Because I Love You-Isaiah 43

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"...because I love you..." (Isa 43:4, NIV) "...I have redeemed you..." (Isa 43:1) "...you are my witnesses..." (Isa 43:10, 12) "...I am doing a new thing..." (Isa 43:19) "...I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more..." (Isa 43:25) "...I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants..." (Isa 44:3).

Theme: The loved and happy experience a "new thing" from God (Isa 43:19). The unhappy experience the "same old, same old" stuff.

"Grace to Augustine is that love which lies at the heart of his spirituality; it is that which, by its very nature, confers independence on the object of its love. It gives, compelling no return. It is the one force that cannot bargain, it is the opposite of irresistible passion, for it liberates rather than enslaves, creates not destroys, strengthens rather than weakens free volition: in more familiar language, 'the service of God is perfect freedom.'" Martin Thornton, Anglican priest and spiritual director, UK (1915-1986).

 

"The love of God for man is so great that it cannot constrain [us]; for there is no love without respect. Divine will always will submit itself to gropings, to detours, even to revolts of human will [in order] to bring it to a free consent. . . . God is a beggar of love waiting at the soul’s door without ever daring to force it." Vladimir Lossky, Russian Orthodox theologian (1903-1958).

The "servant of God" theme is one of the riches strands of Isaiah's thought, prominent in the second part of Isaiah (ch. 40-66). 42:1-4 shows How A Servant Serves. Leaders want their voices heard and their directives obeyed. But this leader is a servant who "will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets" (Isa 42:2). He does not draw attention to his leadership. Leaders are also drawn to powerful and efficient people who can support him. But this servant leader welcomes and embraces weak and broken people--"bruised reeds" and "smoldering wicks" (Isa 42:3)--who can't seem to do much. In brief, servant leaders do not lord over others.

Isaiah 43 is a reaffirmation of Israel's calling to be the Lord's servant. The fact that God has pointed to another and greater Servant (Isa 42:1ff) does not mean that Israel's own servant role has been abrogated. Quite the reverse. It is confirmed here in the strongest possible terms (Isa 43:10; 44:1-2). The main thrust of Isaiah 43--which expresses God's love for his people--is summarized in the following ways:

  1. Redemption (1-7): "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you" (Isa 43:1).
  2. Being God's witnesses (8-13): “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord (Isa 43:10, 12).
  3. God doing a "new thing" (14-21): "See, I am doing a new thing!" (Isa 43:19)
  4. Sins forgotten (22-28): "I, even I, am he who blots outyour transgressions, for my own sake,and remembers your sins no more" (Isa 43:25).
  5. Offspring and descendants blessed (44:1-5): "I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,and my blessing on your descendants" (Isa 44:3).

Immeasurable grace. "But now" (Isa 43:1) is a feature of these chapters. This same Hebrew expression is found repeated in Isa 44:1; 49:5; 52:5; 64:8. It expresses the love of God, continually rebuffed yet continually returns with the initiative. Notice the shift in tone from Isa 42:25 to Isa 43:1. It is breathtaking. What is God to do after the looting and plundering (Isa 42:24)? What God will now do is grace. There is nothing the Judeans have to do in advance for this grace to become available to them. They do not have to repent or promise to change their ways. God simply declares, as in Isa 40:1-2, that he has "redeemed" them. It is a completed fact (Rom 5:8).

I love you. Fear not (43:1-7). These verses in eloquent detail give Israel the assurance Christ gives to the church, that the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. The ominous word "flames" (Isa 43:2) from the closing verse of the previous chapter (Isa 42:25) is countered with the steadying exhortation "Do not fear" (Isa 43:1). There are some of the tenderest words here that God ever spoke to his children: "I have summoned you by name; you are mine" (Isa 43:1b), "you are precious and honored in my sight" (Isa 43:4a), "I love you" (Isa 43:4a), "I am with you" (Isa 43:4). Indeed, the loved are the chosen and the chosen are most precious. These statements are addressed to people far from home, still in the midst of deep waters, rivers, fire and flames (Isa 43:2). They have many  more trials to face before they reach their final rest. There is no promise of a quick fix or a trouble-free future, but of God's sustaining presence right through to the journey's end (Isa 43:5-6), come what may. God's people are still today like aliens and exiles in a violent, visious hostile world (1 Pet 2:11; Jas 1:1). But God promises to never leave or forsake them or us until he brings us home (Dt 31:6; Heb 13:5-6; Mt 28:20).

10 theologica themes (found in 43:1-7) that bind us to God, or that binds God to us:

  1. Creation (Isa 43:1a, 7b).
  2. Redemption (Isa 43:1b).
  3. Election/calling (Isa 43:1c, 7a).
  4. Presence/indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Isa 43:2, 5).
  5. Salvation (Isa 43:3a).
  6. Ransom (Isa 43:3b).
  7. Love (Isa 43:4; Dt 7:8; Jer 31:3).
  8. Adoption (Isa 43:6).
  9. The honor of his name (Isa 43:7a).
  10. The glory of God (Isa 43:7b).

Quotes: "Israel is just as indestructible as God's Word and Covenant are. What is true of Israel is equally true of the Church. Against it, the flames have raged & the waters have boiled but, according to His promise, Jesus has always been with her." (Harry Bultema)

"The statement, 'I am the Lord, your God' would remind every Jewish reader of Exodus 20, where the divine description is followed by the words 'who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery' (Exo 20:2). So, learning from this past event, they could rest in his promise to bring them again into their own land." (Geoffrey Grogan)

"Perhaps the Israelites were insincere in their worship. When they did bring offerings, they simply went through the motions of worship, and so God did not consider their empty sacrifices to be true sacrifices at all." (Wolf)

Questions:

  1. (43:1–7) In spite of the situation of the previous stanza (42:18-25), what will God do for his people? What divine quality is this an expression of? 43:1 gives another reason to not be afraid. Note the previous reasons (41:10, 13).
  2. What does 43:2-3 mean? How is 43:4 like John 3:16? [The exchange mentioned in 43:3 probably refers to Cyrus, the Persian emperor who freed the Judeans, being able thoroughly to conquer Egypt, something neither the Assyrians nor the Babylonians had been able to do. The promise to restore the exiles from all over the earth (5-6) is similar to that found in 11:11.]                                                 
  3. (43:8–13) This is the second court case against the idols. 43:8 refers to God’s witnesses. How confident is he of his case given witnesses like these? [“The former things” (43:9) refers to specific predictions of the future that have been made in the past (41:26)].
  4. What is the function of “witnesses” here (10a, 12b)? What knowledge were they supposed to have? List the assertions made about God (10b-12). What is their testimony supposed to accomplish? How does this relate to us? See Acts 1:8. What does his saving power have to do with any of these?
  5. (43:14–21) Remember that “holy” refers to Yahweh’s absolute otherness from this world. Why is this stressed twice in two verses (14,15)?
  6. What event is 43:16–17 referring to? Why did God remind them of it if he wants them to forget it (43:18)? What does he want them to remember and what does he want them to forget?
  7. (43:22–28) One thing the Israelites had done was to bring offerings, so of what is God accusing them (22-24)? When do we weary God with our sins?
  8. Of what were the Israelites apparently accusing God (26)? How does God respond? On what basis does God forgive us?

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