Sometimes it seems to you that the word of God is not effective and precious. But when you are in danger, when you are in trouble, when there is no light at the end of the tunnel, all of a sudden the word of God becomes a treasure to you. I remember when Saddam Hussein and his troops invaded Kuwait and the Allied forces were sent to defend Kuwait against the military assault of Saddam Hussein. There were prayer vigils in many churches here in the United States. Many people who had not been to church for decades began to attend church services and prayer meetings. Those who probably have not fasted before began to fast. Right now, there is another ominous cloud that hangs over our heads. Since the terrorist attacks on the United States, the sale of Bibles and books on Prophecy has reached all-time high.
My question is this: What causes people to live independent of God until trouble comes into their lives? This question is not for unbelievers only, but Christians as well. Why do you ignore or reject God's control of your life, until you hit rock bottom? Why do you ignore the teachings of the word of God until disaster comes?
The people of Israel in the Old Testament were no different. You would think that since their fathers had seen the miracles and the power of God, they would be obedient to God, but that was not the case. They were like many Christians today. When everything is going well with them, you don't see them in the house of God. You don't see them in prayer meetings, Bible study, and Sunday school. But when trouble or calamity strikes, they behave like they are angels. Some begin to question the integrity and the faithfulness of God.
This text that we are dealing with is a case in point when the kings and the people have disobeyed God. God had warned them through His prophets including the prophet Isaiah, but they did not pay heed to the word of God. God who sees the future from the present prophesied through Isaiah that the rebellion of the kings and the people would end them in captivity. Now they are tired of idol worship. Many of the older generations would die in captivity. King Nebuchadnezzar would kill many of the false prophets who would promise them instant deliverance. Remember that in their rebellion against God, the prophet Jeremiah warned them that unless they repent and turn to God, they would go into captivity for seventy years. They did not repent so true to God's word, they went into captivity.
Now the time for their redemption is near. Therefore, God prophesied through His servant Isaiah concerning this redemption and restoration.
I. THE REDEMPTIVE POWER OF GOD V. 1
In verse 1, the texts read: “But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel.” There is something significant in this verse that I don't want you to miss. God is the Creator of Jacob. He is also the One who formed Israel. God is the Creator of the universe. Today, some have formulated other human theories to reject the fact that God is the Creator of the heavens and earth. There is what is called The Big Bang Theory. There is another called Evolutionary Theory, purported by Charles Darwin. This theory says that humans evolved from highly developed animals such as monkeys and chimpanzees. This is what is being taught in schools here in the United States. That is why our children are in trouble; that is why many children are more confused today. That is why some of them are taking their own lives. If a child is made to believe that he/she originated from a monkey, do you realize the psychological damage it would do to his/her image? In effect, the child thinks there is no purpose in life for him/her. There is no hope for him/her. But these theories are from people whose knowledge and intellect are distorted or skewed. God says, "I created you, O Jacob." The word "Creator "used here is the same word whose verb form is used in Genesis 1:1, 27, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. So, God created man in His own image". The word formed is also the same used in the formation of Eve after God had taken one of Adam's ribs. Therefore, I want to submit to you that you are not in this world by accident. You did not evolve from a monkey or chimpanzee. You were created providentially by God. You were fearfully and wonderfully made. You are a masterpiece from the divine Creator. You are no accident. This passage is also a case against abortion. Abortion is not the plan of God. Abortion is an invention of man to determine who ought to live and who have to die. God is the one who forms the fetus in the womb. It is not formed by accident. God has a purpose for that tiny, helpless, defenseless baby in the womb. God said to Jeremiah the prophet, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations."
If you could recall, it was through God's promise to Abraham that Jacob came into being. When Abraham was born, he was called Abram. When God established a covenant and an everlasting relationship with him, he became Abraham. When Jacob was born, he was named Jacob, meaning a trickster, a deceiver, and a foot grabber. Every person born into this world has a Jacob in him/her. You and I are Jacobs. We have a deceitful spirit in us because we are the offspring of Adam. We have a sinful nature. But when we are saved, we are transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. We become the new Israel, the spiritual Israel. After Jacob prevailed with the Angel of God, his name changed from Jacob, the trickster to Israel, meaning for you have struggled with God. God said to Jacob, I have made you a new person. I have removed the dross from your heart. I have made you My own. I have formed you, O Jacob. The word formed is the same used for a potter who forms a pot with clay. This reminds me of Jeremiah 18, when God sent Jeremiah to the potter's house. There, Jeremiah learned an object lesson that applied to the condition of Israel at that time. As the potter remolds a ruined pot, so can God the Divine Potter form you again whose life has been ruined by sin. No matter how sinful you are God is prepared to transform your life and make you a new person from the inside out.
God tells Israel, "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you." Are you a Christian? Do you have a personal saving experience with Jesus Christ? Are you a child of God through Jesus Christ? Then no matter how difficult your circumstance is, no matter how insurmountable your mountains seem, God is saying to you, I have redeemed you. He says again, I have called you by name. Do you know that God knows your name; and He calls you by name? All the people that God saves and uses, He calls them by name. God called Adam by name (Gen. 3:9); God called Noah by name (Gen. 7:1); God called Abraham by name (Gen. 22:15); God called Sarah by name (Gen. 18:13). God called Moses by name (Exod. 3:4); God called Samuel by name (1 Sam. 3:6); God called Jeremiah by name (Jer. 18:1). Jesus called Zacchaeus by name (Luke 19:5); The exalted Christ called Saul by name (Acts 9:4). God knows your name. Then He says, you are Mine! Israel belongs to God. If you are a true Christian, you are a child of God. You belong to God. You are God's property. God was reminding the people of Judah of His irrevocable covenant with Abraham. If God does not forget His covenant with Abraham, what about His covenant with us through the precious blood of His Son Jesus Christ? Do you have a personal ongoing relationship with Jesus Christ?
II. THE PROVIDENTIAL PRESENCE OF GOD VV. 2-4
The LORD says, when you pass through the waters, I will be with you. In the second verse, I would like you to underscore the word when in your Bible. God did not say if you pass through the waters. The word if is conditional, but the word when is unconditional. In other words, you will pass through the waters; it is just a matter of time. The waters and the fire are metaphors for problems, difficulties, and pain in life. Contrary to contemporary health and wealth gospel, you will have trouble as a believer in Christ. You will face hardships and headaches, but the LORD has promised to be with you through it all. You see, the Christian life on this side of the world is like a rose flower with a thorn in it. God has not promised us comfort and ease in the Christian life. God has not promised us immunity from difficulties and hardships. He allows the difficulties but He has promised us of His presence. He has promised to walk with us hand in hand in times of trouble. Sometimes God calms the sea; sometimes He allows the sea to calm His children. You see, the safety of a Christian is not the absence of danger, but the presence of God in time of danger. Jesus said, These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).
This is the caution: God is not saying that you should deliberately pass through the waters and the rivers. God is not saying to you to walk through fire as those who worship the god of Moloch did. You are not to take this literally. In the case of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego it was their obedience to God that landed them in the fiery furnace. They did not set up the fire themselves. Their enemies set up the fire because they wanted to get rid of them. God preserved their lives and they were not burned. God walked with them in the fire and their hair was not singed. However, during the second, third, fourth, and sixteenth centuries A. D. there were Christians who were burned at the stake. They died as martyrs because of their faith in Christ. God sometimes delivers His people from physical suffering like the case of Daniel and the other three. However, sometimes God does not deliver His children but provides the strength for His children to endure physical suffering or persecution. When John the Baptist was arrested and jailed, God did not intervene and he lost his head. We have seen and heard of people who have taken everything literally and killed people in the name of the Lord. Jim Jones of Guyana convinced about nine hundred people to drink poison and all of them died. There was a man who left a note at the bank of a river and went and drowned. He said that it was God, who told him to go into the river, when he knew that he could not swim. The voice was not from the LORD; it was the voice of Satan. If you don't know how to swim, please don't jump into a swimming pool. You will drown. Our God is a sensible God. He will not let you do something that is stupid.
Another thing is this; God does not open paths in advance of our coming. He does not promise help before help is needed. He does not remove obstacles out of our way before we reach them. If He does you will never learn to walk by faith. Yet, when we are on the edge of our need, God stretches His hand out (example, the Red Sea, and Peter walking on water).
A story has been told of a believer, Fredrick Nolan, who was fleeing from enemies during a time of persecution in North Africa. Pursued by them over hill and valley with no place to hide, he fell exhausted into a wayside cave, expecting his enemies to find him soon.
Awaiting his death, he saw a spider weaving a web. Within minutes, the little bug had woven a beautiful web across the mouth of the cave. The pursuers arrived and wondered if Nolan was hiding there, but on seeing the unbroken and unmangled piece of art, thought it impossible for him to have entered the cave without dismantling the web. And so they went on. Having escaped Nolan burst out and exclaimed: Where God is, a spider's web is like a wall, Where God is not, a wall is like a spider's web.
In verse 3, the LORD reminds Israel of who He is. God uses four of His names that point to His greatness and supremacy. God is good to Israel not because they deserve it. God saves you not because of your goodness. God saves you because of His grace. Then God says, I have given Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. When Persia under the leadership of Cyrus released Israel from Babylonian captivity, God gave Egypt, Cush, and Seba into the hands of Persia in exchange for Israel. God exchanges the plight of His people with those who hate them and persecute them. When the enemies of God rejoice in the adversity of God's people, God redeems His people and punishes the enemies. God says, the righteous will inherit the land but the wicked will be swept away. The sufferings of Christians are temporary, but the sufferings of those who reject Christ are permanent. Jesus says that they are tormented day and night. The intensity of their suffering will not be reduced.
III. THE PROMISE OF GOD'S PROVISION VV. 5-7
God repeats do not be afraid. God repeats words for emphasis. God is saying to Israel, you are in captivity; you are in a strange land with strange and false gods. Yes, it is natural to be afraid, but God says, I promise you don't be afraid because I am with you. That is the same promise that God gave to Moses. God said, I am that I am, and Moses said, if they ask me of Your name what should I say? The LORD said to Moses tell them that I AM has sent me (Exodus 4). God says, I will gather your children from the east and west. I will bring them out from the north to the south. God is saying, Israel this seems impossible to you but trust Me. God is saying to you who are in some storms of life, trust Me, for I have your situation under control. Will you trust God or will you let your circumstance overwhelm you? Our God is faithful to His promises. He is the Savior who delivers us not because of our merit but His mercy, not because of our goodness, but His grace. Our God is a caring and gracious God. The scattered exiles will be re-gathered from every geographical location. This promise was primarily for Israel, but it has a broader meaning: All God's people will be re-gathered when Christ returns to rule the earth. He says everyone who is called by My name. God is saying to Christians who are going through trials, persecution, some heartache, or difficulties, do not be afraid, for I am with you and I will bring you out of that situation. God is saying I will do that for you because I created you for My glory. You see, when God created Adam and Eve, He created them for His glory. When God created you, He created you for His glory. But when Adam and Eve sinned, the human race lost the glory of God. But when Jesus saves you through the divine activity of the Holy Spirit, God restores His glory in your life. God says now you are Mine again through My own blood. God has created you for His glory. The question is what glory does your life bring to God? Any time you sin as a Christian, you stain the glory of God. God finally says "I formed you and made you." Brothers and sisters we are not in this world by accident. You are the special handiwork of God the Creator and Redeemer; you are bought with a precious price. Therefore, God's divine protection is upon you. God has chosen you, He has sealed you with His Holy Spirit, and He watches over you. Therefore, serve Him with gladness and stop being afraid. Share His love with others. God has your situation under control.