don't be afraid. You're on your way home to the Promised Land. Where the meek shall inherit the earth! Our arrival is certain because in verse 7 we see that not only are we called by our own names but we are called by the very name of God. We are called by the powerful name of Christ. We are called “Christian”. If you're tempted to think that with the name of Christ attached to yours that anyone can keep you in bondage, that anyone can keep you from travelling to the Promised land, then listen to the words of Lord Jesus in John 10:28-29 : “28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never lose it or perish throughout the ages. [To all eternity they shall never by any means be destroyed.] And no one is able to snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, Who has given them to Me, is greater and mightier than all [else]; and no one is able to snatch [them] out of the Father’s hand. No one can refuse God's command in Isaiah 43:6: “6 I will say to the north, Give up! and to the south, Keep not back. Bring My sons from afar and My daughters from the ends of the earth” Give them up! Don't hold them back!" They are mine! I created them for My glory. I have redeemed them in Jesus. I have called them by their name. And they are Mine. They are not their own, nor anyone else’s either--not flood, not fire, nor any spiritual power in heaven or earth--but they belong, body and soul, to their faithful Saviour, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all their sins. And He will keep His promise to bring us safely home. One by one, God is calling His children home. If He's called you by name, fear not! No matter how long or lonely your struggle, you have not been abandoned in your misery. 3) FEAR NOT I AM WITH YOU: Christians are on a journey home. And that removes much of our fear. But it doesn't remove all of it. Which is why we need God’s third salvation promise. Although we're going home, it's a long and dangerous journey. A journey with many potholes and detours and side tracks that slow our progress and threaten to stop us in our tracks. Detour means the Israel type of journey moving in a long roundabout route that is taken to avoid something or to visit somewhere along the way. John Bunyan has written the classic story of our dangerous journey home. In Pilgrim's Progress, the main character, Christian, leaves the City of Destruction in search of the Celestial City. Along the way he encounters dangers and temptations of all kinds. First, he runs into the slough of despond (a state of hopeless depression), a pit where fears and doubts arise about his salvation. Then he runs across Mr. Worldly Wiseman who directs him down the smoothest, widest path. It's the most comfortable path . . . it’s the easiest path . . . but it's the wrong path. When he finally gets off that detour, he must climb the hill of difficulty. And as he climbs, and sweats, and struggles, and fights, he's tempted to turn back from his dangerous journey. All along the way, he runs into many who do give up. They claim to be on the same journey but they never make it. One by one they all turn their backs on the dangerous journey home. And it seems that Christian is left to struggle all alone. How can he expect to make it when so many others have failed? The difficulties seem too much to handle. They are too much to handle all alone. But this is what the Lord says, He who created you, He who shaped and formed you in the womb. Said Fear not, for not only have I redeemed you, not only have I called you, by name, into this dangerous journey, but I will be with you! I promise to travel with you all the way, on your dangerous journey home. That's My third promise to you. This is why every true child of God must live life that gives him or her the indwelling of Christ because it is only Christ in you that makes your journey safe and undistracted! Look at verse 2: “2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned or scorched, nor will the flame kindle upon you.” When you pass through the waters - not if but when you pass through the flood waters - I will be with you. God doesn’t promise that there won’t be floods or fires. But when you go through them, I will hold them back from utterly destroying you, like I did for my people when they passed out of Egypt and through the Red Sea, and like I held back the Jordon River during flood stage, so they could cross over into the Promised Land. The overwhelming floods of your own struggle will not wash you away. They will spray you, they will soak you, they will freeze you, they will threaten to drown you, but they will not wash you away. Instead, they will wash your enemies away, like they washed away Pharaoh and his whole army. But they will not drown you. For I will be with you to hold the flood waters back! And when you pass through the fire, you will not be burned. You will sweat, you will tire, you will faint, but the fumes will not overcome you and the flames will not consume you. And when you pass through everything else, every other struggle imaginable, everything from A to Z, everything from water to fire, every natural and spiritual disaster possible, nothing will stop your journey. For I will be with you. Nothing will stop you from reaching your appointed destination. Fear not, I am with you. In your Christian journey, even though you don't always know where God is leading you, do you think you could keep on travelling if you knew without a doubt that God was with you? No matter what God brings you through, no matter what fire or flood, even if something dreadful should happen to your family or closest friends, and you would have to travel without them for a while, do you think you could keep on travelling, as hard and devastating as it might be, do you think you could keep on going if you knew without a doubt that God was with you? Do you have times when God seems far away? Are you sometimes afraid that maybe He has abandoned you? That He has left you to struggle all alone? Then ask yourself these two questions: “Has He redeemed me? And has He called you by name?” If you have heard Him call your name (and rest assured that He is calling your name right now), and if you have accepted His redemption, then fear not, God is with you. He is with you alway, even to the very end of the age as seen in Matthew 28:20 “20 Teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you, and behold, I am with you [a]all the days ([b]perpetually, uniformly, and on every occasion), to the [very] close and consummation of the age. [c]Amen (so let it be).”

  Conclusion:

Through many dangers, toils and snares we have already come. His grace has brought us safe thus far. And His grace will lead us home. Let these salvation promises be your comfort: I have redeemed you. I have called you by name. And I am with you alway. Amen.
Lord God, help me to set aside the deeds of darkness and in each new day to clothe myself with You my Lord Jesus Christ and to always bear in my mind that no matter the circumstances in life which I pass through that You Lord Jesus has a good plan for me and You are always with me. In Your name Lord Jesus I pray. Amen!