Francis Bourdillon, 1864
"But now thus says the Lord who created you, O Jacob, and He that formed you, O Israel: Fear not — for I have redeemed you, I have called you by your name, you are Mine! When you pass through the waters — I will be with you; and through the rivers — they shall not overflow you; when you walk through the fire — you shall not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior!"
God says this to every humble Christian. He said it first to Israel; but it applies now to the Church of Christ — that is, to the whole body of believers; and every individual believer may therefore take it to himself. If we have come to God through Jesus Christ — then these blessed words belong to us. It is God Himself who speaks: "Thus says the Lord." So there is no doubt or uncertainty here. God never deceives with vain hopes. All that He promises, He both can and will perform. There is comfort therefore even in these opening words: "But now thus says the Lord."
But there is more comfort as we go on. God speaks here, not merely in a general way as "the Lord," but as the Lord God of Israel, "the Lord who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel." In comforting Israel, He speaks not merely as God — but as Israel's God. So the words come to us, as the words not merely of God, but of OUR God — of Him who created us, formed us as we are, saves us, preserves us and blesses us continually.
What does He say to us? "Fear not!" What encouraging words! Spoken to us by God — by our God; spoken to us in the midst of things that might well make us fear. This is the very spirit in which God speaks to those who love Him all through the Bible; and often in these very words, "Fear not."
We find them spoken to Abraham, to Jacob, to Moses, to Daniel, to the shepherds of Bethlehem, to the disciples, to Paul, and to many others. If only we are in God's way — then He says to us, "Fear not." He would not have us to be always anxious, forecasting evil, looking forward with fear. He would have us to trust Him. How happy to be told, and told by God — not to fear! How happy for us, that He has made it our duty not to fear. He who made us, the Creator and Ruler of all things, without whom not a sparrow falls to the ground, and who takes such care of us that the very hairs of our head are all numbered — He Himself bids us not to fear. Whom have we to fear, what have we to fear — if He says, "Fear not!"
But He gives us a reason for not fearing, "Fear not — for I have redeemed you." Now, whatever may have been the meaning of this word "redeemed" and of the word "Savior" further on, with regard to Israel — to us they can have but one meaning. God has redeemed us by the death of His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. None who feel that they are sinners can be without fear, until they believe in Christ's redemption. They might believe in God's power and holiness — but that would only make them the more afraid. It is only when they are enabled to believe in redeeming love, that fear is taken away, because then guilt is taken away. For it is sin which makes the awakened conscience fear; and when sin is atoned for and forgiven — then, and only then, the cause of fear is gone, and such words as "fear not" bring true comfort.
Yet still we might fear in looking forward; not from any mistrust of redeeming grace — but from a sense of our own weakness. "Shall I not go astray? Shall I not fall into sin? Shall I not come short at last?" Such fears many true believers have. But God seems to meet and answer them here. "Fear not — for I have redeemed you! I have called you by your name — you are Mine!"
If we had nothing to trust to but our own steadfastness — then we might well fear. But God will not leave us to ourselves. He has called us to be His. Through grace, we have obeyed the call. He will never leave us nor forsake us. He will strengthen us in our weakness. He will help our infirmities. He will give us His Holy Spirit. He will guide us and keep us and enable us to persevere to the end.
He is our reconciled Father in Christ — and we are His children by adoption and grace. He will treat us as His children. Each believer shall be dealt with as His dear child. As a tender parent distinguishes child from child, thinks of each by name, cares for each individually, and loves each with an individual love — so does our Heavenly Father with regard to each child in His family of grace.
"I have called you by your name — you are Mine!" Oh, happy words! Who would not rather have them true of himself, than possess the wealth of worlds!
"You are Mine!" Now and forever — His! His in all the trials and temptations of this life — to be led and guarded and kept by Him through all. His still, though all besides may seem against us. His in life, His in death, His forever in that kingdom of glory, where all will rejoice in Him, and where none but His shall be.
Why then should we fear? We may pass through deep waters of affliction — yet He will be with us still. Rivers of trouble and temptation may seem ready to overwhelm us — but He will be with us to stay them. The fiercest trials and persecutions may lie in our way — yet His promise is that the fire shall not burn us, the flame shall not kindle upon us.
He was with Shadrach and his companions in the fiery furnace — and they came out unhurt. He will be with us, in all that He may be pleased to expose us to. It shall not hurt us. It shall not prevail against us. "For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel — your Savior!"
"I am with you!" There is our safety, our comfort, our happiness. Let us ask no more, than to know this by the witness of the Spirit, and to know it always.