I have a few Bible verses on necklaces or bracelets so I can wear them as encouraging and anxiety-fighting reminders of God’s presence and love. One necklace has the title of this post on it: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you.” This phrase comes from Isaiah 43, which begins one of my favorite passages of scripture.
But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob,
And He who 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,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.
For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I gave Egypt for your ransom,
Ethiopia and Seba in your place.
Since you were precious in My sight,
You have been honored,
And I have loved you;
Therefore I will give men for you,
And people for your life. (Is. 43:1-4, NKJV)
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve turned to these verses for comfort and hope when I’m feeling lost, alone, or afraid. The verses I just quoted are the ones I usually read, and I find the assurance of God’s overflowing, unstoppable love incredibly encouraging on it’s own. But it’s even better in context. To really understand these verses, we need to go back to the chapter before.
Behold, my servant, whom I uphold;
my chosen, in whom my soul delights—
I have put my Spirit on him.
He will bring justice to the nations. (Is. 42:1, WEB)
Verses 1 to 9 contain the first of four Messianic “Servant Songs” in Isaiah. It identifies the Messiah (Jesus Christ) as the one who will bring “justice.” We talked about this Hebrew word, mishpat, in last week’s post. It refers to judgements and ordinances backed-up by all functions of government — in this case, the correct, just government of God Himself. And here’s what the Messiah does with this authority:
He will not fail nor be discouraged,
until he has set justice in the earth,
and the islands will wait for his law.”
Thus says God Yahweh,
he who created the heavens and stretched them out,
he who spread out the earth and that which comes out of it,
he who gives breath to its people and spirit to those who walk in it.
“I, Yahweh, have called you in righteousness,
and will hold your hand,
and will keep you,
and make you a covenant for the people,
as a light for the nations;
to open the blind eyes,
to bring the prisoners out of the dungeon,
and those who sit in darkness out of the prison. (Is. 42:4-7, WEB)
This is God the Father speaking to God the Son about His work as the Messiah. Notice the closeness of their relationship, the tender concern for His Son, and the focus of Their plan. They created these people — us — and now They are saving us and delivering justice, law, covenant, and light.
The One Who Punishes
After the Servant Song, Isaiah records a song of praise to the Lord, which quickly turns into a reminder that those who trust in something other than God will be “greatly ashamed” (NKJV) or “utterly disappointing” (WEB) (Is. 42:10-17). Part of God’s just governance involves punishing evil for the purpose of turning His people back to good. And that’s what He did to ancient Israel.
It pleased Yahweh, for his righteousness’ sake, to magnify the law,
and make it honorable.
But this is a robbed and plundered people.
All of them are snared in holes,
and they are hidden in prisons.
They have become captives, and no one delivers;
and a plunder, and no one says, ‘Restore them!’
… Who gave Jacob as plunder,
and Israel to the robbers?
Didn’t Yahweh, he against whom we have sinned?
For they would not walk in his ways,
and they disobeyed his law.
Therefore he poured the fierceness of his anger on him,
and the strength of battle;
and it set him on fire all around, but he didn’t know;
and it burned him, but he didn’t take it to heart.” (Is. 42:21-22, 24-25, WEB)
This is the lead-in to the verses we quoted at the beginning of this post. It is immediately after the Lord is identified as one who chastises sin that He says, “Fear not!” His correction isn’t meant to hurt or terrify us, but to guide us back to a relationship with Him.
No matter what we go through or how bad it gets, God desires to deliver us and make us His. Ultimately, this desire is expressed in the Messiah. As another of the Servant Songs says, “He was crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought our peace was on him; and by his wounds we are healed” (Is. 53:5, WEB). God loves us so much that He took the punishment we deserve for sin on Himself so we could become part of His family.
Fighting Fear With God’s Help
All of the promises in Isaiah 43:1-4 are given in the context of Messiah’s work. Redemption and relationship have always been part of the Lord’s plan. And it’s fueled by a passionate love for the people He created. We’re formed by Him, known by Him, purchased by Him, and precious to Him (Is. 43:1-2, 4, 7).
We don’t have time to read through all of Isiah 43-44, but it’s all a continuation of this same train of thought. Yahweh is the only God, the only Savior, the only Redeemer and He is the reason we need not fear (Is. 43:1, 5; 44:2). With such a powerful being so interested in our well-being, there should be no cause for us to be afraid of anyone else but God (Matt. 10:28).
neither be afraid.
Haven’t I declared it to you long ago,
and shown it?
You are my witnesses.
Is there a God besides me?
Indeed, there is not.
I don’t know any other Rock.” (Is. 44:8, WEB)
It’s challenging to shift our minds off anxiety and focus on the One powerful enough to make fear go away. But learning to put our trust in God is the basis for fighting anxiety with His help. While that can be very difficult to put into practice, God is patient with us and ever-ready to act as our powerful Deliverer. He will be with us and give us what we need to succeed. All we need to do is stay close to Him.