1But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 2When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. 3For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…. 25“I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.
Here ends our text.
Shirley and Sandy, gathered family and friends, hear the words that the prophet Isaiah speaks and listen to them very closely: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” These are words that God our heavenly Father spoke to the Israelites while they were captives in Babylon, carried away from their own land because of their sin. They had been far from faithful: they’d become rebellious runaways who wanted nothing to do with the Lord, who snatched everything He gave to them and used it for their own desires. They’d put their trust in other gods for protection, and the Lord had let them have their wish: He left it to those gods protect them.
But the Lord was not all about anger. Despite their rebelliousness, God was still faithful. He had created them, formed them as His people – and He had promised that the Savior of the nations would be born among them.
We are just like the Israelites of old. We have been far from faithful. We have become rebellious runaways who want nothing to do with God. Fortunately for us, God wants everything to do with us. In just a matter of days, we will celebrate the coming of the Savior of the nations for us, to redeem a people of sin. That is precisely what God did for Ray. All those many years ago, in His Baptism, all of his sins of past, present, and future were forgiven. Because of the saving work of Jesus Christ, Ray now rests from his labors in the eternal glories of heaven.
The words that Isaiah records for us are words of hope, just as they are words of hope to the ancient Israelites. They remind us that God has not left us forsaken in our sins. He has not left us without a means of salvation. He reminds us that He has redeemed us and called us by name. Just as everything looked grim and bleak for the Israelites, God gives to them hope. The hope that He promised to them was Jesus Christ. It was the saving work of Jesus that forgave them all of their sins. It was Jesus who redeemed them. Today, we give thanks that Jesus has forgiven Ray all of his sins. We give thanks that Jesus has redeemed Ray, “a lost and condemned person, purchased and won [him] from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil…. All this He does only out of father, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in [Ray].”
What great comfort in knowing that because of God’s divine goodness and mercy our sins are forgiven. It is reassuring to us to know that God forgives out of love for us and not something that we have done. I am sure that it can be said that Ray was a good man. He was a loving husband, a loving father. He was a great employee, a great friend. All the way around, it can be said that Ray was a great man. But even for how great a man Ray was, one fact remains: Ray was a sinner, just as you and I are. Ray was damned and condemned for his sins, yet he received the gift of everlasting life; not because of what he did but because of what Jesus Christ did for him. All of us are damned and condemned sinners, yet for those that God calls His beloved children, we stand before Him as holy and sinless because the blood of Jesus Christ has cleansed us from our sins. When God looks upon His servant Ray, He doesn’t see a man damned and condemned but instead sees the holiness and righteousness that He has received from Jesus Christ and His life, death, and resurrection.
Isaiah records for us, “I have called you by name, you are mine.” Ray received the crown of life from Jesus Christ because God made it so. He stands in the company of the saints who have gone before him in the faith. He is reunited with his bride Ella, sharing together what would have been their 68th anniversary.
The Lord has called Ray and He has called you by name. He has put His name on Ray and you. He has redeemed Ray and you. This was not without cost: He has paid a ransom for you. But the ransom was “not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.”
This was the comfort that Ray had all the days of his life. He was comforted in knowing that because of his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, one day he would stand before his God in all holiness and righteousness. He cherished this fact, a fact that he heard each and every Sunday. Seated each week in nearly the same pew, he would hear the same thing: he was a sinner, but he was forgiven. He would hear the love of God for him. He would hear of the forgiveness granted to him by God through Jesus Christ. Why was it so important for Ray to hear this week in and week out? Why is it so important for you to hear it week in and week out, day in and day out? We need to be reminded of the love that God has for us in Christ Jesus, for Paul tells the Romans, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Ray knew who he was and he knew what had been done for him. This was not something that he took lightly, because he knew the cost of his redemption was not something that came lightly – it came at the cost of God’s one and only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.
The psalmist David says, “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” Ray should have received everlasting hell and condemnation on account of his sins. Instead, he received the opposite of that; he received everlasting life. God has chosen not to remember his sins or the sins of any of His beloved children because of what Jesus has done. Our comfort lies in the same comfort that Ray had: the comfort of sins forgiven by Jesus Christ. Through Christ, we are able to believe the words of God through the prophet Isaiah, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” Amen.