“Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you, I give people in return for you, nations in exchange for your life.” -Isaiah 43:4
When I was in seminary, there was a retreat day during my birthday weekend. My (now former) husband was going to be gone on a camping trip with the Boy Scouts, so I decided to treat myself and signed up. A fellow classmate gave me a ride to the church where it was being held, and this verse was part of a larger passage we were given to contemplate when we arrived. Termed “A Love Letter from God”, the passage comprised the first seven verses of Isaiah 43, and I ended up swinging for a while on the church’s swing set along with one of my classmates as we thought about and prayed through the passage. (Yes, I was almost 22 and playing on the swings. It was a nice stress release as I was a newlywed at the time and in that adjustment period in which one learns to live with one’s spouse 24/7.)
This part of Isaiah takes place after the Babylonian Captivity when Cyrus had conquered the Babylonians and God was using him to return the captives after the Exile. This particular section tells Israel not to fear and that God is returning them home, giving other nations as a ransom to secure their release. Promises of being with them through various trials are given, and the larger message is that of restoration because God loves us so much. As much as it is a bit troubling to me that other nations and people groups should be captured and taken to secure my freedom, it is comforting to hear that I am precious in God’s sight and loved.
Thank you, Lord, for the promises of restoration and your presence with us in times of trial. Amen.