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  • Writer's pictureCandice Watters

Past and Future Help (Isaiah 43:1-3)


..."Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. ²When 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. ³For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior..." –Isaiah 43:1-3

This week’s passage sounds like part two of last week’s. Again we start with the command to “fear not.” Again our ability to not fear rests on God’s activity. Last week it was a present tense, ongoing “I am”: “I am with you.” This week it’s a past-tense, already accomplished “I have”: “I have redeemed you.” 


What would Isaiah’s words have brought to mind for his original audience? Likely they would have thought of the Exodus when the children of Israel, pressed against the edge of the Red Sea, passed through parted waters. They escaped from the murderous Egyptian army by God’s mighty acts of judgment and His outstretched arm (Exodus 6:6). Again at the Jordan River, the waters parted and the Israelites passed through, entering the promised land on dry ground (Joshua 3:11-17). Repeatedly God had redeemed them. 


When I read these verses I think of Daniel’s friends in the overheated furnace, but not alone. They emerged with not even the smell of smoke in their garments (Daniel 3:27). Neither fleeing the Egyptian army nor being thrown into an incinerator were welcome experiences. They are archetypes of suffering. And yet, God uses them to encourage us that even the worst sort of suffering is no match for His redeeming love and rescue. Belonging to God is the utmost reason to fear not. There is no greater security, rescue, or comfort. Apart from Him we are utterly lost and without hope. But in Him, through Christ, nothing can harm us.


Ironically, there’s a certainty of suffering in this passage. What follows the past-tense “I have” statements, are future realities. It’s not a matter of if, but when: “When you pass through the waters…when you walk through the fire.” This sounds like Peter’s exhortation to endure suffering in hope: “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,” (1 Peter 1:6, emphasis added). Indeed various trials are necessary “so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:7). 


Our trials are not random, nor are they for our punishment or harm. God’s people will not drown in His wrath the way the Egyptian army did at the Red Sea. He was with Daniel’s friends in the fiery furnace and He will be with us in the heat of persecution and suffering. Yes, there will be trials, there will be hardships. But they have a redemptive purpose:


And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,h for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. Romans 8:28-30


God may not deliver us out of our trials, but He will certainly deliver us through them. Even death itself will not harm us, but will usher us into everlasting life. 


As it is written,


“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”


No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:36-39)


Our fearlessness flows from God’s redeeming love.

 

For Reflection

  1. How does the certainty of trials make you feel?

  2. How is being saved by God better than being spared suffering in this life?

  3. When your heart trembles in fear, meditate on the certainty of God’s presence in every circumstance and on Christ’s promised, victorious return.

 

Candice Watters is a wife, mom, and author who edits the Fighter Verses blog. She and her husband Steve are the co-authors of Start Your Family: Inspiration for Having Babies. The Watterses have four kids ages 15-24. They live in Louisville, KY.

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