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“I HAVE CHOSEN YOU AND NOT REJECTED YOU”
by Philip Owen

In our earnest (and proper) efforts to refute the popular modern vision of a god who has nothing to say about sin and therefore does not address it and who exists to satisfy our every whim, we must not allow the pendulum to swing so far in the direction of judgment that we neglect to present the God whom the Bible depicts—a God who never winks at sin, but One who is nevertheless inexpressibly tender, compassionate, and solicitous of His own.  Even in times of nearly universal rebellion and general apostasy, the Lord appeals with gentle words and sweet promises to anyone who has an ear to hear.  The forty-first chapter of Isaiah offers a glimpse of this aspect of God’s character.  Though Isaiah foretells the impending Babylonian captivity, the Lord, nevertheless, offers words of comfort and assurance to the faithful.  Though living in a different dispensation, we may well find encouragement in the character of God as revealed by Isaiah. 

The Lord reminds Israel of who they are and of their relationship to Him.  “But you, Israel, My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, descendant of Abraham My friend, you whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its remotest parts and said to you, ‘You are My servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you’” (vv. 8, 9).  What love and tenderness the Lord has for Abraham, and these are Abraham’s descendants and heirs of the Abrahamic Covenant.  “I have chosen you and not rejected you,” God reminds them.  Though they have been rebellious and have rejected Him, He will not annul His covenant with them.  He loves His children.

Then the Lord encourages them with who He is and what He will do for them.  “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous hand” (v. 10).  “Remember, Israel, who I am,” He says in effect; “I am the one and only omnipotent God.  I have no rivals.”  But that might be of little comfort if He had not added, “I am your God.”  He is not their God because they chose Him, because they were righteous, or because they had impressed Him but only because He had chosen to shower His love and blessings on them.  “Don’t look around and fear your enemies or any of your circumstances,” He might be saying.  Then He gives a threefold encouragement:  “I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you.”  Could He possibly be more emphatically assuring?  They must understand and believe that He will—surely!—intervene on their behalf.  Nor will He do so in some underhanded fashion by suspending His moral law or bending the rules of justice; rather, His intervention will be in accord with His righteous character (“righteous hand”) that can do only what is right, and just, and perfect.

Not satisfied with these wonderful words of encouragement and promise, the Lord adds:  “I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, who says to you, ’Do not fear, I will help you.  Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you . . . and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel’” (vv. 13, 14).  Yes, they ought to have believed His first words—words of purist verity.  But the Lord is quick to assure them, to encourage their vacillating faith, to provide some backbone for their wormlike nature.  He is, after all, their Redeemer according to His own sovereign choice.  And they may be certain that as “the Holy One of Israel” He will do what is right and absolutely perfect.

In an earlier era and a time of trouble, we read that “David encouraged himself in the Lord” (I Sam. 30:6 KJV).  We have passages such as our present text in order that we might avail ourselves of the same encouragement.  We should never be dominated by fear, discouragement, or a world-weary cynicism about present circumstances and their outcome.  It is a sign neither of weakness nor of naivete, believer, to trust in the Lord, to rest in His promises, and to expect above and beyond what we can ask or think.  The one who genuinely trusts in the Lord not only is never disappointed but he is ever rejoicing.  And such a life glorifies the Redeemer.  As surely as God judges the sinner, He blesses the saint:  it is an inseparable part of His nature to do so.  

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