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A tough place

But now, God’s Message, the God who made you in the first place, Jacob, the One who got you started, Israel: “Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end—because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior. I paid a huge price for you: all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in! That’s how much you mean to me! That’s how much I love you! I’d sell off the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you. (Isaiah 43:1-4)

Israel finds themselves in the midst of a tough place - kind of like when we find ourselves somewhere we got ourselves into and don't have a clue how to get out of on our own! As faithful as God is, he speaks into their "tough place". "But now...." Remember, I have a fascination with words - so even the tiniest of words catches my attention! The "but now" suggests there was something before these words - because we don't use the word "but" unless there is something we are comparing. God had issued a warning to Israel. The words prior to this passage speak of Israel (and it could even be spoken to us) needing to pay attention because they seem to have turned a deaf ear to the teachings and warnings of God. The circumstance they find themselves in - "shut up in a closet" and "dead broke". Pretty gloomy, huh? This is the "tough place" they find themselves in when God begins to "change the tide" a little in his communication with the simple, "But now..."

This word comes from one with an intimate knowledge of the hearers. When there is an established relationship - the hearer may not want to hear what is spoken, but there is an "avenue" for sharing. God's connection with his creation is the basis of his communicating with them. He is both the one who created and the one who gives us our start. Think of a potter. He has the clump of clay, molding it into a bowl, then firing it for the final process of "creation". He "commissions" the creation for the specific purpose he has for it. He creates it and gives it a start. The same is true with us - God creates us - he also gives us our start (setting us in the right direction). When we find ourselves "in a tough place", he has every right to return the "creation" to the "commission" for which he created it! He knows the darkest secrets of our hearts. For most of us, fear is a seldom exposed thing - we keep it just under the surface, masking it with some other "show" of emotion. When some are asked to get up in front of a crowd to share something, some will giggle a little with a tremulous show of nervousness, others will just sweat up a storm. Both are emotional responses to the buried fears of "public" speaking. The most amazing thing to me is how well God knows what we bury deeply. Even more awe-inspiring is the fact he is not content to leave it buried! So, when God speaks to Israel (and to us) - his "fear not" is really him unearthing the deeply seated fears only masked by our pretense. Upon what does God base his "fear not"? He bases it solidly on the position of his being our creator! He made us - therefore, he knows us well, designs each step we take, and will bring us through all we face.

God already knows the mess we will get in. He doesn't say "if" you get in over your head or "if" you find yourself in some rough waters. He says "when". God knows we will get in over our heads on occasion and even be into things which really don't benefit us at all. When we do, he is there. The good news - the corner we paint ourselves into is never (NEVER) a dead end! That should be encouraging to some who think there is no way out of whatever mess they find themselves in today! Why is it we can be assured we are not at a dead end? Simply put - because he is the Great "I AM"! He is OUR God - not someone else's, but our personal Savior. Who needs a savior? One who needs saving, right? In a corner? The only way out is by someone reaching in and pulling us out! We need a savior! He stands in our lives as the "I AM" - all we need, all we could ever need! Nothing else matters to him. God is the "owner" of the entire universe. Nothing in that universe matters as much to him as you. This may be a hard truth to swallow, but it is the truth nonetheless. He'd sacrifice it all just to have us. I call this extravagant love - you might call it unbelievable love - either way, it is still love! Grace is based on love - love connects grace with the "tough place dwellers", delivering them from the midst of their mess! I don't know what words of encouragement or admonishment may come your way today, but let these words become the loudest to your heart - God is the God of your mess! He is the God in your tough place! He is the one who is not content to let anyone muddle in their fears! He is the one who gives extravagantly when our need is the greatest! Just sayin!

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