God delights in calling into existence things that are not, and restoring hope to the hopeless. There was a man who was a well-known minister, charismatic and charming, who lived long ago in a land far away. Call him José. José was in demand for all the conferences, lecture series, and church retreats. He was an excellent speaker and well-liked.
But José had a secret drug problem.
To feed his drug addiction, he traded his ministry and his family. One day, in a drug transaction on the street, he was picked up with drug dealers and put in jail. When visitors came to see him, he begged them to lie for him, so he could escape the embarrassment and punishment in front of him. In jail, he admitted that the addiction of his pre-Christian life had come back with a vengeance. He had been living a double life as a minister and an idolater, with drugs his idol of choice, for many years. And now he languished in jail, with no hope and no prospects for the future.
Israel was God’s chosen, whom he had redeemed from Egypt, brought to Sinai to be his covenant people, and led through the wilderness. But from the beginning they had led a double life: they were God’s own people, yet at the same time from the beginning they sought other gods for themselves, gods who could ensure their prosperity and safety.
Idolatry led directly to loss of land and captivity. So Judah languished in captivity. They had been judged and condemned. Using another strong metaphor, they likened their state to that of divorce: God, with whom they had an intimate covenant relationship, had divorced them and sent them away. Few held out any hope of redemption. God had abandoned them, divorced them, destroyed them. If they were to have a future at all, there would have to be a new act of redemption, a new exodus from a new Egypt. Or, because they were dead in their sins and their captivity, only a new act of creation, a new Genesis, would suffice.
God delights in calling into existence things that are not, and restoring hope to the hopeless.. In vivid metaphors, borrowing from Israel’s history of redemption from Egypt and the creation stories of Genesis, God does exactly that. God is their creator, calling into being something out of nothing, as he did in the beginning. He is their fashioner, like a sculptor fashioning a work of art out of a lump of clay, just as he did with Adam. Because Israel had none to redeem them from their new bondage in the new Egypt, Babylon, God took on the role of kinsman redeemer, to recover his family. He was going to lead them out in a startling new exodus, re-creating the events of Israel’s past, to create a new people for his praise and glory.
Let us turn our attention back to José. Somehow, in jail José’s heart was turned to God. When he was released, he was reconciled to his family, then went and confessed sin to the churches he had wronged. He returned to ministry and then went back to school, eventually earning a doctor’s degree in psychology, so he could counsel those who suffered from addictions as he had.
God still delights in calling into existence things that are not, and restoring hope to the hopeless.
In our ministries we also may stumble. We may discover that the idols of our past come back to haunt us, or that new idols end us in a captivity of our own making. Even in these dark periods of our souls, the one who called light out of darkness and fashioned a human from the dust of the earth, who led his own people through the sea and the desert, can still create something out of nothing in our own lives, for the praise of his glory.
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The Scripture: Isaiah 43:1-7
But 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.
2 When 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.
3 For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
4 Because you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you,
I give men in return for you,
peoples in exchange for your life.
5 Fear not, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you.
6 I will say to the north, Give up,
and to the south, Do not withhold;
bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the end of the earth,
7 everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.”
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Austin Graduate School of Theology is an Austin seminary offering accredited B.A. and M.A. ministry degrees. Austin Grad -- one of the top Christian colleges in Texas and among the top seminaries in Texas -- is affiliated with the Church of Christ and is in conversation with all who confess Jesus as Lord. Austin Grad promotes faith seeking understanding and is committed to providing a high quality education for those who desire to be equipped to expand the Kingdom of God.