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Restoration and Protection Promised
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.
Encouragement to God's People. (b. c. 708.)
1 But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. 2 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; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. 3 For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. 4 Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life. 5 Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; 6 I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; 7 Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.
This chapter has a plain connexion with the close of the foregoing chapter, but a very surprising one. It was there said that Jacob and Israel would not walk in God's ways, and that when he corrected them for their disobedience they were stubborn and laid it not to heart; and now one would think it should have followed that God would utterly abandon and destroy them; but no, the next words are, But now, fear not, O Jacob! O Israel! I have redeemed thee, and thou art mine. Though many among them were untractable and incorrigible, yet God would continue his love and care for his people, and the body of that nation should still be reserved for mercy. God's goodness takes occasion from man's badness to appear so much the more illustrious. Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound (Rom. v. 20), and mercy rejoices against judgment, as having prevailed and carried the day, Jam. ii. 13. Now the sun, breaking out thus of a sudden from behind a thick and dark cloud, shines the brighter, and with a pleasing surprise. The expressions of God's favour and good-will to his people here are very high, and speak abundance of comfort to all the spiritual seed of upright Jacob and praying Israel; for to us is this gospel preached as well as unto those that were captives in Babylon, Heb. iv. 2. Here we have,
I. The grounds of God's care and concern for his people and the interests of his church and kingdom among men. Jacob and Israel, though in a sinful miserable condition, shall be looked after; for, 1. They are God's workmanship, created by him unto good works, Eph. ii. 10. He has created them and formed them, not only given them a being, but this being, formed them into a people, constituted their government, and incorporated them by the charter of his covenant. The new creature, wherever it is, is of God's forming, and he will not forsake the work of his own hands. 2. They are the people of his purchase: he has redeemed them. Out of the land of Egypt he first redeemed them, and out of many another bondage, in his love, and in his pity (ch. lxiii. 9); much more will he take care of those who are redeemed with the blood of his Son. 3. They are his peculiar people, whom he has distinguished from others, and set apart for himself: he has called them by name, as those he has a particular intimacy with and concern for, and they are his, are appropriated to him and he has a special interest in them. 4. He is their God in covenant (v. 3): I am the Lord thy God, worshipped by thee and engaged by promise to thee, the Holy One of Israel, the God of Israel; for the true God is a holy one, and holiness becomes his house. And upon all these accounts he might justly say, Fear not (v. 1), and again v. 5, Fear not. Those that have God for them need not fear who or what can be against them.
II. The former instances of this care. 1. God has purchased them dearly: I gave Egypt for thy ransom; for Egypt was quite laid waste by one plague after another, all their first-born were slain and all their men of war drowned; and all this to force a way for Israel's deliverance from them. Egypt shall be sacrificed rather than Israel shall continue in slavery, when the time has come for their release. The Ethiopians had invaded them in Asa's time; but they shall be destroyed rather than Israel shall be disturbed. And if this was reckoned so great a thing, to give Egypt for their ransom, what reason have we to admire God's love to us in giving his own Son to be a ransom for us! 1 John iv. 10. What are Ethiopia and Seba, all their lives and all their treasures, compared with the blood of Christ? 2. He had prized them accordingly, and they were very dear to him (v. 4): Since thou hast been precious in my sight thou hast been honourable. Note, True believers are precious in God's sight; they are his jewels, his peculiar treasure (Exod. xix. 5); he loves them, his delight is in them, above any people. His church is his vineyard. And this makes God's people truly honourable, and their name great; for men are really what they are in God's eye. When the forces of Sennacherib, that they might be diverted from falling upon Israel, were directed by Providence to fall upon Egypt, Ethiopia, and Seba, then God gave those countries for Israel, and showed how precious his people were in his sight. So so me understand it.
III. The further instances God would yet give them of his care and kindness. 1. He would be present with them in their greatest difficulties and dangers (v. 2): "When thou passest through the waters and the rivers, through the fire and the flame, I will be with thee, and that shall be thy security; when dangers are very imminent and threatening, thou shalt be delivered out of them." Did they, in their journey, pass through deep water? They should not perish in them: "The rivers shall not overflow thee." Should they by their persecutors be cast into a fiery furnace, for their constant adherence to their God, yet then the flame should not kindle upon them, which was fulfilled in the letter in the wonderful preservation of the three children, Dan. iii. Though they went through fire and water, which would be to them as the valley of the shadow of death, yet, while they had God with them, they need fear no evil, they should be borne up, and brought out into a wealthy place, Ps. lxvi. 12. 2. He would still, when there was occasion, make all the interests of the children of men give way to the interests of his own children: "I will give men for thee, great men, mighty men, and men of war, and people (men by wholesale) for thy life. Nations shall be sacrificed to thy welfare." All shall be cut off rather than God's Israel shall, so precious are they in his sight. The affairs of the world shall all be ordered and directed so as to be most for the good of the church, 2 Chron. xvi. 9. 3. Those of them that were scattered and dispersed in other nations should all be gathered in and share in the blessings of the public, v. 5-7. Some of the seed of Israel were dispersed into all countries, east, west, north, and south, or into all the parts of the country of Babylon; but those whose spirits God stirred up to go to Jerusalem should be fetched in from all parts; divine grace should reach those that lay most remote, and at the greatest distance from each other; and, when the time should come, nothing should prevent their coming together to return in a body, in answer to that prayer (Ps. cvi. 47), Gather us from among the heathen, and in performance of that promise (Deut. xxx. 4), If any of thine be driven to the utmost parts of heaven, thence will the Lord thy God gather thee, which we find pleaded on behalf of the children of the captivity, Neh. i. 9. But who are the seed of Israel that shall be thus carefully gathered in? He tells us (v. 7) they are such as God has marked for mercy; for, (1.) They are called by his name; they make profession of religion, and are distinguished from the rest of the world by their covenant-relation to God and denomination from him. (2.) They are created for his glory; the spirit of Israelites is created in them, and they are formed according to the will of God, and these shall be gathered in. Note, Those only are fit to be called by the name of God that are created by his grace for his glory; and those whom God has created and called shall be gathered in now to Christ as their head and hereafter to heaven as their home. He shall gather in his elect from the four winds. This promise points at the gathering in of the dispersed of the Gentiles, and the strangers scattered, by the gospel of Christ, who died to gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad; for the promise was to all that were afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call and create. God is with the church, and therefore let her not fear; none that belong to her shall be lost.