"I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not
back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth;
Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my
glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him"
God addressed these words through his Prophet Isaiah to Jacob, to the head
and personification of his Chosen People Israel. Jacob, you will recall, was
given the name "Israel" by God, and he was the father of the twelve sons who
became the patriarchs of the Twelve Tribes of Israel.
These words of God are specifically a promise, first and foremost, in the
historical time of Isaiah, when the Chosen People were about to be taken into
captivity by their enemies. God will bring his scattered children home from the
lands of their captivity in the "north" and in the "south," and he will return
them to the Promised Land, where he will restore their life as a nation under
It may seem to us that God is doing things "the hard way," recalling his
Chosen People after they are taken prisoner and captive, since he certainly has
the power to stop their enemies from doing any such thing. And we would be
right, in a way, although the "hardness" of Godís method is determined, at least
in part, by the Chosen People themselves.
By abandoning the True God and his Covenant in order to consort with false
gods, the people, in simple justice, certainly have no right to expect anything
good from God. Nevertheless, while God refuses to condone or permit their
faithlessness, he is faithful and good and merciful; and he begins their
reclamation by reminding them who he is and who they are because of him: "But
now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O
Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou
art mine" (Isaiah 43:1).
God created the Israelites, first by forming them from the dust of the earth
in Adam and second by calling their ancestors and making them his own people,
with a covenant that promised their final redemption from a fallen humanity for
eternal life with himself. Those whom God has called and named are his private
possession, and he will not lose any of them, "Even every one that is called by
my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have
So, what do we learn from this? Not much, if we consider this passage from
Isaiah nothing more than an interesting anecdote from the sixth and seventh
centuries BC. But if we stop to notice that Jacob, the man whom God addresses as
the head of his people, was long dead in the historical time of Isaiah, then we
must also notice that God is delivering a more profound message than the return
of a particular people to a particular land. We must see that God is delivering
a supernatural message about his grace and favor towards all those whom he has
chosen for eternal life, by the means of this concrete example of his workings
As our Lord Jesus Christ told us himself in speaking of the surety of the
resurrection of the dead, when God declares himself to be the God of Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob, he is declaring himself to be the God of the living and not of
the dead (see Matt. 22:31-32). As Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob live with God,
through grace by faith, although they have died the death of this world, so also
will all those other human beings that God has chosen for himself.
Those whom God has called to be his own he has created for his glory. His
glory will be revealed in their redemption from sin, death, and every enemy of
God and life, symbolized in Isaiahís prophecy as the enemy countries of the
north and south. Godís glory will be revealed in the salvation of those he
loves, and his glory will be revealed in their resurrection to eternal life with
him, just as the old Israel was once returned to its proper home in the Promised
How is all this possible? It is possible because the Eternal Son of God made
himself a creature, a human being, and in particular a descendant of Jacob.
Jesus Christ the Son of God made himself a creature to reveal the glory of his
Father in the redemption of the faithful from sin and death. He took upon
himself all of the duties of Godís Covenant with Israel, fulfilled them
perfectly, and offered mankind a New and perfected Covenant, a New Testament in
his own Blood shed for the salvation of the world.
The same Jesus Christ, True God and true man, rose again from the dead on the
third day as the firstfruits of all those whom God will raise from the dead to
eternal life. He rose again as the New Adam of a new human race redeemed from
sin, and as the New Israelóthe Head of a new and mystical Body of the redeemed
of every age that fulfills all of the promises that his Father in heaven made to
his human ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who now live forever in him and
Jesus Christ is the living fulfillment of every prophecy in the Old
Testament, the One to whom every word and every incident in the Old Testament
points. To have faith in Jesus Christ means believing that he is this
fulfillment of all the promises of God, for such is Christís own testimony about
himself. We can read that testimony in this morningís New Testament Lesson, in
St. Lukeís account of the evening of the day on which our Lord rose from the
Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the
scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ
to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and
remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at
Jerusalem. (Luke 24:45-47)
The Old Testament (the Scriptures that Christ opened) is the revelation of
the Fatherís will for life, his statement of his purposes in creating those who
are redeemed for his glory. The New Testament is the record of how Jesus Christ
fulfilled that will, along with the record of the Apostlesí preaching of
repentance and remission of sins at Christís commandment, beginning at Jerusalem
among the people to whom God had first made his promise of life.
And so, here we come to the mystery of the Fatherís will, the details of
which we must never take for granted. Why was Jesus Christ born, crucified, and
resurrected in that particular place and at that particular time? We can wallow
in a million historical details about the Roman Empire and the Jewish culture of
the period, but the answer comes down to thisóit was the time and place that the
Father had chosen to fulfill his purposes and to reveal his glory.
The same answer applies to the captivity of the ancient Israel, and to the
life and struggles of every one of us. We live now, and we struggle now, because
this is the time that God has chosen for us to reveal his will and glory. We
live and we struggle when and where we do because this is the way that the
Father forms us to his glory.
We might ask ourselves, why wasnít Jesus Christ a millionaire? He was
certainly smart enough and able enough to become one, if that had been his
calling from his Father. Likewise, why wasnít Jesus Christ born the Roman
Emperor? He was more fit to rule than any Caesar, and yet the Father gave him a
different life. The answer is simply that the Fatherís will was otherwise, using
even the worst things that a fallen world and a fallen humanity could do to his
Son, to glorify himself and to give us life and mercy and hope.
We must redirect our thinking about ourselves and about our lives. We donít
need to wonder about what we want to be, and the crosses God gives us to bear
are not for our destruction but for our being made glorious in him. We were
created for Godís glory. Our goal should be to live for that glory, and then, as
our Lord Jesus Christ demonstrated in his life on earth, we will find ourselves
good enough and strong enough to live lives that please and glorify our Creator
and Father. No one ever achieved more in his life than Jesus Christ, and by
following him to his Fatherís glory we will be the best, the most, the finest,
and the most glorious people that we are capable of being.
We will be what God created us to be and has formed us to be during every
moment of our lives. Our lives will become continuous acts of praise, and we
will share in the glory of our risen Lord, to the endless glory of his Father.
Please note: These sermons are offered for your meditation. If
you wish to use them for some other purpose or republish them, please credit St.
Andrewís Church and Dr. Tarsitano.