Study 9 THE PROMISE OF DELIVERANCE IN TIMES OF TROUBLE
GREAT PROMISES IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
by Francis Dixon
(Key verses: Isaiah 43:1-3)
This promise is familiar to most Christians, but if you’re not familiar with it then read it over several times – it’s God’s word for you. The primary application here is to the Jewish people, and although this prophecy was made 700 years before Christ’s birth it has been partially fulfilled and will be completely fulfilled in God’s time. It’s a promise for today which we must take to ourselves. Notice:-
1. THE PEOPLE WHO ARE ADDRESSED
The last three words of verse 1 read “you are mine” – God is addressing His people, those who belong to Him. They are Christians, people who belong to the Lord in a three-fold sense:
- 1. We are His by creation (verse 1) – “he who created you”; I am God’s property because He made me (Colossians 1:16); compare Genesis 1:26; John 1:1-3.
- 2. We are His by redemption (verse 1) – “I have redeemed you”, God says. I am His property because He has purchased me (1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 1 Peter 1:18).
- 3. We are His by election (verse 1) – “I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” Long before God created the earth and all that is in it, His purpose was that we should be His. I am His because He made me, because He redeemed me and because He chose me (John 15:16).
2. THE PATHWAY ALONG WHICH THEY ARE TRAVELLING
Nowhere in Scripture or in experience do we find that the Christian life is easy or self-indulgent, and from these verses in Isaiah 43 we learn that the pathway God has chosen sometimes leads us through fire and through water. We can imagine sometimes that those who live closest to Him are favoured and will escape trial and testing. God has His favourites (all His people are His favourites), and in Hebrews 12:6 we learn that the Lord disciplines those He loves and that trial is inevitable for His children. Look up and compare Deuteronomy 8:2-3; John 16:33; Philippians 1:29; Hebrews 12:6-11; 1 Peter 4:12-13. In verse 2 we read of four things about the path along which we travel:
- 1. It is a divinely-ordered and a divinely-ordained pathway. Our Sovereign Lord, who knows the end from the beginning, is speaking to His people and He looks ahead and says, ‘You’re going to pass through fire and through water!’ Are you going through this experience now? Then take comfort because He knows all about the pathway, for He planned it for you – look up and compare Job 23:10; Psalm 37:23.
- 2. It is a very rough and testing way (verse 2) – “through the waters…through the rivers…through the fire…the flames…” These are experiences we cannot escape. Notice that the Lord doesn’t say, ‘if you pass’ but ‘when you pass’. See what Job 5:7 says!
- 3. It is a pathway of varied testing. We may pass through the water and not the fire or we may pass through the fire and through the water. Read the book of Psalms and see how varied the psalmist’s testing was, or look at some of the trials through which you and other Christians are passing and you will realise how different they are – and yet the Lord permits them in the lives of His children.
- 4. On the pathway some trials are very severe. In verse 2 we read of water, rivers, fire, flames – these experiences can be devastating.
If our study finished here how desolate we would be – but it doesn’t! So finally notice:-
3. THE PROMISE THAT IS MADE TO THEM
The promise of testing and trial is being fulfilled, but what else does God promise His people? He never breaks His word – look up and compare Numbers 23:19; Deuteronomy 7:9; Joshua 21:45; 1 Kings 8:56; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18 – and this God, our God, makes a four-fold promise to His own:-
- 1. He promises the security of His property (verse 1). Are you going through the waters or the fires, and are you nearly overwhelmed? God says, ‘Fear not…you are mine – by creation, redemption and election. Do you think I am going to lose the property which cost me so much and which is so precious to me?’
- 2. He promises the adequacy of His protection. Look at verse 2 again – “When…they will not sweep over you…you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze…” This means that although the situation may be desperate the Lord will not let it overwhelm us – 1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Corinthians 12:9.
- 3. He promises the constancy of His presence. Look at verse 2 yet again – “When these things happen – what? ‘I will be with you.’ Read the experience of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel 3:19-28 and notice that not even a hair of their heads was singed – but more wonderful still, there was with them a fourth man who “looked like a son of the gods2; and God still says to us – Hebrews 13:5-6!
- 4. He promises the fulfilment of His purpose. God has a purpose in everything that happens to His children (Romans 8:28); and one day His purpose will be fulfilled. Notice again in verse 2 the carefully chosen words “When you pass through…”, not “pass into”. We are going through! Read Psalm 66:10-12 to see that the further we pass along the pathway of trial and testing the nearer we come to a place of abundance. We shall have been enriched, refined and sanctified because we have come through. See how the promise finishes in verse 3 – “For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour!”