Today’s Scripture – July 17, 2016

Isaiah 43:1-7 (NIV)

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.”

Even when God’s people were in Babylon and feeling completely forsaken, God had not abandoned them.  Long before they were taken away, He put these promises in the mouth of Isaiah, and similar words of hope in the mouths of other prophets.  He wrote for them a timeline and a promise of restoration.

Even in the midst of what felt like deep waters, God’s intent was not to destroy, but to wash clean.  Even in the midst of what seemed like fire, His intent was not to destroy, but to purify, to burn away the dross so that the gold would shine more brightly.  God never gave up on His people, but the punishment and exile were essential for making them a pure people, into whose midst He could come as the Messiah, Jesus.

In the same way, God’s people in America are feeling themselves in exile in our own nation.  But God has not left us alone.  He has put His word and His promises into the mouths of prophets and teachers to challenge us and to encourage us.  His goal is to purify a people for Himself – a people who will consciously live in His kingdom, and through whom He can make His kingdom a great and living reality.

But we can’t give up.  We have to keep our eyes focused on God, and ignore the siren calls of despair which grip so many of God’s people these days.  The end is not yet.  God is still working in us, and in many of His people all around us.  We must stand firm to the end, and if we do, we will see what God can really do!

Father, thank you for this encouragement, and for these great promises.  You are good, and Your mercies endure forever.  Lord, help me to keep my focus steadfastly set on you, and to stand firm, so that I can not only see Your salvation, but so that I can help others to see it as well.  Give me a willing and steadfast heart, so that I can follow you not matter what!

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