The Love of the LORD

The Love of the LORD

Last week as we considered Ephesians 1, we were focused upon the three Persons of the Godhead—the Father who elects us, the Son who redeems us, and last, but certainly not least, the Holy Spirit who seals and now indwells us. This week we’ll be focusing on the one true God who made us for himself, redeems us, sustains and cares for us, and gives us his glory.

Specifically we’re going to consider God’s disclosure of himself to his people by means of Isaiah the prophet. Isaiah lived from around 740–681 BC. The general theme of his writing is “Yahweh Saves!” In fact, the name “Isaiah” literally means “The LORD saves.” The first 39 chapters of his book are an address to his contemporaries declaring God’s judgment on them, due to their ongoing disobedience, by means of the nation of Assyria. But in chapters 40–66 (The deliverance and restoration of Israel in 40–48) Isaiah moves from addressing his own 8th c. BC setting to addressing a time in the future, specifically the Jews who will be living in the 6th c. BC (as predicted in Isaiah 39:5–7). In these latter chapters we see Isaiah being a prophet in the sense we usually think of when we hear this word. Isaiah is predicting or foretelling what will happen to God’s people two hundred years down the road. Now since we have the benefit of hindsight, we know that Isaiah predicted correctly the future exile of the Jews in Babylon (in chapters 40–55 = The Book of Comfort) as well as their subsequent return from exile. This provides assurance that their ultimate deliverance prophesied in a remote future will also come to pass (in chapters 56–66 Everlasting Deliverance and Judgment).

So chapter 43 is part of a prophecy Isaiah has made to those Jewish believers who will be living during a time of exile in Babylon long after he has passed away. It’s intended as a word of comfort to believers who may be feeling despair due to their exiled status. Isaiah begins by stating that this is what “the LORD says.” And before turning to the content of what the LORD says, I want to stop and consider why the “LORD” is written in all capital letters because to understand this is to gain insight not only into our passage this morning but into many Old Testament Scriptures. The origin of this usage occurs over 700 years before Isaiah’s time when God first called Moses (~1450 BC) to be his servant by appearing to him in a burning bush as recorded in the third chapter of the book Exodus. God first identifies himself by saying “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob” (v. 3). In other words, the God who is speaking to Moses is the God who created the nation of Israel. God then discloses to Moses his plan to use him by sending him to Pharaoh to deliver Israel from their oppression under the Egyptians (v. 10). When Moses asks God what he should say should the Israelites ask him the name of the God of their fathers who has sent him to them (v. 13), God responds by saying

“I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord—all caps—,[The Hebrew for Lord sounds like and may be related to the Hebrew for I am in verse 14] the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ “This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.”

In this passage, God, the great “I AM” is indicating that his name is Yahweh. In fact, in Hebrew the most common name for God is represented by a tetragram or four letters—Y, H, W, H—which scholars pronounce as “Yahweh” by adding vowels. But since our English translations typically translate this as LORD with all capital letters rather than as “Yahweh,” it’s difficult for us to appreciate that “Yahweh” translated as LORD with all caps is actually God’s Name rather than just another word for God. So the meaning of the personal name YHWH is “I Am (or I AM Who I Am).” These self-designations are used interchangeably. And this four-letter combination—this personal name for God—occurs over 6,800 times in the Old Testament as compared with “Elohim” which is the simple word for God in Hebrew which occurs 2600 times in the Old Testament—or one third less than LORD/YHWH.[1]

So as we turn to the verses that follow in Isaiah 43, we are reminded that when Isaiah begins by saying “this is what the LORD says,” we can understand that this isn’t just any God, but this is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the great “I AM.” Isaiah states that this LORD—Yahweh—is “he who created you, Jacob,” and “he who formed you, Israel:” What is being highlighted here, as we’ve noted before, is that the people of Israel were not just an existing nation that God chose to adopt and make his own. No, the people of Israel didn’t even exist until God called Abraham and promised to make of him a nation—and not only a nation, but a nation through whom, one day, all of the nations of the world would be blessed (Gen. 12, 15). And when Isaiah says that the LORD created Jacob and formed Israel, we have an example of Hebrew parallelism or a way of stating the same point in two ways for the sake of emphasis. Jacob was the name of Abraham’s grandson until God changed his name to Israel after he wrestled with the angel of the Lord (Genesis 32:28). Names are clearly important in Scripture. So in stating that the LORD—Yahweh—created Jacob and formed Israel, what Isaiah is highlighting over a thousand years after Abraham’s initial call, is that apart from God’s creating and forming, Israel, as a nation, would never have come into being. From beginning to end, their creation, sustenance, and deliverance are due to God’s creating them and calling them to be his people. He is their God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He is not the God of any other nation or people.

And the message the LORD—Yahweh—brings to his chosen nation is: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” The admonition not to fear is important given that Israel, God’s people, had repeatedly been disobedient. So they had cause to fear for since their having been created by God, they regularly turned away from him, seeking the gods of other nations and following the ways of other peoples and cultures. But God’s love is greater than the disobedience of his people. The LORD—Yahweh—has redeemed his chosen people. He has purchased them. And this redemption is specific to Israel whom he has summoned by name and to whom he has revealed his own name, the LORD—Yahweh. God knows his people intimately and he wants to be known intimately by them. “You are mine” he says. God sees not their fault, but their need. He covers their guilt with his abounding grace.

As the passage continues, we see specific indicators of his love and care for those who are his. “When you pass through the waters” he says in verse 2, “I will be with you.” And, in another instance of Hebrew parallelism he re-states the point for emphasis: “when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.” This may be an allusion to how God delivered his people in the past when they crossed over the Red Sea but whether or not it is, the metaphor of deliverance through water indicates that the LORD—Yahweh—is a caring God. Anything his people undergo, they will not undergo alone for he, the LORD who made them, will be with them. He won’t only protect them from the destructive effects of water but also of fire, “When you walk through the fire,” he continues, “you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” This calls to mind God’s deliverance of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Dan. 3:25–27) which actually took place during the time of the Babylonian exile. But, again, these words are intended as a source of comfort for these future exiles who no doubt wondered at times whether the LORD, Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, had abandoned them given their status as exiles.

Now the reason the LORD’s—Yahweh’s—people can rest assured of their protection and care is because of the nature and character of the One who is watching over them. In verse 3 we read “For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” The God who made them is the God who is able to protect them. He is not an impersonal god of nature or a man-made idol, he is a personal God; he is the LORD—Yahweh; he is their God, the Holy One of Israel; he is their Savior. He it is who will rescue them for this is part of his nature and character. He will save them. He will care for them. He will be with them no matter what the circumstances. He is the LORD, Yahweh; he is their God.

The LORD—Yahweh—gives “Egypt for [their] ransom”—a reference to how he delivered Israel from their oppression under Egypt, “Cush” in the upper Nile region—“and Seba” near Cush. But, again, the point is that the LORD chose Israel above all other nations. And, in case they’ve missed it, he says that his people “are precious and honored in [his] sight” in verse 4, and because he loves them, he “will give people in exchange for [them], nations in exchange for [their] life.” Again, the LORD cares for those who are his. Despite their disobedience, they are precious—highly valued by him; despite their disobedience, God honors them with himself, with his presence, protection and care.

Therefore, he tells them for a second time not to fear in verse 5: “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.” Again, given their past track record of disobeying and turning from God, they would certainly have had cause to fear. But God is on their side. And if God, the LORD—Yahweh—who made the heavens and earth and created them as a people for himself is on their side, then what cause have they to fear? If God who made them is on their side, what more can they ask for? If God who is in control of all history is on their side, they need not be afraid. Even if they are scattered, the LORD—Yahweh “will bring their children from the east and gather them from the west” (v. 5). He will “say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth.” No one can withstand the LORD’s—Yahweh’s—beckoning. He is the One who, ultimately, has the ability, as Jean Luc–Picard might say, to “Make it so.” In fact anything the LORD desires to make so will be made so. Therefore his people can trust him. His people can rest in him. His people need not be afraid for he is with them. Immanuel is his name. He is “God with us.”

And this is true for “everyone who is called by” the name of the LORD, by Yahweh’s name. This is true for “everyone,” verse 7, “whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” As we noted last Fall when considering the fifth “sola” of the Reformation, Soli Deo Gloria or to the glory of God alone, the reason for our existence is for the glory of God. The reason God has created us in his image is for his glory.

There is so much for us to learn from this passage in Isaiah 43. There are so many parallels from which we can benefit because God, the LORD—Yahweh, never changes. He remains the same creating, loving, redeeming, sustaining, glorifying God who views those who are his as precious and who desires an intimate relationship with them—who desires an intimate relationship with us.

So let us consider the parallels:

First, God is a God who wants us to know him. As he revealed himself to be the One, true God, the “I AM” and the “LORD” or “Yahweh” who saves in Old Testament times, so, too, in New Testament times and on into our own times. For in the New Testament we find God not only giving his name, Immanuel, God with us, but God actually taking on human form in order to be with his people in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus was God in the flesh. He tells Philip that if he’s seen Jesus, he has seen God the Father for he and the Father are One (John 14:8ff). And not only that, but God wants us to know him so much that he has given us his Holy Spirit so that he indwells us both individually and corporately. Brothers and sisters, even as we sit here worshipping this morning, God is with us. Immanuel is here!

Second, and related to this, as God created us in his image, and then created a nation for himself out of one man, Abraham, through whom all the nations of the world would one day be blessed, so, too, he has created us, his church, for himself. The word we translate as church is an assembly or those who are called out by God to be his and worship him. We are the bride of Christ. We are the body of Christ our head. We are the sheep of Christ our shepherd. We are the children, along with Christ, of God our heavenly Father who is re-creating us in the image from which we’ve fallen—he is re-creating us into his Holy image that we might be merciful and loving and compassionate and just even as he is. And, again, all of this is possible because he has given us his Holy Spirit who has sealed us and indwells us and helps us to holy even as he is holy.

Third, for all who have turned to Christ and acknowledged our need for him; for all who have acknowledged that we can’t be the people God calls us to be apart from Christ; for all who have acknowledged our sin and the ways we fall short; for all who have acknowledged that we are sick and in need of Jesus, our Great Physician, we need no longer fear for he has redeemed us—he has purchased us with himself—he has made us his own. And his perfect love for us—not our perfect obedience of him—is able to cast out all fear. We need not fear God’s punishment and wrath and displeasure because Jesus Christ, who never disobeyed God despite being tempted as we are, has taken our place, has taken on our judgment, has become a curse for us, has died and has risen for us that we might not ever be separated from God’s love. We are his and he will never abandon those who belong to him.

Fourth, because we are his, God will protect us no matter what circumstances we may undergo. That we belong to God does not mean that we will never suffer for even Jesus, who was completely innocent, suffered. But the fact that we belong to God does mean that if we go through the flood, he will be with us; if we go through the fire, he will be there; if we undergo any kind of suffering, we won’t undergo it alone for he is Immanuel, God with us. God is with us so much that even when we finally undergo death, he will not let us go through it alone for he has conquered death. God is the God of the living and Jesus’ resurrection demonstrates in a powerful way that even death cannot hold him down. So if we belong to God, if we have turned to Jesus as our Savior and Lord, even death cannot hold us down for he will never leave us; he will never forsake us. To do so would be to deny himself and this he cannot and will not do. We, too, are precious and honored in his sight.

Fifth, God has created us for his glory. We see this not only in the passage from this morning in Isaiah 43 and in the Ephesians 1 passage we looked at last week, but Ron and I came across this again in our reading recently from John 17, Jesus’ high priestly prayer. Listen to what he prays to the Father in verses 22–23: “22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” Did you catch this? The glory the Father has given Jesus, he has given to us. Now I know it may not feel as though we have God’s glory as we go about our seemingly ordinary lives each day, but we do. We as God’s people become living proof of his glory. And further, this God-given glory is given so that we might be one even as Jesus is one with the Father. Brothers and sisters, we have been created not only for God, but also for each other. In addition to God’s indwelling Holy Spirit, he has given us to each other that we might never be alone but that we might love and care for each other even as God does. But not only that, God our heavenly Father loves us as much as he loves Jesus. God who has ever existed, who has ever been the great “I AM” has chosen not only to create us—not only to redeem us when we turned from him—not only to sustain and care for us—but also to love us for all eternity. What have we to fear??? As Paul reminds us in Romans 8:31: If God is for us, who can be against us?

In closing, I’d like to read what precedes verse 31 in Romans 8 for it encapsulates beautifully all of the themes God has disclosed in Isaiah 43. Let us listen to these words from God’s:

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 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. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Let us pray.


[1] The Jews came to regard God’s name as too holy to be pronounced, so whenever they came across YHWH they spoke of “Adonai” which means my lord (lower case). “Jehovah” arises from an attempt to pronounce the consonants YHWH with the vowels from adonai.

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