Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
Our Old Testament reading this week, from Isaiah 43, repeatedly speaks of a particular attitude or situation and then gives a reason. I was particularly struck by some of them.
In verse one, God tells his people not to fear. Why? Because he has redeemed them. He goes on to tell what this redemption is. He’s called them by name. They belong to God. In biblical terms, whenever someone owns something, the person has a responsibility to attend to and care for that something. We are held responsible for those things over which we have authority. Before God, being in a position of authority means we are to care for the best interests of whatever we are in authority over. This is because God, creator and sustainer of all, is the one who cares for the good of all in his hand. When he has called his people by name, they are his, to be under his protection. If they reject God’s protection, he allows that, and he allows the consequences. But God is the one who has called his people. He will care for them.
In verse two we find means of physical harm - water and fire. God’s people are promised safety. Why? Verse three describes it. He is the Lord our God. He has ransomed his people so that they will be protected from their enemies. This concept may be confusing to some. After all, people are killed for being Christians. It’s certainly been more common in the 20th and 21st centuries than in any century before. And we certainly recognize that, if we wish to be more literal with this passage, people drown and die in fires. Being a Christian doesn’t make you float any better than having any other worldview. Christians have the same physical characteristics as anybody else. If engulfed in flames, they are just as liable to death. What kind of protection is there? The idea of a ransom points the Christian immediately to the New Testament concept of Jesus suffering in the place of others, dying for their sin, and rising from the dead. Jesus’ promise is that in the last day he will raise the dead to everlasting life, that he is the firsborn from the dead. Your resurrection and my resurrection are really no more miraculous than Jesus’ resurrection. He accomplished what he said he would do. We can expect that if he has said we will be raised and will not be subject to eternal death, he is correct. We have been ransomed by God. He has purchased us. And he will care for his people.
In verse five, we are again told not to fear. Why? God is with us. He is going to bring all those called by his name together. There is no place for fear in the presence of the God who has purchased us, called us by name, given us his name, and ransomed us from all harm and evil. This is perfect love, which we are told casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). May the one true God, the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, guard his people this day and to eternity.
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