Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. -Isaiah 43:1-3 (NIV)
When I was a student at Ole Miss, we sang a song featuring this scripture at the Wesley Foundation Campus Ministry (a United Methodist ministry on the campus). I remember the minister emphasizing that the Israelites were in exile in large part because of their sinfulness and spiritual waywardness. But this period of punishment was coming to an end. God had redeemed Israel, calling the people by name. Their actions had consequences, to be sure, but God's redemption meant that God was about to do a new thing, remembering their sins no more.
When I think about my own sin, I realize that my sin separates me from God (just like the sin of the Israelites separated them from God) and it deeply troubles me. I am far from what God desires me to be. I have eyes to see but am so often blind to what God would have me see; I have ears to hear but am so often deaf to what God would have me hear (Is 43:8).
I don't want to be exiled from God. I don't want to be separated from the Lord. That's why these verses from today's suggested scripture readings mean so much to me. It's an assurance that God's desire to save is greater than any other desire of God. When I repent of my sin, I know that God remembers my sin no more. God calls me by name, assures me that I am His child, and wants to do a new thing in my life.
May God grant you the grace, if you feel as if you're in exile today, to hear the voice of God calling you by name, offering redemption and hope in the midst of the storms, waves, and flames of life.
If you're interested in reading through the Bible in a year, tomorrow's suggestions are Isaiah 46-49 and 1 Peter 5.