Belonging to God
Friday, February 15, 2013
“But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine” (Isa. 43:1).
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 43:1–24
The loneliest people in the world are those who do not feel they belong to anyone or anything. This kind of solitary loneliness can be felt even in the midst of a great crowd. You can rub shoulders with people all day long and still feel alone unless you can feel you belong to someone. One of the great threats of our advanced technology is the shattering process of making our lives so impersonal.
1) Brings assurance (Isa. 43:2).
Companionship amid trials.
The Lord who begins by saying, “I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine,” elaborates on what it means to belong to him by continuing, “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee” (v. 2). Dangerous waters on the rampage and fiery conflagrations are but metaphors to depict the trials that come to every person sooner or later in life. God does not promise they will bypass his children. Rather, he promises to face them with his children.
Courage amid fears.
Not only do we find ourselves beset by trials on every hand, but we find ourselves worrying about things that have not yet happened but which may well happen. In the face of such prospects, God says, “But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not” (v. 1). Having affirmed his presence in every trial, God continues by reiterating again his concern about our fears: “Fear not: for I am with thee” (v. 5). In the midst of our anxieties about tomorrow, God tells us we need not fear. In our mad scramble for earthly security, God tells us we need not fear.
2) Sets forth life’s basic purpose (Isa. 43:10).
When people decide to belong to God, they at the same moment find growing out of their relationship with the heavenly Father their reason for existence. To be called by name (Isa. 43:1) is to be called to a purpose. Isaiah outlines this purpose for us: “Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen” (v. 10). Every child of God takes on the role of a key witness. “I’d rather not be involved” is not an option. You either testify concerning the truths of God or you perjure yourself.
To whom are you to witness? To a very definite audience: “Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears. Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled: who among them can declare this, and show us former things? Let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified: or let them hear, and say, It is truth” (Isa. 43:8–9). Isaiah vividly pictures a gigantic courtroom where all the unbelievers of the world are gathered to give account of their ungodliness. They must provide proof that they are justified in their unbelief, or they must accept the truth of God. They are the people who have eyes yet are blind to what is real. They have ears, yet they are deaf to the message of God. Once assembled, God’s message is to be presented by his own witnesses—his children. The prophet is merely reminding us that not only is “all the world a stage,” but in a very real sense, all the world is a courtroom.
What shall we tell the unbelieving world? God does not leave this to our imagination. Instead, he outlines our message for us: “ ‘I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed—I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,’ declares the Lord, ‘that I am God. Yes, and from ancient days I am he. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?’ ” (Isa. 43:11–13 NIV).
God’s declaration (Isa. 43:12) has to do with his control of events. God is able to predict the future because he has the power to determine the future. The future will be as he desires it. History is under God. This means nations and people are under God. Two definite historical references are mentioned. God declared his intention to set the Israelites free from Egyptian bondage and then brought it to pass (vv. 16–17). The brilliance of Pharaoh’s armed might became like a tiny candle that God easily blew out, leaving only darkness. The second reference is to God’s destruction of Babylon in order to set Israel free of their captivity (v. 14). God predicted the Babylonian captivity as his personal chastening and predicted the return from exile as his personal promise. We must ever point the unbelieving world to the only God and remind them that he never abdicates his throne.
The implied warnings.
God promises that those who belong to him will be his witnesses one way or another. We can be a witness of the victory that comes to the person of faith, or we can be a witness of the chastening love of God that sometimes comes because of disobedience. The Lord reminds us that up to the present time about all we have brought to him are our sins: “You have burdened me with your sins and wearied me with your offenses” (Isa. 43:24 NIV). Israel was sent into exile because they failed to be witnesses of God’s grace. God explains it as follows: “Who gave Jacob for a spoil, and Israel to the robbers? did not the Lord, he against whom we have sinned? For they would not walk in his ways, neither were they obedient unto his law” (42:24). God seems to be saying that one way or another he intends to make something out of us.
3) Depends on conversion (Isa. 43:1).
Belonging to God brings a wonderful assurance and a meaningful existence to life. However, not everyone belongs to God in the sense the Bible here intends. Only through personal conversion does any person belong to God. Although God is the creator of all, and although he sent his Son to die for all people, only those who voluntarily choose to surrender to his grace and love can accurately be termed his children. It is to those who have experienced conversion that God speaks: “I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine” (v. 1). The significant word here is “redeemed.” It has in it the idea of the payment of price. A man could redeem a slave by paying the owner the price on his head. After that, if the new owner desired, he could set the slave free. There is a sense in which every man finds himself on the auction block of life. Yet unlike the slave of Isaiah’s day, or even of pre – Civil War days, every person has the privilege of crying, “No sale!” God offers to redeem us, but we can refuse his offer. We can choose to reject the privilege of belonging to God.
Because of sin and unbelief, people find themselves scattered amid the perishing dust like a priceless gem lost and overlooked. God graciously reaches down and offers to lift us out of our helpless plight and restore us to a place in his spiritual family. Literature is full of stories centering around the theme of a lost heir or a lost prince, living in obscurity, who suddenly is discovered and restored to his rightful place of inheritance. This, in effect, is the good news of the gospel.
Conversion is expensive.
We must never let God’s gracious offer to bail us out cause us to forget the great cost involved. Through Isaiah, God reminded the Israelites that their deliverance had come at great expense: “I am the Lord your God. . .I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead” (43:3 NIV). He continued, “For your sake I will send to Babylon and bring down as fugitives all the Babylonians, in the ships in which they took pride” (v. 14 NIV). He said, “Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life” (v. 4 NIV).
Conversion is undeserved.
God reminds us that about all we have brought to him are our liabilities—our sins (Isa. 43:24). He does not offer us deliverance because of all that we have done for him or because of the sacrifices we have brought him. Rather, it is out of his grace: “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more” (v. 25 NIV). In our own strength, we can never overcome our sin and stand on bargaining ground with God.
Conversion is a necessity.
Most of life’s needs can be substituted, but the need for personal salvation is irreplaceable. Whatever else a person may have, unless he or she has God’s salvation, that person is on a journey to despair. Kierkegaard warned of the danger of losing one’s own self without being aware of it. If a man loses an arm or a leg, he knows it. If he loses a fortune, he is aware of it. If he loses his family, he lives in grief because of it. Yet a person can lose his own soul and allow the loss to go unnoticed.
Now in Conclusion
When a man and woman decide to marry, they come together in a public ceremony and pledge the commitment of their hearts. This is an outward sign of their inner commitment. When men or women join the armed forces, they are asked to raise their right hands and repeat a pledge. This is an outward sign of an inner commitment to duty. Therefore it is not out of place for God to expect us to publicly commit our lives to him in faith. Belonging to God is our greatest opportunity. Let us claim it!
God bless you all, Pastor Mike