Commentary by Walter Albritton


October 10, 2004


We Serve a God Who is Always Doing New Things


Isaiah 43


Key Verse: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. – Isaiah 43:1


A man called me from the jail in the small town where we lived. He pleaded with me to come to see him. When I visited him in the jail, I found that he had been arrested for public drunkenness.

The poor man told me he had no home. His drinking had cost him everything. His wife had left him. He had been in Florida and was hitchhiking his way back to Indiana. He begged me to call his brother and ask him for help.

I called his brother and it turned out to be one of the saddest phone calls of my life. His brother sounded like he had ice water in his veins. “Yes,” he said, “Robert is my brother but I am not going to help him anymore. I tried many times, and I have given up on him. Preacher, you help him if you want to, but you might as well throw your money down a rat hole. My brother is a hopeless case.” That said, he hung up the phone.

I paid Robert’s fine and got him released from jail. I bought him a bus ticket, gave him some money for food, and sent him on his way. I did not have the heart to tell him what his brother said. He had enough trouble without that. I prayed with him and encouraged him to believe that God loved him and wanted to help him restore his life.

When one of my own sons called me from the jail, it never occurred to me to give up on him or consider him hopeless. No matter what he had done, he was my son and worthy of my love. I cannot imagine any situation that would prompt me to give up on my children. I cannot prevent my children from suffering the consequences of their sins, but their wrong doing would never cause me to consider them hopeless. They are my children and I am their father. We are family. We will always be family. And a family should always care for one another!  Always, no matter what!

Isaiah served God during the Babylonian exile, when the Israelites were forced to live as captives in a strange land. The Hebrews were suffering because they had failed to keep the covenant with God. The Temple and the holy city of Jerusalem had been destroyed. The people were disillusioned and their future seemed hopeless.

Yet God did not give up on them! The Israelites were his family. He had created them. He had formed them into a people of his own. God says this beautiful thing to them through the prophet, “I have called you by name, you are mine.”

God’s message to the people was not one of condemnation and rejection. He did not consider them hopeless! They had sinned, but God did not disown them from his family. Instead, he reminds them not to be afraid, “for I have redeemed you.” Imagine the power of these encouraging words given to the captives in Babylon:

“When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you” (Isaiah 43:2).

Had the Israelites sinned beyond being useful to God? No, they were still his people, and they had a role to play in God’s plan for the future. Consider how cheering it must have been to these captive people to hear God say to them, “You are my witnesses, says the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen.” 

No doubt the Israelites were about ready to give up on God, and themselves. When they began to reminisce about God’s mighty works for them in the past, God said, “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old.” Why? Because, God says, “I am about to do a new thing”!

We serve a great God who is always doing new things for, in, and through his people. He will not allow us to stay focused on the past. He asks us to follow him as he opens new doors, creates new opportunities for ministry, and builds new highways into the future. Our God, Isaiah declares, is able to create “rivers in the desert”!

My friends in the Richards Memorial United Methodist Church in Pensacola watched in horror as hurricane Ivan severely damaged their beautiful church. Perhaps for a few hours the situation looked hopeless. However, they must have heard God say to them, “Pick up the pieces and trust Me for I am about to do a new thing in your midst. The past is past, but I am the God of a new future. Do not fear, for you are mine, and you are still my witnesses”! How my heart sang when I heard that the people had begun restoring their church!

Since God does not give up on us, we should not give up on ourselves, or on others. God is still able to redeem those whom the world considers hopeless! Let us resolve to accept God’s forgiveness, offer forgiveness to one another, and go into the future unafraid, trusting the God who is always doing new things!

          + + + + (Contact Walter at