Summary: God is punishing Israel but he hasn't abandoned them. He’s a loving father who knows his child must be punished but only to bring them back to him.We’re to show to those who have no faith in God hat God is real and active in the world.
The people are in a desperate situation. They’re described in ch42 as being blind and deaf, imprisoned in darkness. God’s patience has worn out and he’s on the warpath. Listen to what he says to them: “42:13The LORD goes forth like a soldier, like a warrior he stirs up his fury; he cries out, he shouts aloud, he shows himself mighty against his foes. 14For a long time I have held my peace, I have kept still and restrained myself; now I will cry out like a woman in labor, I will gasp and pant. 15I will lay waste mountains and hills, and dry up all their herbage; I will turn the rivers into islands, and dry up the pools.” It sounds like there’s no hope for them. Disaster has fallen on them.
But then comes a dramatic change of tone. The message turns from one of danger from the fire of God’s wrath to a promise of salvation, rescue from the flames.
God is punishing them but that doesn’t mean he’s abandoned them. In fact he’s like a loving father who knows his child has to be punished but only to bring them back to him.
And so he reminds them of
Who they are
- I made you what you are
He says: “But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel.” They need to be reminded where they came from. It wasn’t one of the many nations of the time that God decided to give his name to. No, he created them from nothing. He chose Abraham to become the father of a brand new nation. And 400 years later, through the exodus from Egypt he formed them into a unified nation, with him as their God.
- I have redeemed you
He did that by redeeming them, releasing them, from slavery in Egypt.
And now that they’ve been punished for their sins he’s redeeming them again; again, bringing them out from slavery to be his own people in their own land.
- I have called you by name, you are mine
And to cement their identity he says “I have called you be name, you are mine.” In the ancient near east to call someone by name had the idea of exercising authority over them. So here he says it gives him ownership of them. They are his.
Later on he tells them “4you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you.”
And so he tells them what’s about to happen to them
What is about to happen
- I will be with you -
He’s going to bring them back from Babylon, through the desert, across rivers, a long journey. And he’s not pretending that it’ll be easy. There’ll be suffering, but God will limit it to what we can bear. There’ll be waters to cross, trials by fire to go through but in all that he’ll be with them.
- I will protect you
Even in the extremes of suffering God will keep them safe. The waters won’t overwhelm them, the fires won’t burn them. We might be reminded here of the story of Daniel’s three friends being thrown into the fiery furnace in Babylon. Or it might simply be a reference to the burning of God’s anger towards them. In any case God promises to keep them safe, to keep the flames from consuming them.