Isa. xliii. 1-5.
The Living God’s Fivefold Declaration.
IN these verses, we have the living God making a fivefold declaration to His people: “l have redeemed thee;" “I have called thee;" "l am with thee;” “l have loved thee;" “I will gather thee."
I. “I HAVE REDEEMED THEE." I like to remind myself constantly of three things about redemption: the cost of it, the extent of it, the result of it.
1. Regarding the cost of our redemption, Peter says: “Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things. as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ." I have read somewhere in Roman history, of two eastern kings that went to war. The one defeated the other, and the vanquished king was taken prisoner with his wife and their only daughter. On being brought into the presence of the triumphant monarch, he was asked: "What would you give if I liberated your wife and daughter?" Looking up he pathetically answered: "I would give my life. l could not give any less."
Do you want to know, my beloved friends, the cost of our redemption? Never forget that it cost the Lord Jesus His precious life to redeem each one of us.
2. The extent of our redemption. Let me remind you of three Scriptures only. He redeems our life: "who redeemeth thy life from destruction” (Ps. ciii. 4). He redeems our soul: “the redemption of their soul is precious” (Ps. xlix. 8). He redeems our body (Rom. iii. 23). That is to say, the three constituent parts of our being—the life, the soul, the body—are redeemed by the Lord Jesus Christ.
3. We have the practical result of redemption in Paul’s memorable words: "whose I am, and whom I serve" (Acts xxvii. 23). Perhaps, one of the weakest points in our Christian life is this: that we fail to recognize and realize that when God saved us, we became His property, so that all we have and are, belongs wholly to Him. These lips and hands and eyes and feet and intellects, are His property, and consequently should be absolutely at His disposal.
II. "I HAVE CALLED THEE" In the first Epistle to the Corinthians (i. 2; vii. 21), we are called with a twofold object: to be saints, and to be servants. It is important to notice that nowhere in the Word of God, so far as my memory serves me, are we ever told to call ourselves saints. You will see the importance of this when you remember the meaning of the word saint—holy one; and if we are living holy lives, the friends with whom we have to do, will surely find it out, and there will be no need to advertise either our deep spirituality or our wonderful attainments. Ezra (v. 11) says: “We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth." And what we need to do is to serve Him well and wisely, remembering that in a little while, we will have to render an account of our stewardship to Him.
Ill. “I AM WITH THEE." The Divine Presence is promised to us in a threefold way in Holy Scripture.
1. His Presence is promised to us in prayer: ''Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matt. xviii. 20). What a blessed reality it is that God still answers prayer! I visited recently the prayer room in the orphan houses at Bristol, England, where George Muller prayed in millions of dollars without appealing to anyone but the living God.
2. His Presence is promised to us also in suffering: “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” (Isa. xliii. 2). I do not think I ever quote this Scripture, without being reminded of the three Hebrew children in the Book of Daniel. You remember how the king came down and looked in the fiery furnace and asked: "How many men did you cast in?" '"Three, O king." And I can almost hear him saying: "Are you sure of the number?—for I see four, and the fourth is like to the Son of God." What a real comfort this must be to God's people who are passing through the furnace of affliction! It may be that your life has been made up of crosses and losses, and you have been doomed to disappointment, and you wonder what it all means. You are inclined sometimes to say everything is against you. But let me remind you, it is all for you. There was only one thing that the three Hebrew children ever lost in going into the furnace. It wasn’t a hair of the head. It wasn’t a garment, for there was no smell of fire about their clothes. The thing they did lose was their bands, for they were bound when cast into the fiery furnace, and a few minutes afterwards, they were seen promenading up and down, quite free. It seems that in the furnace, we lose our bands, and I am sure that there are men and women here who can look back and remember how the Presence of God was realized by them as they passed through the furnace that seemed to be heated seven times hotter than usual.
3. We have His Presence promised to us in service. You will readily remember God’s word to Gideon: "The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour'' (Judg. vi. 12). It is both interesting and helpful to notice, especially in the Old Testament, that the men who left their mark upon this world's history, were men of whom it was said: "The Lord was with them." We may not have fellow-Christians with us. We may not have our church with us. But if we are walking in fellowship with God, we can count upon His Presence in every relationship of life. The Presence of God in service always means success. This is strikingly illustrated by Joseph in the Old Testament and by Paul in the New.
IV. "I HAVE LOVED THEE."
1. It is well to remember the character of the people that God is speaking to. They were idolaters. They were crotchety, crooked and cantankerous; yet God says to them: "I have loved thee." We, perhaps, are surprised at that, but let us never forget, the Divine love is infinite in its character: "As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you" (John xv. 9).
2. Divine love is constraining in its power. Said the great apostle: "The love of Christ constraineth us" (2 Cor. v. 14). That was his incentive. That enabled him to live such a strenuous life, to bear such unflinching testimony for his Lord and Master.
3. Divine love is inseparable from its object. Paul speaks in the tone of triumph when he says: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" (Rom. viii. 35.)
4. Divine love is unchanging in its purpose. John (xiii. 1) declares that those whom He loved, He loved unto the end, or, according to the Revised Version, "loved to the uttermost."
5. Jeremiah (xxxi. 3) tells us of love which is everlasting in its duration: "I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore, with lovingkindness have I drawn thee."
Do you ask me what is the practical outcome of Divine love? The beloved Apostle John answers that question when he says: "Beloved, let us love one another" (1 John iv. 7). It is only love that unites our hearts. Truth learned out of fellowship with God has a tendency to separate, but love welds God's people together.
I remember hearing that Robert Flockhart, the Edinburgh street preacher, who died in 1848, when he was passing away, he said to someone in his room: ''I have just been bidding good-by to some of my dearest friends." Asked who they were, he said: "The first who came in was Faith, and l said: 'Faith, I shall not need you any longer, for l am going inside to sight, so I will bid you farewell.' The second was Hope, and to her I said: 'You have assured me, Hope, in many a dark solitary hour, but I am going inside now to One Who is the Living Hope; so, I bid you farewell! The third that came in was Love, and to Love, I said: 'I have no intention of bidding you good-by, for Heaven is full of your kind, and I think you had better come along with me.'"
V. "I WILL GATHER THEE." I need hardly remind you, that these words, though spoken especially to Israel. are equally applicable to us. Israel to-day is a scattered people. You will find them the world over. But that is also true of God's people. If you were to ask me: Where is the Church? I should say, Some of its members are here, some in New York. a great many in England, and a large number in Australia; but the Church of God to-day is a scattered Church. I do not mean a divided Church. There is a very marked difference between being divided and being scattered. For instance, in the early Church, we are told they "were scattered abroad" and "went everywhere preaching the Word. (Acts vii. 4) But though scattered, they were not divided. They were very much united. God's people are scattered the world over, bearing their testimony for Him. But what a comfort it is, that they will be "gathered" and every beating of the heart, every throbbing of the pulse, every day that passes and every night that closes in around us, only brings the moment nearer when the grand reunion will take place in the crowded air.
I heard of a little boy that went out on one occasion to fly his kite. He let out a large quantity of string, and the kite went up very high. The atmosphere grew cloudy, and though the boy lost sight of his kite, he held on to the string. A gentleman passing said, "My boy, what are you doing?" The boy said: "My kite is up there sir." "But," the gentleman said, "I can't see your kite." The boy answered, "It doesn't matter much whether you see it or not. I know it is up there because I saw it go up and I am holding on to the string down here." We know that the Lord went up. When I was at the Mount of Olives, a little while ago, I was reminded of that scene where the Master with a tiny little band of disciples, went out as far as Bethany and lifting up His hands, He blessed them, and while He was blessing them, He was parted from them and carried up into Heaven. And here I say unto you, beloved friends, hold on to that string of promises. "For yet a little while” (R.V., a very little while) “and He that shall come, will come, and will not tarry." (Heb. x. 37) And if we shall hear Him say today, "Surely, I come quickly." I trust that the response of our hearts would be, "Even so, come Lord Jesus."
“The Record of Christian Work” 1913