Now, this is what the Lord says,The verse in bold really hit me hard - it surprised me.
the one who created you, O Jacob,
and formed you, O Israel:
“Don’t be afraid, for I will protect you.
I call you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I am with you;
when you pass through the streams, they will not overwhelm you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;
the flames will not harm you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your deliverer.
I have handed over Egypt as a ransom price,
Ethiopia and Seba in place of you.
Since you are precious and special in my sight,
and I love you,
I will hand over people in place of you,
nations in place of your life.
I feel like, growing up in the church, we've always been taught that God loves us, but it sometimes has a tendency to feel really intellectual or abstract. We quote John 3:16 all the time - "For God so loved the world," and hey, "the world" includes me, so I guess that means God loves me? Right? I mean, it makes logical sense, I guess.
But there is something far more impactful about hearing God say the words, in first person, "I love you."
And he actually says those words in the book of Isaiah.
I remember a period when I was part of a small house church in Boston. We were trying to understand the concept of "listening to God." Many of us were used to praying to God, but we were definitely not used to quietly listening for his voice. It felt more than a little strange, and kind of awkward.
I'm not sure I ever "figured it out," although I remember one time I was trying to meditate quietly and listen as best as I could, and as bizarre as it may sound, I actually did think I heard something from God - and it was those three words: "I love you." It was a very weird feeling, and I was not sure of what I had experienced. If I remember correctly, I pretty much kept it to myself, uncertain.
At the next church house meeting, another young lady shared her experience with trying to "listen to God," and her description of her awkward and strange attempts felt like it could easily have been mine. And she shared what she thought was the only thing she had heard - and how she felt it couldn't be right, it was too simple, it was what she wanted to hear, etc. - and it was exactly the same thing I had heard - "I love you."
I felt like that confirmed it for me. I believe God is waiting to tell those three words to anybody who will hear them.
He said it directly in Isaiah 43, after all, so it's not unprecedented.
But Chris, you might be saying, Isaiah 43 wasn't written to you. It was written to the people of Israel. Yeah, you're right. And guess what? Through the sacrifice of Jesus, those who call on his name are grafted in to the tree of Israel, so yeah, it applies to me, and it applies to anyone in Jesus.
In fact, John 3:16 makes it clear that God's love is beyond even Israel or those who are in Christ - he loves the world. God's love is the starting point for us all.
But yes, if you want the particular promises of Isaiah to apply to you, reconciliation with God is available to you right now through Jesus. God is longing to say "You are precious and special in my sight and I love you" to everyone who will hear it - and he sent his son as a confirmation. That reconciliation can be had through him right now - if you're not sure on the particulars, go and ask any of your Christ-following friends. I'm sure anybody would be ecstatic to share.
No matter what you think you've done, or how far away you think you are, the Creator God of the universe has something important he wants to tell you.