But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my sight,
and honoured, and I love you,
I give people in return for you,
nations in exchange for your life.
Do not fear, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you;
I will say to the north, ‘Give them up’,
and to the south, ‘Do not withhold;
bring my sons from far away
and my daughters from the end of the earth—
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.’
Our passage for today is spoken to Israel, broken by exile and the destruction of the state - a place of hopelessness, lament, and loss. Into this the prophet speaks, giving their words the voice of God. It's a promise of restoration, of redemption, but more than anything else, at the heart of this beautiful redemptive passage, it's a reminder of love.
Because you are precious in my sight, and honoured, and I love you. (Isaiah 43.4)
Israel feels unworthy - burdened both by their own 'sinfulness' and the exile of their leaders. They feel that God has given up on them, abandoned them. They are a community alienated from themselves. Into this comes a voice which tells them that despite all that they have gone through - including the results of their ignoring God's calling to them, their turning from the law of love, their embrace of injustice - despite all of that, they are profoundly, deeply, powerfully loved.
Perhaps if we heard that voice of love, for ourselves as individuals, for our communities, for our world, we would turn from our destruction of the earth, our division from one another, our fear of those who look, sound, smell, feel, different to us and recognize that we are all loved - ferociously, passionately, completely. That we are all valued, and all part of God's great love for humankind.
(based on Isaiah 43: 1-7)
As you go from here, remember this:
You have nothing to fear.
For God has created you, and shaped you.
He has chosen you and named you as His own.
When you face stormy seas,
God will be there.
When it seems as though you’re walking through fire,
God will be there.
So go with joy and confidence,
knowing that the loving presence of God goes with you.