‘Others were given in exchange for you’

Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I gave Egypt as a ransom for your freedom; I gave Ethiopia and Seba in your place. Others were given in exchange for you. I traded their lives for yours because you are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you. Do not be afraid, for I am with you. (Isaiah 43:1b-5a NLT)

When rivers of difficulty sweep us off our feet, we must not let fear flood over us. We are precious to the Lord Almighty, and he will not allow us to drown.

In fact, he tells Israel he paid an awful price to make them his precious possession, that other peoples actually were given up in exchange for the redemption of Abraham’s children. I’m sure I don’t understand all that means, but I can understand that some of the people who came to the Lord through my father’s ministry were redeemed, in part, because of the family sacrifices we made. With all my heart, I want to say to you, “Please don’t take those sacrifices for granted. A great price was paid for you.”

Of course, the sacrifices I made, as a pastor’s son, pale in comparison to the sacrifice my heavenly Father made for me. Whatever deep water we are struggling through today, we should draw courage from the Father’s presence with us. You are precious to him. He paid an awful price to make you his own. He will not allow you to be swept away in the flood or consumed by the fire. Keep trusting him, and press through to the other side.

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Prosperous in the deepest poverty

“Fear the Lord, you his godly people, for those who fear him will have all they need. Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry, but those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing. Come, my children, and listen to me, and I will teach you to fear the Lord. Does anyone want to live a life that is long and prosperous? Then keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies! Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it.” (Psalm 34:9-14 NLT)

We will never experience the blessings of God as long as we identify them with material prosperity. That’s more than just the heresy of the “Prosperity Gospel.” It’s also the far-worse tragedy of middle-class Christendom in the United States. We confuse our material prosperity with God’s blessing, and it never occurs to us that we enjoy prosperity without actually fearing the Almighty. Our idolatry of material wealth causes us to miss the mark of soul prosperity. Yet we can be prosperous in the deepest material poverty. Even in the most dire circumstances, the person who gives the Lord due reverence will lack no good thing. Our material ruin will be our spiritual devastation — or it will be where we learn the true meaning of fearing God and living a life that is prosperous.

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