But now, this is what the Lord says–
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom,
Cush and Seba in your stead.
Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
and because I love you,
I will give men in exchange for you,
and people in exchange for your life.
Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
I will bring your children from the east
and gather you from the west.
I 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–
everyone who is called by my name
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.”
Lead out those who have eyes but are blind,
who have ears but are deaf.
All the nations gather together
and the peoples assemble.
Which of them foretold this
and proclaimed to us the former things?
Let them bring in their witnesses to prove they were right,
so that others may hear and say, “It is true.”
“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord,
“and my servant whom I have chosen,
so that you may know and believe me
and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
nor will there be one after me.
I, even I, am the Lord,
and apart from me there is no savior.
I have revealed and saved and proclaimed–
I, and not some foreign god among you.
You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “that I am God.
Yes, and from ancient days I am he.
No one can deliver out of my hand.
When I act, who can reverse it?”
Isaiah 43:1-13 (NIV)
What an amazing passage! God calls out to His captive people to reassure and comfort them. Though they have been blind and deaf to his voice and His commands (v8), they are still His chosen people, and are now to fulfill their destiny as His witnesses. To facilitate this, He will bring them unscathed through the floods of opposition and the fires of persecution. He will redeem them and draw them together, no matter how scattered they have become. And in doing this, He will show that He is real, and that He is the ONLY God.
The Lord did all of this, fulfilled to the letter, when He brought the captives back from Babylon. But He has continued to fulfill it all throughout Church history as well. He restored and drew together His blind and deaf people through Jesus and the salvation that He bought, raising them up again to be His witnesses. Over and over again He brought them through fire and flood, stronger than ever. Sadly, over and over again for nearly 2000 years, God’s people, the Church, have let the glare of the world blind their eyes, and a multitude of other voices deafen their ears to Who God truly is, and what He wants from them. In every case He has raised up prophets and witnesses to open their eyes and ears again.
It doesn’t take a genius to see that we are there again in the 21st century, at least in Europe and America. By and large, the people called Christian are walking around with eyes blinded by the world’s philosophies and ideologies, deafened by our entertainments and our desires and cravings. We can’t hear God any more – not that we really try most of the time! It takes too much time and energy, and we are so busy with other stuff. We don’t see wonderful things in the Bible – not that we really try most of the time! Quiet time to devote to intently reading the Bible is hard to fit into our active schedules, and when we do somehow find a few minutes to sit down with our Bibles, our minds won’t seem to settle down and focus, so scattered are they by all the things that we pour into them each day.
An awful lot of Christians have given up on ever being able to hear directly from God, and powerfully do what He calls us to do. They leave that up to the professionals – those who have hours and hours to sit and read and study. (If only they knew!) But now, as much as ever before, God’s people need to hear Him calling us powerfully out of the world and back into His presence; to open our ears and remove the scales from our eyes. To empower us to stand strong and walk boldly through fire and flood, and to again bear unflinching witness to the glory, majesty, love, and grace of the only true God!