“Fear not, 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 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.” (Isaiah 43:1b-2, ESV)
Throughout her history the people of Israel were a poor witness for the glory of the Lord. They were rebellious, disobedient and idolatrous. Nevertheless, the Lord used the nation and worked through her to proclaim and demonstrate His sovereignty, love and greatness. He performed mighty acts of deliverance for His chosen such as those Isaiah describes in terms that remind us of the exodus from Egypt. The descriptions of walking through the fire and wading through the deep waters refer also to the future obstacles the Jews would face when they were sent off to exile in Babylon and when they returned. The Lord promised to always care for those He has chosen and redeemed. The waters also remind us of the waters of baptism. We who, by faith are baptized, are redeemed from sin and its consequences by water and the Word of God which promises us that we are sins are washed away.
And yet, like the people of ancient Israel, we believers are far from perfect. We are often rebellious, self-centered, unjust and idolatrous but the Lord loves us and still chooses to call us His redeemed. As Isaiah says the Lord has redeemed us for His own sake, for His own glory. We benefit from His promises, protection, forgiveness, and strength. The grace that He grants us magnifies His glory for it shows how loving and kind He is. He forgives us our sins and forgets them. None of the “gods” of the world are this kind or loving. Neither are human beings who seldom forget any sin, act with vengeance and hatred, and are loathe to forgive anyone except those they admire or idolize. They hold fast to the wrongs others do, requiring those who wrong them to work to atone or apologize, though often even such atonement is unacceptable. The Lord knows that it is impossible for us to atone for our sins and forgives all those who turn to Him for mercy. No other religion can make such a claim. So if the Lord God in Christ forgives us so, we must forgive, by His strength, all those who have wronged us.