All of Christ for All of Life
Grace Alone, Faith Alone, Christ Alone

17 September 2020 – Isaiah 41:8-20

But you, Israel, my servant,
Jacob, whom I have chosen,
the offspring of Abraham, my friend;
you whom I took from the ends of the earth,
and called from its farthest corners,
saying to you, “You are my servant,
I have chosen you and not cast you off”;
fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Behold, all who are incensed against you
shall be put to shame and confounded;
those who strive against you
shall be as nothing and shall perish.
You shall seek those who contend with you,
but you shall not find them;
those who war against you
shall be as nothing at all.
For I, the LORD your God,
hold your right hand;
it is I who say to you, “Fear not,
I am the one who helps you.”

Fear not, you worm Jacob,
you men of Israel!
I am the one who helps you, declares the LORD;
your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.
Behold, I make of you a threshing sledge,
new, sharp, and having teeth;
you shall thresh the mountains and crush them,
and you shall make the hills like chaff;
you shall winnow them, and the wind shall carry them away,
and the tempest shall scatter them.
And you shall rejoice in the LORD;
in the Holy One of Israel you shall glory.

When the poor and needy seek water,
and there is none,
and their tongue is parched with thirst,
I the LORD will answer them;
I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
I will open rivers on the bare heights,
and fountains in the midst of the valleys.
I will make the wilderness a pool of water,
and the dry land springs of water.
I will put in the wilderness the cedar,
the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive.
I will set in the desert the cypress,
the plane and the pine together,
that they may see and know,
may consider and understand together,
that the hand of the LORD has done this,
the Holy One of Israel has created it.
– Isaiah 41:8–20 (ESV)

R. Reed Lessing writes:

Isaiah 41:1-16 announces Yahweh’s ability to change the course of human history. He selected Abraham His servant and chooses Cyrus to be His agent of liberation for the exiles. As a mighty threshing sledge, the deportees will witness the downfall of Babylon. Yahweh is Lord of all history!

He is also the Lord of all creation (41:17-20) It takes Yahweh’s power in both realms to lead His redeemed people on the journey home. Those with no strength and who stumble are like worms and dead people. They are afflicted and poor, without water and on a long journey in a desert. Yahweh answers these broken people with a series of first person verbs: “I, Yahweh, I myself will answer;” “I will not leave:” “I will open’” “I will make’” “I will place;” “I will set.” The curse of judgment will be reversed. Yahweh’s re-creative work will result in overflowing water that will provide an abundance of trees in the places where life did not seem possible, restoring the barren land into the likes of Eden. This gift of water appears in the least expected places (e.g. “bare heights” 41:18).

The reference to the afflicted and poor seeking water is reminiscent of the Israelites in the wilderness after their departure from Egypt. Ezekiel also builds upon these earlier provisions: wherever the river flows, everything lives. This river, flowing out of Yahweh’s eschatological temple, empties into the Dead Sea, which is then transformed. The river runs all around the Dead Sea, from En-gedi to En-eglaim, which represents a topographical merism, highlighting the totality of the healing waters. Fishermen are at work, spreading their nets and hauling in their catches.

God’s free gift of water flows in John’s Gospel. It begins with just a trickle. Jesus tells Nicodemus, “No one can enter the reign of God unless he is born again of water and the Spirit” (Jn 3:5). It picks up momentum when the Master says, “But the water I give will become a fountain of water springing up into eternal life” (Jn 4:14). And then the surge: “Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within him” (Jn 7:38).

MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 44
Q. 44. What doth the preface to the ten commandments teach us?
A. The preface to the ten commandments teacheth us that because God is the Lord, and our God, and redeemer, therefore we are bound to keep all his commandments.