Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you; you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me.” (Isaiah 44:21, ESV) “I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the Lord, who does all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7, ESV)

Think of today’s covenanter as a trailer for Sunday evening’s sermon. In these chapters, Isaiah describes the emergence of Cyrus onto the world stage. How scary this man must have seemed to Israel? As He swept nations and empires off the face of the earth, nothing stood in His way, and no one could stop him. Many in Israel, exiled in Babylon, feared whether or not they would survive his conquest of their Captors’ land. To quell this sense of rising panic, Isaiah reminds Israel of two truths.

  1. God is the one who has been forming us from the womb up. The Hebrew verb “formed” has this continual, ongoing sense. This work of forming us was not completed the day we were born. Our whole lives are His workmanship. He is at work forming us, He always has been. Every cooling breeze, every warming ray of sunshine, every ripple of trial, every tsunami of grief is measured by God. He never intends to destroy us, always and only to build us up. To be sure, sometimes this purpose involves tearing down. We are about to see evidence of this in our own parking lot on Jefferson Road, and in time, God willing with our fellowship hall and sanctuary. But this tearing down is not the terminus ad quem (the final end). No, we tear down with a glorious goal beckoning us onwards. Is it likely, therefore, that we would stop the work mid distruction and forget our final aim and goal? NEVER! So it is with God. He has been at work in our lives from the first. We will not be forgotten by Him until all is said and done. And when that work is done, we will look just like Jesus Christ, God the Son enfleshed!

  2. This same Creator is at work in our world “forming” (same verb) light and darkness, well-being and calamity. He is the one at work back-behind history, sovereignly crafting its warp and woof. “From Him, through Him, and to Him are ALL things.” In saying this, we must emphasize God is neither the author nor the approver of evil.  But He does sovereignly control, and hem evil in by His decree. It exists because He allows it to exist. And when it exists, He surrounds it with His all-holding hands. There are no rogue molecules, no loose canons, no areas of real chaos. Beleaguered Saint, here is a pillow for your soul. I know many of you are going through deep waters at present. But God has neither forgotten nor forsaken you. He has plumbed the depths He sends you through. His purpose through all of this, is not to destroy you, but to bring you home at last.

This was God’s word to Israel in Isaiah’s day. God had indeed called and sent Cyrus to the task of destroying Babylon. But in this destruction, Israel would not be destroyed. Cyrus was but God’s appointed messenger to bring Israel home (see the book of Ezra!).

So it is with all of God’s dealings with His people on earth. Whatever trials you face today: Cancer, Parkinson’s disease, a body creaking with old age, loneliness, childlessness, joblessness, and a thousand other etceteras, never forget: God is the first cause of all these trials. And His final purpose is not your destruction. To be sure, He will destroy our pride, our rebellion, our selfishness, and our sin, but we will survive the process, alive in the power of an endless life.

In remembering this, therefore, resolve not to waste today. It is all too easy to put our lives on hold until the trial passes, or like the woman with the flow of blood to waste all our energy searching for a “cure”— for a way out. It’s almost as if we think, I must wait for the trial to go before true life can begin again. But there is life to be lived now in the trial. There are others to be loved and served, faith to be exercised, worship to be given, sins to be mortified, and hope to be enjoyed. Never forget this; lest you spend the foreseeable future wasting away the present, longing for a prosperity which God might never grant you in this short-lived earth.

I close with a famous poem by C.T. Studd, the famous missionary and world-class cricketer:

Two little lines I heard one day, Traveling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart, And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one, Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet, And stand before His Judgment seat;
Only one life,’ twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, the still small voice, Gently pleads for a better choice
Bidding me selfish aims to leave, And to God’s holy will to cleave;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, a few brief years, Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;
Each with its days I must fulfill, living for self or in His will;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

When this bright world would tempt me sore, When Satan would a victory score;
When self would seek to have its way, Then help me Lord with joy to say;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Give me Father, a purpose deep, In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;
Faithful and true what e’er the strife, Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Oh let my love with fervor burn, And from the world now let me turn;
Living for Thee, and Thee alone, Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;
Only one life, “twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one, Now let me say, “Thy will be done”;
And when at last I’ll hear the call, I know I’ll say ’twas worth it all”;
Only one life,’ twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

 

CT Studd