"Fear not: for I have redeemed thee." -- Isaiah xliii. 1.
I was lamenting this morning my unfitness for my work, and especially for the warfare to which I am called. A sense of heaviness came over me, but relief came very speedily, for which I thank the Lord. Indeed, I was greatly burdened, but the Lord succoured me. The first verse read at the Sabbath morning service exactly met my case. It is in Isaiah xliii. 1: "But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and He that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not." I said to myself, "I am what God created me, and I am what He formed me, and therefore I must, after all, be the right man for the place wherein He has put me." We may not blame our Creator, nor suspect that He has missed His mark in forming an instrument for His work. Thus new comfort comes to us. Not only do the operations of grace in the spiritual world yield us consolation, but we are even comforted by what the Lord has done in creation. We are told to cease from our fears; and we do so, since we perceive that it is the Lord that made us, and not we ourselves, and He will justify His own creating skill by accomplishing through us the purposes of His love. Pray, I beseech you, for me, the weakest of my Lord's servants, that I may be equal to the overwhelming task imposed upon me.
The next sentence of the chapter is usually most comforting to my soul, although on this one occasion the first sentence was a specially reviving cordial to me. The verse goes on to say, --
"Fear not: for I have redeemed thee."
Let us think for a few minutes of the wonderful depth of consolation which lies in this fact. We have been redeemed by the Lord Himself, and this is a grand reason why we should never again be subject to fear. Oh, that the logic of this fact could be turned into practice, so that we henceforth rejoiced, or at least felt the peace of God!
These words may be spoken, first of all, of those frequent occasions in which the Lord has redeemed His people out of trouble. Many a time and oft might our Lord say to each one of us, "I have redeemed thee." Out of six, yea, six thousand trials He has brought us forth by the right hand of His power. He has released us from our afflictions, and brought us forth into a wealthy place. In the remembrance of all these redemptions the Lord seems to say to us, "What I have done before, I will do again. I have redeemed thee, and I will still redeem thee. I have brought thee from under the hand of the oppressor; I have delivered thee from the tongue of the slanderer; I have borne thee up under the load of poverty, and sustained thee under the pains of sickness; and I am able still to do the same: wherefore, then, dost thou fear? Why shouldst thou be afraid, since already I have again and again redeemed thee? Take heart, and be confident; for even to old age and to death itself I will continue to be thy strong Redeemer."
I suppose there would be a reference here to the great redemption out of Egypt. This word is addressed to the people of God under captivity in Babylon, and we know that the Lord referred to the Egyptian redemption; for He says in the third verse, "I gave Egypt for thy ransom." Egypt was a great country, and a rich country, for we read of "all the treasures of Egypt", but God gave them for His chosen: He would give all the nations of the earth for His Israel. This was a wonderful stay to the people of God: they constantly referred to Egypt and the Red Sea, and made their national song out of it. In all Israel's times of disaster, and calamity, and trial, they joyfully remembered that the Lord had redeemed them when they were a company of slaves, helpless and hopeless, under a tyrant who cast their firstborn children into the Nile, a tyrant whose power was so tremendous that all the armies of the world could not have wrought their deliverance from his iron hand. The very nod of Pharaoh seemed to the inhabitants of Egypt to be omnipotent; he was a builder of pyramids, a master of all the sciences of peace and the arts of war. What could the Israelites have done against him? Jehovah came to their relief in their dire extremity. His plagues followed each other in quick succession. The dread volleys of the Lord's artillery confounded His foes. At last He smote all the firstborn of Egypt, the chief of all their strength. Then was Egypt glad that Israel departed, and the Lord brought forth His people with silver and gold. All the chivalry of Egypt was overthrown and destroyed at the Red Sea, and the timbrels of the daughters of Israel sounded joyously upon its shores. This redemption out of Egypt is so remarkable that it is remembered even in heaven. The Old Testament song is woven into that of the New Covenant; for there they "sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb." The first redeemption was so wonderful a type and prophecy of the other that it is no alloy to the golden hymn of eternal glory, but readily melts into the same celestial chant. Other types may cease to be remembered, but this was so much a fact as well as a type that it shall be had in memory for ever and ever. Every Israelite ought to have had confidence in God after what He had done for the people in redeeming them out of Egypt. To every one of the seed of Jacob it was a grand argument to enforce the precept, "Fear not."
But I take it that the chief reference of these words are to that redemption which has been wrought out for us by Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins by His own blood. Let us think of it for a minute or two before we break the bread and drink of the cup of communion.
The remembrance of this transcendent redemption ought to comfort us in all times of perplexity. When we cannot see our way, or cannot make out what to do, we need not be at all troubled concerning it; for the Lord Jehovah can see a way out of every intricacy. There never was a problem so hard to solve as that which is answered in redemption. Herein was the tremendous difficulty -- How can God be just, and yet the Saviour of sinners? How can He fulfil His threatenings, and yet forgive sin? If that problem been left to angels and men, they could never worked it out throughout eternity; but God has solved it through freely delivering up His own Son. In the glorious sacrifice of Jesus we see the justice of God magnified; for He laid sin on the blessed Lord, who had become one with His chosen. Jesus identified Himself with His people, and therefore their sin was laid upon Him, and the sword of the Lord awoke against Him. He was not taken arbitrarily to be a victim, but He was a voluntary Sufferer. His relationship amounted to covenant oneness with His people, and "it behoved Christ to suffer." Herein is a wisdom which must be more than equal to all minor perplexities. Hear this, then, O poor soul in suspense! The Lord says, "I have redeemed thee. I have already brought thee out of the labyrinth in which thou wast lost by sin, and therefore I will take thee out of the meshes of the net of temptation, and lead thee through the maze of trial; I will bring the blind by a way that they know not, and lead them in paths which they have not known. I will bring again from Bashan, I will bring up My people from the depths of the sea." Let us commit our way unto the Lord. Mine is a peculiarly difficult one, but I know that my Redeemer liveth, and He will lead me by a right way. He will be our Guide even unto death; and after death He will guide us through those tracks unknown of the mysterious region, and cause us to rest with Him for ever.
So also, if at any time we are in great poverty, or in great straitness of means for the Lord's work, and we are, therefore, afraid that we shall never get our needs supplied, let us cast off such fears as we listen to the music of these words: "Fear not: for I have redeemed thee." God Himself looked down from heaven, and saw that there was no man who could give to Him a ransom for his brother, and each man on his own part was hopelessly bankrupt; and then, despite our spiritual beggary, He found the means of our redemption. What then? Let us hear the use which the Holy Spirit makes of this fact: "He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" We cannot have a want which the Lord will not supply. Since God has given us Jesus, He will give us, not some things, but "all things." Indeed, all things are ours in Christ Jesus. No necessity of his life can for a single moment be compared to that dread necessity which the Lord has already supplied. The infinite gift of God's own Son is a far greater one than all that can be included in the term "all things": wherefore, it is a grand argument to the poor and needy, "Fear not: for I have redeemed thee." Perplexity and poverty are thus effectually met.
We are at times troubled by a sense of our personal insignificance. It seems too much to hope that God's infinite mind should enter into our mean affairs. Though David said, "I am poor and needy, yet the Lord thinketh upon me," we are not always quite prepared to say the same. We make our sorrows great under the vain idea that they are too small for the Lord to notice. I believe that our greatest miseries spring from those little worries which we hesitate to bring to our heavenly Father. Our gracious God puts an end to all such thoughts as these by saying "Fear not for I have redeemed thee." You are not of such small account as you suppose. The Lord would never be wasteful of His sacred expenditure.
He bought you with a price, and therefore He sets great store by you. Listen to what the Lord says: "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." It is amazing that the Lord should think so much of us as to give Jesus for us. "What is man that Thou art mindful of him?" Yet God's mind is filled with thoughts of love towards man. Know ye not that His only-begotten Son entered this world, and became a man? The man Christ Jesus has a name at which every knee shall bow, and He is so dear to the Father that, for His sake, His chosen ones are accepted, and are made to enjoy the freest access to Him. We sing truly, --
"So near, so very near to God, Nearer we cannot be, For in the person of His Son We are as near as He."
And now the very hairs of our head are all numbered, and the least burden we may roll upon the Lord. Those cares which we ought not to have may well cease, for "He careth for us." He that redeemed us never forgets us: His wounds have graven us upon the palms of His hands, and written our names deep in His side. Jesus stoops to our level, for He stooped to bear the cross to redeem us. Do not, therefore, be again afraid because of your insignificance. "Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God? Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of His understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increaseth strength." The Lord's memory is toward the little in Israel. He carrieth the lambs in His bosom.
We are liable to fret a little when we think of our changeableness. If you are at all like me, you are very far from being always alike; I am sometimes lifted up to the very heavens, and then I go down to the deeps; I am at one time bright with joy and confidence, and at another time dark as midnight with doubts and fears. Even Elijah, who was so brave, had his fainting fits. We are to be blamed for this, and yet the fact remains: our experience is as an April day, when shower and sunshine take their turns. Amid our mournful changes we rejoice to hear the Lord's own voice, saying, "Fear not: for I have redeemed thee." Everything is not changeful wave; there is rock somewhere. Redemption is a fact accomplished.
"The Cross, it standeth fast. Hallelujah!"
The price is paid, the ransom accepted. This is done, and can never be undone. Jesus says, "I have redeemed thee." Change of feeling within does not alter the fact that the believer has been bought with a price, and made the Lord's own by the precious blood of Jesus. The Lord God has already done so much for us that our salvation is sure in Christ Jesus. Will He begin to build, and fail to finish? Will He lay the foundation in the everlasting covenant? Will He dedicate the walls with the infinite sacrifice of the Lamb of God? Will He give up the choicest treasure He ever had, the chosen of God and precious, to be the corner-stone, and then not finish the work He has begun? It is impossible. If He has redeemed us, He has, in that act, given us the pledge of all things.
See how the gifts of God are bound to this redemption. "I have redeemed thee. I have called thee." "For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified." Here is a chain in which each link is joined to all the rest, so that it cannot be separated. If God had only gone so far as to make a promise, He would not have drawn back from it; if God had gone as far as to swear an oath by Himself, He would not have failed to keep it; but when He went beyond promise and oath, and in very deed the sacrifice was slain, and the covenant was ratified: why, then it would be blasphemous to imagine that He would afterwards disannul it, and turn from His solemn pledge. There is no going back on the part of God, and consequently His redemption will redeem, and in redeeming it will secure us all things. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" With the blood-mark upon us we may well cease to fear. How can we perish? How can we be deserted in the hour of need? We have been bought with too great a price for our Redeemer to let us slip. Therefore, let us march on with confidence, hearing our Redeemer say to us, "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." Concerning His redeemed, the Lord will say to the enemy, "Touch not Mine anointed, and do My prophets no harm." The stars in their courses fight for the ransomed of the Lord. If their eyes were opened, they would see the mountain full of horses of fire and chariots of fire round about them. Oh, how my weary heart prizes redeeming love! If it were not for this, I would lay me down, and die. Friends forsake me, foes surround me, I am filled with contempt, and tortured with the subtlety which I cannot baffle; but as the Lord of all brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the everlasting covenant, so by the blood of His covenant doth He loose His prisoners, and sustain the hearts of those who tremble at His Word. "O my soul, thou hast trodden down strength," for the Lord hath said unto thee, "Fear not: for I have redeemed thee."
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