The Holy One is your Redeemer
Series: Isaiah: Hope in the Holy One
Our very own Pastor Mark Giacobbe brings us the comforting BIG IDEA that The Holy One is Our Redeemer and backs it up with the points:
1) Why we need it
2) Why and How God does it
3) How we can respond?
b)Sing praise in the desert
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God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. (Ps. 46:1-3 ESV)
O God who created the heavens and the earth, the seas and all that are in them, you sit enthroned above the flood. You reign over all that happens on this earth, and all that happens in our lives.
Not only are you sovereign and in control, but you are good and wise. Your wisdom is unsearchable and your paths beyond finding out. Your covenant-love endures forever.
You are the God who is with us in the fire and in the flood.
And so God we bring our needs and our burdens, and we lay them before you. God, hear the cry of our heart for forgiveness and cleansing. Restore to us the joy of our salvation and renew for us the paths of life.
God, for those experiencing your hand of discipline, I pray that we would know that you stand ready to redeem and forgive. For those facing the fire of trials, I pray that we would know that you are with us in them, and that you will bring us safely through.
For our church, we pray for our building project, that you would complete that on time. I pray that you would unite as one in Christ. For our city and nation we pray for justice and righteousness, and for the strengthening of your church. And for the nations, we pray that they would hear the good news, turn to you, and be saved.
We ask this through Christ our Lord, AMEN.
Have you ever felt like you were in over your head? Utterly helpless, maybe even hopeless, whether because of something you did or circumstances entirely beyond your control? Have you ever felt like you can’t see which way to go, or hear the voice of God, or even the voice of reason?
We’ve been going through the Book of Isaiah chapters 40-55 for the past month, and in it we’ve seen that Isaiah speaks to people who are in way over their head. They were about to go into exile. He’s speaking to ancient Israel, about 700 BC, and they were about to face deportation and exile to Babylon because they broke faith with God. But Isaiah writes on multiple levels. He’s writing to them; but he’s also writing to us. Their story is our story. (He’s looking beyond them to “the time to come” as it says in one of the verses today.)
Because all of us, no matter who we are, can relate to this experience of exile. For followers of Christ, who have been redeemed from our sins by the blood of Jesus, we’re not in physical exile due to our sins, but we experience the spiritual exile of no longer belonging to this world. But even beyond that, the Bible points to an even wider sense of exile that everyone can relate to. We’re not home. We’re made for a better world, and cut off from our true home, and deep down we all know it – this world isn’t what it’s supposed to be. And so Isaiah can speak to all of us. We all know what it’s like to be in over our heads; we all know what it’s like to face exile.
In our passage today, we see that God is a holy God who redeems his people out of exile. He pays a price and buys us back, and rescues us from our enemies. He’s our redeemer. And so the main theme of the passage today is redemption. The idea that God pays a price to buy us back so that we would serve him. He’s rescued us from when we were in over our heads. And the big idea today is that the Holy One is your Redeemer.
And the passage breaks down into three sections that give us our points today, all around the theme of Redemption: 1) Why we need it 2) Why and How God does it 3) How we can respond
Let’s get into it. 3:00
REDEMPTION: WHY WE NEED IT (42:18-25)
Why do we need redemption? Why do we need God to buy us back and rescue us? Verses 18-25 tell us.
The passage starts right off with a harsh word: Hear, you deaf, and look, you blind, that you may see! Who is blind but my servant, or deaf as my messenger whom I send? … He sees many things, but does not observe them; his ears are open, but he does not hear. (Isaiah 42:18-20). Notice this is talking about the servant. Now, last week, we said that the servant of the Lord is the Messiah. And that’s true. But this week we need to nuance that a bit. Because it’s pretty clear that in this passage, the servant is Israel. The context makes that clear. We’ll explain how it all fits together later on. You see, Israel was God’s servant – Israel had a mandate to make God’s glory known among the nations. (That’s why it says in verse 21 The LORD was pleased, for his righteousness’ sake, to magnify his law and make it glorious.) But this passage tells us that at this point – about 700 BC – Israel had totally failed at that mandate, and had become spiritually unable to see or hear anything the Lord had done or had said. They had failed at the mandate. Failed to be a light to the nations. We know that blindness and deafness are part of living in a fallen world. But here, Isaiah uses them as metaphors for being spiritually unable to see or hear God because of our sin. There’s nothing wrong with being physically blind or deaf, that’s not our fault, but we can make ourselves spiritually blind or deaf.
And further down, we see the result: Who gave up Jacob to the looter, and Israel to the plunderers? Was it not the LORD, against whom we have sinned, in whose ways they would not walk, and whose law they would not obey? Isaiah 42:24. Israel, God’s servant, was being sent into exile in Babylon BY GOD because they had broken covenant with Him. And in the next verse, it describes this in terms of fire: So he poured on him the heat of his anger and the might of battle; it set him on fire all around, but he did not understand; it burned him up, but he did not take it to heart. Isaiah 42:25. Israel’s spiritual blindness and deafness had led God to bring the fire to get their attention.
Fire – it’s an amazing thing. There’s nothing I love better than to sit in front of the fireplace, or sit around a campfire with some friends. Fire, when it’s controlled, is great. It gives warmth and light; it’s wonderful. But let it out of control – say, like a forest fire – and it’s terrifying. It burns, it destroys, it’s out of control, it’s insatiable. And at this point in their history, Israel had become spiritually unable to see or hear, and and so God brings the fire, the fire of exile. Parents, you tell your kids not to touch the stove, maybe they listen, maybe not. But let them touch it once – well. Fire gets your attention. Israel was feeling the fire.
Now, that’s all ancient Israel. What does this have to do with us? How does this speak to us who are living in the days to come? Here’s how: All of us, no matter who we are, need this redemption – rescue – salvation – because we have all experienced the fire of exile in some way. We’ve all felt the fire. How, exactly? Let me give you a few ideas.
For some of us, it could be the fire of the Lord’s discipline, like it was for our forefathers in Israel here. Maybe God is using the fire in your life to get your attention about some sin or some other destructive pattern that’s making a mess of your life. Is that you? Does that resonate? Now I want to be careful; just because there is fire it doesn’t mean it is the Lord’s discipline. It could be; doesn’t mean it for sure.
For others, it might not be the Lord’s discipline, but instead the fire of trials. As Christians, we all still experience exile, we all still feel the fire, not as a result of our sin, but as a result of our citizenship transfer to the kingdom of heaven. We feel the fire of exile not because of our faithlessness, like our forefathers in Israel, but because of our faith in Christ. That’s why the apostle Peter says Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. (1 Pet. 4:12-13 ESV).
So here’s my question, how are you feeling the fire right now? Do you know what kind of fire it is? Is it discipline? Is it trials? Discernment is hugely important here. Don’t assume your fire is a result of something you’ve done; but don’t assume it isn’t, either. Every sin brings a fire, but not every fire is the result of sin. Not sure? That’s why God gives us each other. Ask a trusted brother and sister to pray and process with you. Help you discern; help you to spiritually see and hear what the Lord is doing. But whatever it may be, here’s the point: We’ve all felt the fire; we’re all going through something. Know your fire. That’s not all you need to do – we’ll get to that in a minute. But first:
I want to speak for a moment to those who are not yet followers of Christ. Because you’ve felt the fire, too. Right? You’re like “Yeah! You don’t have to tell me.” We all feel the fire in some way, because we’re all exiles in some way. We’ve all disobeyed God and fallen short of his glory. We’re all living in spiritual exile from our heart’s true home, which is God. And the Bible says, this leads to fire. It might mean a fire we can feel now – like the fire of disordered lives, broken relationships, crippling anxieties, impulses and desires that are raging totally out of control and consuming us. But ultimately, the Bible says, sin, apart from God’s forgiveness, leads to the fire of hell. Being eternally separated from God, which the Bible describes over and over again in terms of fire. And by the way, that’s not just a New Testament thing. Even in Isaiah it says “Their worm shall not die and their fire shall not be quenched.” (Isa 66:24) talking about those who had rebelled against God.
The point is, no matter who you are, we need redemption. Why? Because we all face the fire. Whether it’s the fire of discipline, the fire of trials, or the fire of a life lived apart from Christ, we’ve all felt the fire. How have you felt the fire?
However you have felt the fire, into this place, into the burning heat of our need, like a hand reaching down into the rubble, like a firefighter breaking through the door, comes 2 little, powerful words that change everything: “But now… (Isaiah 43:1)” Let’s hear what God does in response to our need. Let’s see why and how God redeems – This is point 2. 11:00
REDEMPTION: WHY AND HOW GOD DOES IT (43:1-7)
Now, how does God respond to our need? How does he respond to the fire? Notice how he doesn’t respond. Notice he doesn’t say “It’s your fault; deal with it. You made your bed now lie in it.” Notice he doesn’t say “Better put that fire out so that you can come to me.” No. Here’s what he says:
But now thus says the LORD,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you,
I give men in return for you,
peoples in exchange for your life.
Into the fire of exile, into the heart of our need, right where we are, God meets us. God steps in. Not because we deserve it, but simply because he created us, because he loves us. And so he will redeem us from our exile, and will protect us in the midst of flood and fire. this is our story. This is our God. The Holy One is your Redeemer.
[Disclaimer I’m going to go a little deep for a few minutes]
Now, I’ve been using these words “redeem” and “redeemer,” and we all have a general sense of what they mean, but I want to show you something really important about them. For starters, to redeem something means to buy it back. I’m guessing not a lot of us use pawn shops much, but you’ve probably seen it on TV once or twice: You give up a possession so that it now belongs to somebody else. But you can get it back if you pay a price – if you redeem it.
But there are actually two Hebrew words for redeem. And the one used here refers to the duty that a person might have, in ancient Hebrew culture, to redeem a relative from difficulty or danger. That’s right. It was actually a duty, an obligation, if you were related to someone, to act as their redeemer if they got into trouble. To pay a price, to sacrifice something valuable, to give something up, to help someone you are related to who couldn’t help themselves. Remember Ruth? In the Old Testament? Ruth is in a bad way; she’s poor and she’s vulnerable. ; and eventually she figures out that Boaz, a wealthy landowner, is one of her “redeemers” through marriage. That means that Boaz, by virtue of his relationship to Ruth, has an obligation to help her out. To give something up to save her from trouble. THAT’s the word used in our text today. It means to redeem someone you care about from trouble.
But how could this be? How could God be our “kinsman-redeemer”? He’s God, we’re not. How could he be obligated to us? Here’s how: He’s made a covenant with us and brought us into a family relationship with himself through Jesus Christ. He’s obligated himself through a covenant of love to rescue and to save. As it says in the Book of Exodus, we are God’s “special possession.” His beloved. And what this means is, as one Old Testament scholar puts it, that God is Israel’s Redeemer who will stand up for his people and vindicate them. R Laird Harris [photo not necessary]. And he’s OUR Redeemer, who will stand up for us, and vindicate us. Why does God redeem us? Because in love he has made us his own special possession, he has called us by name, and that means he will put himself on the line to rescue and redeem. 16:00
But there’s even more going on here. [second deep thing] All this talk about “when you pass through the waters,” and flood and fire and so forth, and “I will give Egypt and Cush in exchange for you” that we saw a minute ago? This is all Exodus language. God is saying: “Do you remember that? Do you remember the Exodus? When I brought you out of slavery in Egypt? And brought you through the Red Sea (the waters) with a pillar of cloud and fire? He’s saying: I’m still here. I’m the same God I was then. And when I redeem you out of exile, it’ll be like the Exodus all over again.
Friends, Christians, this is our story. He has loved us with an everlasting love (Jer 31). He has drawn us with cords of kindness (Hos 11). Now, let’s read this in New Testament terms. Because, just as God had obligated himself to our forefathers by way of a covenant of love, so he has obligated himself to us in a covenant of love.
Now, there are 2 places in the New Testament where we see the closest parallel to what we read in Isaiah 43. I’ll read one of them now, and the other a little later. The first is, from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, chapter. 1:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace Ephesians 1:3-7
Do you know what this is saying? The same thing as Isaiah 43:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine…. Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life.” Isaiah 43:1-4
Why does God redeem us? He redeems us from exile and from fire because in love, through Jesus Christ, he has made us his own special possession, he has called us by name.
What does this mean for us? Here’s what it means. This means that no matter what your fire is – God stands ready to redeem you. And you say “wait, I’m in the fire for my own fault. This is the Lord’s discipline” So? So was Israel. Yet God rescues and redeems them anyway, not because they deserve it, but simply because he loves them. And he loves you. Are you experiencing the fire of the Lord’s discipline right now? He has called you by name and he loves you. Run into his arms. Don’t be afraid. He stands ready to redeem you, over and over and over again.
Is it the fire of trials? FEAR NOT – the Lord is with you in the trial. “When you pass through the waters I will be with you and the waters will not overwhelm you.” You know what that’s like? You ever see footage of a water rescue where the rescuer has the gear and the helmet and they pull the person to safety? God is with you in the flood. And he’ll make sure you make it safely to the other side.
But there’s more because it says “When you walk through fire you shall not be burned and the flame shall not consume you.” You know what that means? It means that if you are a Christian, nothing can happen to you that will do you ultimate harm. Because God is WITH YOU in the trial. He’s WITH YOU in the flood and the fire. And he will make sure that the hardest trials, the deepest pain, will only work out for your good and God’s glory. Because God has paid the price to redeem you, we can face the fire, and we can face the flood. That’s why we don’t need to be afraid.
And what about if you are here without Christ? Friend, there’s good news: God stands ready to redeem you too. Let me talk for a moment about HOW God redeems.
A little while ago we said that in this passage, Israel is God’s servant – his disobedient servant. But last week we said that Jesus is the servant (Jesus said so much himself). How do they fit? Here’s how: Jesus is the ultimate servant of the Lord who succeeded where Israel failed, and who paid the price for the world’s redemption. This is how God redeems. He sends the Messiah, the ultimate servant, to pay the price for redemption.
Jesus is the ultimate servant of the Lord. Let’s see this:
He succeeded where Israel failed. He magnified God’s law and made it glorious by keeping it perfectly in his life on earth. He’s like the Israel of one.
He healed the deaf and blind to show us that he stands ready to heal our spiritual deafness and blindness.
But more, he took on the fire and the flood, on our behald. It says in Isaiah 42 God gave up Israel to the looters, but in Isaiah 50 the servant says “I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting. (Isa. 50:6 ESV)” Don’t you see what this means. The messiah as the ultimate servant of the lord takes on the curse of exile, the penalty for disobedience. Not just for Israel, but for the whole world.
And remember that redemption always means to pay a price. Well, Jesus, the servant of the Lord, is the price paid for our redemption. He endured mocking, beating, and ultimately death on the cross. Why? To be the ransom. What did Jesus say? The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:45. He came to pay the price. To be our substitute. He’s the only one who COULD pay it. As God he is the only one who can redeem – no sinful human could do that. But as man he fully identifies with us in our need for redemption. When he died on the cross, Jesus paid the price to free you and me from the crushing load of sin and death.
And this ultimate redemption, from the ultimate exile of sin and death, is available to everyone. To anyone who believes: God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). Jesus is the price paid for your redemption. He’s paid it all so you don’t have to. Believe in him. Accept his price for your redemption. You can’t pay it yourself. He’s done it for you. It doesn’t say “get yourself through the waters and maybe we’ll talk about it.” No. He’s the one who does it all. But if you’ll believe, you’ll be among those who are loved by him and called by his name. And he’ll be with you forever, through fire, through flood, and on into eternity with him.
So, we’ve seen why we need redemption, and we’ve seen why and how God does it. Now, Isaiah could have really wrapped things up here. He said the main thing: God has redeemed you; he’s called you by name. Wow! But apparently God wants his redeemed people to respond in a few ways. Quickly, let’s look at two ways. 24:30
REDEMPTION: HOW WE CAN RESPOND (43:8-21)
Sing praise in the desert
Verses 8-13 describe a courtroom scene. There’s lots of talk of “witnesses.”
“You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior.”
We’re back to the servant here – as God’s people. But there’s a twist. Because now God says “I want you to bear witness to this.” I want you to tell others what you’ve seen and heard. But do you realize what that means? I thought they couldn’t hear or see or understand. But now they can! In other words, on the other side of redemption, the servant has been healed! Because they are able to tell people what they have seen and heard.
Do you know what this is? It’s a picture of us – as God’s redeemed people! When we’re healed and redeemed in Christ, we have the immense privilege of bearing witness to others what we’ve seen and heard. That’s all a witness is! We don’t need eloquence – though it’s not bad. We don’t need clever argument. We just need to tell others the good things the Lord has done for us. We are God’s witnesses that only God can redeem because he is the only God and savior, and nothing can stop him when he works to deliver his people in Christ. That’s what it means to bear witness!
There’s just one more thing. Let’s look at verses 17-21:
17 Thus says the LORD,
who makes a way in the sea,
a path in the mighty waters …
19 Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
Isaiah 43:17, 19
This is Exodus language again.”Make a way in the sea.” But notice, it’s a new thing. It’s not like the old Exodus where God made the watery places dry – no. It’s the opposite – where he makes the dry places lush with water and life. But how? The last verses gives a clue:
20 I give water in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
21 the people whom I formed for myself
that they might declare my praise.
Isaiah 43:17, 19-21
The final way respond to God’s great redemption in Jesus is: we praise. In the midst of the wilderness – that means, in the midst of our trials. It’s what we were created for. Praising God in the midst of our trials is not just an act of faith, though it is that – it’s also how God continues to refresh us, and how we continue to act as God’s witnesses in the world, as he gathers together the scattered children of God from all nations.
Friends, let’s bear witness to God’s great redemption as we sing his praise. I want to close with one last text. Before, I told you there were 2 New Testament texts that are the closest analogue of Isaiah 43. Ephesians 1 is one of them The other one is in 1 Peter 2:9-10
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Behold the new thing God has done. Refresh yourself with living water as you drink from the well of salvation by faith. And declare God’s praise in the desert. Let’s pray.
As we prepare our hearts to worship him through singing three more songs, we’re also going to participate in what’s called The Lord’s Supper, or communion.
Communion is a meal by which we remember Christ’s broken body and shed blood that redeems us and makes us his covenant people.
Before we participate in this meal I want to give you a few moments alone with the Lord. The reason I say that is because the Bible says we are not to participate in the Lord’s supper in an unworthy manner.
In other words, in coming to the Lord’s supper, we’re coming to Jesus himself. And so this is a meal for those of us who are trusting in Jesus to pay the price for their redemption.
And so I want to give you a moment where you can either renew your hope in Jesus, or to receive His redemption for the first time.
If you’re not yet a follower of Christ, you can become one. Becoming a follower of Jesus means receiving him as your only hope in life and in death. Trusting that he paid the full price for your redemption.
There’s a sample prayer on the front of your connect card that can help give you language for doing that. The prayer doesn’t save you – Jesus saves. But this prayer helps give you language for receiving him.
So take a minute where you are to receive him for the first time. Or to renew your trust in him as the price for your redemption. And then we’ll participate in the Lord’s supper together.
If today you are trusting in Jesus Christ as the Messiah, receiving his message for the first time, would you let us know on your connect card? We want to connect with you and help you follow Jesus.
For all of us who are trusting in Christ alone today, let’s participate in the Lord’s Supper before we sing his praises.
The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians: For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
Friends, Jesus’s body was broken so that we could be put back together forever. Let’s eat in remembrance of him.
Paul goes on to say In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
Friends, let’s drink this cup in remembrance of Christ, who has shed his own blood to make us his people now and forever. Let’s drink together.
Our passage concludes: For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
So let’s stand together and sing his praises.