O thou humbled one、 storm-tossed、 uncomforted,— Lo! I am about to set、 in antimony、 thy stones, And will found thee in sapphires;…And all thy children shall be the instructed of Yahweh,— And great shall be the prosperity of thy children.” (Isaiah 54:11,13, EMPH)

What strikes me about this passage is the way that the Lord describes his people.  Using the singular to refer to all of Israel, he calls them “thou humbled one, storm-tossed, uncomforted.”  This sounds like a people in need of rest and refuge, and this is exactly what we discover.  The humbled and storm-tossed can expect the prosperity of their children to be great, and they will be instructed by Yahweh himself.

There is an incredible promise here of people who are tossed about by the difficulties of life being able to rest in the Lord in peace, comfort, and security.  Whether this passage refers to a millenial kingdom on earth when God will reign, or if it looks forward to the end of the ages when God’s people will be with the Lord forever, depends upon your particular brand of theology.  What isn’t in dispute is that God’s people can look forward to a time of peace and safety.  The humbled one(s) will be lifted up in the presence of their Father, the storm-tossed wind and waves will subside, and the ones who are uncomforted will rest in the peace and comfort of God’s kingdom. Happy days indeed!

 

And the Lord has declared today that you are a people for his treasured possession, as he has promised you, and that you are to keep all his commandments,” (Deuteronomy 26:18, ESV)

The word that the ESV translates “treasured possession” here means “something that is owned and of very high value or something for which the owner has special affection.”  This is both flabbergasting and extraordinary because, let’s face it, neither Israel nor we who follow Christ by faith today are “worthy” of the special affection of the Lord.  Indeed, the Bible goes out of its way to say again and again that the Lord didn’t choose Israel [or us] because of some remarkable trait in them/us that made us “choosable.”  God chose to make us a treasured possession out of the good pleasure of his own will.  Like I said, flabbergasting.

Lest we think this is true of only the nation of Israel, Peter goes out of his way to make clear that we who follow Christ by faith are members of God’s covenant using much the same terminology that Deuteronomy does here:

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.” (1 Peter 2:9, ESV)

If you follow Christ by faith, dear reader, you are God’s treasured possession, not because of what you have done, or how smart you are, or beautiful, or powerful.  You are God’s treasured possession because he set his love on you because he could…and he did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve taken a screenshot of Deuteronomy 24.17-22 so that you can see how often the word “sojourner” suddenly appears in the text.  The word can also be translated “alien, stranger, foreigner, or resident alien.”  It refers to the people living in Israel who were not Hebrew.  These were immigrants or aliens residing in the land and they were very often poor.  Notice how God’s heart and concern were for the alien, and he wanted the people to be for them also because they had once been foreigners themselves in the land of Egypt.

Notice also that they were grouped together with the fatherless and the widow.  The reason for this is that orphans and widows, along with resident foreigners, were often the most financially vulnerable in the country.  This was the position of Naomi and Ruth when they returned from Moab after the great famine.  Indeed, Ruth herself went out and gleaned grain left over from those who had harvested the crop so that she and Naomi could survive.

The point of all this is that the most vulnerable in society should be the ones that the people were most concerned about.  We see this same concern in the New Testament as well.  One of the instructions that we see again and again there is to remember the poor.

How we remember the poor and how we serve them is a matter for our own wisdom and creativity to figure out in our particular culture.  Tim Keller has written an excellent book on that particular subject that is well worth reading.  That we remember and serve the poor, is not a subject for debate because this is one of the clear commands of Scripture, and something we see practiced throughout the Bible.

 

Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who equip yourselves with burning torches! Walk by the light of your fire, and by the torches that you have kindled! This you have from my hand: you shall lie down in torment.” (Isaiah 50:11, ESV)

The Lord [through the pen of Isaiah] lays out two options at the end of Isaiah 50 for us to walk by.  We can trust in the name of the Lord (vs. 10) or we can do what our verse says and light our own lamp and walk by our own light.  The sure outcome if we light our own way is that we will lie down in torment. We will get exactly what we deserve.

We know from Proverbs that God calls us to move forward by trusting in him even when it doesn’t make sense to us:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5–6, ESV)

Trusting in the Lord leads to the comfort of straight paths, walking by our own light leads only to sorrow. You would think that this would be an easy decision for us, by our inclination is to lean to our own understanding and not trust in the Lord.

 

“But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me;
my Lord has forgotten me.”
“Can a woman forget her nursing child,
that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you. ”
https://ref.ly/Is49.14-15;esv

  • The Problem: God’s people were afraid that God had forsaken them. This is a lament and it is set forth in honesty and despair.  Will God forsake his people?  Has he forsaken them?  It’s an all too common issue and anyone who has read a missionary biography or understands church history knows that this is an issue that comes up again and again. God, for purposes that we don’t fully understand, seems to appear to abandon his own people from time to time, to danger and difficulty.  Israel was going to be judged for her idolatry, would God abandon his people forever?
  • The Response from God:  I will not forget you. God’s response is given in a solemn promise and both God’s character and history itself demonstrate that what God promises here is true and he will do it.  He will not forget his people. The ESV Study Bible entitles this section: “Human despair is more than offset by divine grace.”

    Sit back in your chair and breathe in that truth for a minute.  God will not forget his people. This is his promise.  This is his oath. This is his character.  Kings will not cause him to abandon his promise. Time will not cause him to abandon his people.  Opposition, danger, and difficulty are hand maidens to our sovereign God and no more stand in the way of his promise here than a bunny rabbit could block an elephant.  God has done what he promised in the past; he will do what he has promised in the future.  He will not forget his own people.

 

“Thus says the Lord,
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God,
who teaches you to profit,
who leads you in the way you should go.
Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments!
Then your peace would have been like a river,
and your righteousness like the waves of the sea; ”
https://ref.ly/Is48.17-18;esv

If we aren’t careful, we might assume that God is the best business partner ever [which in a weird way he is, but not according to this verse].  The Lord himself says: I am the Lord your God who teaches you to profit.  The Complete Word Study Bible says of the word “It is used most often figuratively of spiritual benefits from the Lord.” The profit envisioned here is not of farmland and animals, crops and orchards, but of spiritual benefits which will help us grow in faith towards God himself.

Notice here that what God asks [spiritual growth] he himself provides.  This reminds me of a song lyric by Sandra McCracken:

This grace gives me fear,
and this grace draws me near
And all that it asks it provides

When you sit and ponder this [as I do now with the sound of the Atlantic Ocean rolling ashore in endless waves] it cannot cease to amaze.  God doesn’t just tell us what to do and send us forth on our way in the vague hope that we actually accomplish his will, he gives the tools to do the very things that he wants us to do! We get the help that we need, God gets the glory he deserves.

Soli Deo Gloria

Oh…and for your listening pleasure, here is Derek:

 

 

“Listen to me, you stubborn of heart,
you who are far from righteousness:
I bring near my righteousness; it is not far off,
and my salvation will not delay;
I will put salvation in Zion,
for Israel my glory.” ”
https://ref.ly/Is46.12-13;esv

God’s message to his own people who were slowly straying away from Him in pursuit of other so-called gods.

Their primary problem was that they had stubborn hearts.  The Complete Word Study Bible says that the word “stubborn” means in part: “When used to describe a person or a person’s heart, it normally refers to a strength independent of or opposed to God.”  So they had a strength that was independent of God and this led them into idolatry and away from God.

We need to watch carefully that we ourselves do not follow this same pattern.  Our hearts are prone to try to take over and go our own way and have a strength that is not dependent upon God because we do not like to be dependent people, even though it is in our best interest.

The amazing thing here is that, despite their idolatry, God will bring his righteousness near and his salvation will not delay.  What is this if not grace in action? God’s people don’t draw near to salvation, God brings salvation near.  This is exactly what transpired at the cross.