We have our affirmations of faith. God has His affirmation of love.
Isaiah 43:1-7 is a passage on fire with God’s indomitable love for you.
Give attention, then, to the reading of the inerrant and the infallible Word of the living God as we receive its truth it in Isaiah 43:1-7.
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 Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my sight,
and honored, 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 awesome ay
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.”
Hopelessness is the bereaved parent of despair. And despair is a blinded offspring. Despair cannot see anything but shadows.
I was a first responder to a suicide attempt. The soldier was a 28-year-old white female, E4, who worked in an interrogation unit and stationed at Fort Meade Maryland. Her name was Sarah. I spent 72 hours with her: listening, watching, assessing, before, at length, treating. In matters of the care of the soul, treatment is always comprised of bringing the appropriate word from God’s word — the word of truth in Jesus Christ — to the person’s life.
A pastoral treatment always includes prayer. A pastoral cure must of necessity involve presence. The ministry of presence is one of the most powerful cordials in the spiritual physician’s Chaplain kit. Word, prayer, presence must be sustained. In the case of many, the local church is involved.
For the military, and for numerous institutions, the spiritual care plan must involve other helping professionals. The infection of the human soul, left unattended for a given length of time (varying according to the genus of the germ), will often migrate from spirit to physique. When this happens, a medical doctor is needed on the healing team. Acute despondency is one of those spiritual conditions that almost always
In many ways, her mother wasn’t there. Her mother suffered from mental illness (and I suspected, later, this was the effect of a deep spiritual blackspot on her mother’s soul; a malignant growth that restricted the ability to breathe in the beauty of life). Sarah went from high school to the Army. She needed the pay. She needed the free education. But she needed something she couldn’t articulate at the time, but which the military provided: a sense of purpose.
As Sarah grew into a young woman, she found that life in the Army, although very male-oriented, provided the moral values that she had missed through her life, values that bring self-worth by being responsible for another. Once during this critical-care-pastoral-counseling, she whispered, “My favorite Army saying is, ‘We never leave a Soldier behind. We will be there’ I really like that.’”
When Sarah was twenty-one, she married. I learned something
My time with her had to come to a conclusion. I made my reports to the appropriate authorities. The plan was accepted by my colleagues in other fields. The young lady was commended to their spiritual, emotional and physical care. One month passed. I was at home, off duty, when I received the telephone call.
“Chaplain Milton, we have a dead soldier at Fort Meade Maryland. She was a 28-year-old white female, an E4. Sir, you have no chaplain at Fort Meade. Therefore, we are bringing the matter to you. Also, her family asked that the Chaplain who spoke with her be the one to conduct her service.”
What she failed to do one month earlier, she sadly
Within moments after receiving the notification, my wife had my bags ready, I said my goodbye, and I was driving from Charlotte to Fort Meade Maryland, just above Washington DC. It was a Sunday morning at the unit when I conducted a memorial service. I learned that the Soldiers in the unit was very close to Sarah, having deployed together to Afghanistan. The entire unit was there. “No Soldier left behind.” After the service, I enlisted the help of another Chaplain, not in our command. This young officer helped me to counsel soldiers for the rest of that day and
In that first meeting after her first attempt, near the completion of our time together, I told her of one who would always be there. When I explained the truth of God’s grace and the love of God in Jesus Christ, her catatonic state was suspended. She smiled. I saw
I guess all of us at one time or another have experienced something of what that young lady did. There have been times in our lives when we felt alone. There have been hard times in our lives when we have depended upon someone being there for us, and they let us down. Even our Lord Jesus Christ knew such sorrow. The Apostle Paul understood such sorrow. Like his Lord and ours, Paul came to a point where his sorrow became like a flooding river, washing over the levees, threatening the very life of the Apostle:
“For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself” (2 Corinthians 1:8).
Isaiah was a prophet of judgment to a disobedient and backsliding people. But his prophetic word of judgment also carried a message of God’s love and God’s mercy and steadfastness. In Isaiah 43, verses one through seven, Isaiah presented the God of love who would always be there.
The message for us from God’s word is a message that comes against the backdrop of our own disappointments in life. It is a message that is like a shaft of Golden sunlight breaking through the storm clouds of hopelessness or even despair. What we see in Isaiah 43, verses one through seven, is the affirmation of God: “Though others may leave you, I will be there.”
And how is this so in Isaiah chapter 49 in verses one through seven? This litany of divine promises from the heart of God to his people can be seen in at least three major articles. The truth is that there are certainly more than three personal promises of God in this affirmation of his love towards his people. We read:
- Do not fear
- I have redeemed you
- I have called you by name
- You are mine
- I will be with you
- I am the Lord your God
- I am your Savior
- I give for you
- I am with you
- I will gather you
- I will say, bring my sons and my daughters
You can see, then, that Isaiah 43 verses one through seven is a powerful and plentiful cornucopia of divine promises to his people. Let us look at the three major articles in God’s covenant of love towards the believer and how that overcomes clouds of hopelessness and raindrops of despair.
The first paramount article of the affirmation of God and his love towards his people is this:
- I have… (Verse one)
God identifies himself in Isaiah’s prophecy is the one who is speaking. And he begins by saying something very familiar to human beings living in hopelessness, “share not…” This is of course what the angel said to Mary and what the angel said to Joseph. This is a constantly repeated opening address to God’s people. This is so because we often live in fear. Hopelessness and despair diminished the soul’s resistance to spiritual diseases. Fear is a disease of the soul. It can affect our relationship with God in our relationship with each other. Indeed, fear can paralyze one from doing what God has called us to do
God says fear not for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” What a remarkable introduction to God’s affirmation of his love for his people. I have created you. I have informed you. I have redeemed you. I have called you by name. This section of Scripture deals with how God saves us. God saved you and called you by name before you were ever born before you were ever even thought of. God was thinking of you. God had your name on his heart. Paul says in Ephesians that he chose us in love before the foundation of the world.
My old friend John Guest once wrote a book about truth in the age of uncertainty. In that book, John said that the greatest words ever spoken are “God loves you.” And I cannot help but agree with John.
This morning, it is important for us to dedicate our lives to Almighty God as an act of gratitude and love to the one who has called us by name and redeemed us from sin and shame. There may be no one else in your life who calls you by name, but God is called you by name. Let loneliness and isolation be carried off been dumped into the deepest part of the ocean and buried there forever. You have a God who has said, “I have redeemed you. I have called you by name, you are mine.”
The second primary article of the affirmation of God’s love towards his people is this:
- I will… (verse two)
The Lord not only affirms
O, how many times have I read this passage in hospital rooms and in nursing homes and at funeral homes? How many times have I shared this passage with the believer is there passing from this life into the next? I have done so because this is one of those promises of God that each and every generation
The third preeminent article of the affirmation of God and his love towards his people is this:
- I am… (verse three)
As we have said before there many other affirmations that God makes in this passage. God tells us that we are precious in his eyes and that he loves us. God says that he gives life in exchange for our lives. And he did so through his only begotten son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He promises that he will gather his children from all of the ends of the earth.
One of the central aims of my ministry has been that we so proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ that on the day when the world turns, there will be a multitude of souls safe in the arms of Jesus. And I take this not only from the New Testament but from this section of Scripture. God himself says he will gather us from the ends of the earth. And every soul that comes into his arms is a soul that he not only made, but he chose, and he is intimate with by name. That is you, my beloved. That is your children, my beloved. That is your children’s children. That includes generations that you will never know who may believe in Christ as a result of your prayers and your dedication to God on this day.
Now all of that is so because of the revelation of God’s love here. The key phrase in this final affirmation is this: “I AM…” In verse three God says, for I am the Lord your God, the holy one of Israel, your Savior.” God says in verse five, “fear not, for I am with you;” and from there he says:
“I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west, I will gather you. I will say to the north, give up, into the south, do not withhold; bring my sons from the forearm 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.”
In other words, my dearest brother and sister, son and daughter, father and mother in the Lord, the blessings of the believer are intimately tied to the very personhood of Almighty God. “I AM…” is the name that God gives to himself. It is the name that he used when Moses asked, “Who shall I say sent me?” It is the name that our Lord Jesus Christ appropriated to himself when he said, “before Abraham was, I AM…”
All of the blessings of God flow from the triune personhood of the great I AM.
Study the great I AM. Come to love the great I AM. Bow before him. Cultivate an intimate relationship with him as you come to him by his means of word, sacrament, and prayer. He is the one who will be with you through all the days of your life. He will never leave you nor forsake you.
What a glorious affirmation of the love of God towards his people. What a tremendous source of blessing to the believer. We have seen that the love of God is grounded in the eternal verities of divine revelation: “I have…” “I will…” And “I AM…”
Some of you will remember when the great child psychologist, Dr. James Dobson, suffered a very serious heart attack that nearly took his life. He felt that he was likely to die. So he gathered his family to his bedside: his wife, his son, and his daughter. He said to
It was a very wise thing to say. For this life is fleeting. Eternity will come to us in the blink of an eye. I would say to you as I have said to each congregation or seminary community that I have served, “Be there.” Receive the Lord Jesus Christ. Commit your life to him. Make Christ the King of your heart and your life. Receive his mercy and his love. Cultivate
We are the beneficiaries of the faith in the prayers of those who have gone before. That requires a responsibility of each of us to pray and dedicate ourselves to God for those who will come after. There is coming a day when Jesus Christ will come again. The skies will be rent in twain. Jesus Christ will appear in all of his glory and with all the company of heaven. The dead in Christ shall rise first and then we who are alive will become up to be with them. With His glorious army of angels and saints, Jesus Christ then will return as He departed. When Jesus Christ descends to the earth, the entire universe will be reborn, in an unimaginable fiery reordering moment removing sin and sadness, and all other remnants of the Fall. God will have His new heaven and a new earth.
What I am saying to you today is this: make sure that you are there. Pray that your loved ones and your friends are there. Stretch the tents of your faith and pray that this community will be there. Envision by faithful prayer and petition in supplication than many in our nation will be there. Dedicate yourself now that your physical or spiritual sons and daughters and generations you will never see will be there.
“Be there.” I can say that with confidence and with hopeful expectation because despite whatever clouds of despair have come into your life or into mine or into this world, God is greater. His love is more powerful. His good plans for his own creation are greater than our own self-destructive tendencies. His Word comes to any and all who feel themselves in the icy, North-Atlantic-like waters of despair: “I have, I will, I am.”
You can be there because he has promised, “I will be there.”
Delitzsch, Franz. Biblical Commentary on the Prophecies of Isaiah. Vol. 2. T. & T. Clark, 1869.
Guest, John. In Search Of Certainty. English Language edition. Ventura, CA, U.S.A: Regal Books, 1983.
Henry, Matthew. “Isaiah 43 Bible Commentary – Matthew Henry (Concise).” Accessed January 14, 2019. https://www.christianity.com/bible/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=23&c=43.
Motyer, J. Alec. The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary. InterVarsity Press, 2015.
———. The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary. InterVarsity Press, 2015.
Oden, Thomas C., and Christopher A. Hall. “Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture” (1998).
 I have changed her name to preserve privacy.
 “Then he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me’” (Matthew 26:38).
 See, e.g. these studies on Isaiah: Franz Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Prophecies of Isaiah, vol. 2 (T. & T. Clark, 1869); J. Alec Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary (InterVarsity Press, 2015); J. Alec Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary (InterVarsity Press, 2015); Thomas C. Oden and Christopher A. Hall, “Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture,” 1998.
 John Guest, In Search Of Certainty, English Language edition (Ventura, CA, U.S.A: Regal Books, 1983).