1But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 2When 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. 3For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you. 4Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you, I give people in return for you, nations in exchange for your life. 5Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you; 6I will say to the north, “Give them up,” and to the south, “Do not withhold; bring my sons from far away and my daughters from the end of the earth— 7everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”
I love this passage.
The words are given to God’s people after they have been removed from their homeland and now find themselves in captivity in Babylon. They are in a foreign land, far from the Temple and the land that God had promised them.
God promises they will be restored and protected.
We are first reminded who God is and what God has done.
God is the Lord, the one who created and formed us.
Then God shares speaks a word of comfort - do not fear. A regular theme in scripture, yes? I have read that these words or words similar to them appear 365 times in scripture. Believe me, I didn’t take the time to count, so I will take others at their word. Even if it isn’t 365, it is a lot!
Moved from their homes to captivity - do not fear. Moved away from the place God resided (in the Temple) – do not fear. Uncertain what tomorrow may bring, let alone today – do not fear.
Why should we NOT fear? God has an answer for that. Actually, three answers.
Do not fear for I have redeemed you. In the Old Testament, redemption involves deliverance from bondage based on the payment of a price by a redeemer. Now this may seem strange for the people who are in captivity to hear. I believe there is more than just one understanding.
God reminds them that they were once in slavery in Egypt. Moses came along as God’s spokesman and through the work of God, God delivered God’s people out of Egypt and to the promised land. The Jews remember this every year at Passover.
But I also believe there is a promise in this word – I have set you free before, and I will do it again. Do not fear.
The second word – do not fear for I have called you by name. God knows you intimately. The one who knit you together in your mother’s womb knows you inside and out. Do not fear, for this God will not abandon those God has named as beloved. Do not fear.
The third word – do not fear for you are mine. God is a possessive God. God loves what God has created. God’s desire is to restore what God has created. Do not fear.
How many times do you need to hear it? God isn’t going to stop saying it! Do not fear.
Let us pray: O God, there are times we are afraid. You know that. Wrap us in your promise and in your word. Thank you for the hope and comfort and peace that surpasses all understanding. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.