You Can’t Do Anything, But You Have To Do Something

There is much to share with you from the Old Testament book, Isaiah, and reading through it I can see why some scholars devote their entire life to it. There is one chapter that struck me like a lightning bolt and that is what I wish to share with you. Before I do, I would also like to commend a great resource for helping in your study of the book of  Isaiah. The book is The Prophecy of Isaiah, and it is written by J. Alec Motyer (he is one of those scholars mentioned above). If you are seriously interested in the book of Isaiah, then Motyer’s commentary is a must. Enough of my sales pitch.

I would like to look at Chapter 43, which will be in full below (it looks long, but it is in short poetic verse), and before you read it I would ask that you pay attention to the actions of God as He speaks to His people through the prophet. It is clear that Israel has disobeyed God and estranged themselves from His glory, but instead of God making a list of obligations for them to perform, He wonderfully, gracefully, mercifully, insists that they can do nothing to come back to Him, because He is going to bring them back, for His glory, for the sake of His name. I have marked the text by underlining specific phrases. Remember, only God saves.

[43:1] But now thus says the LORD,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
[2] 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.
[3] For I am the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
[4] Because you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you,
I give men in return for you,
peoples in exchange for your life.
[5] Fear not, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you.
[6] I will say to the north, Give up,
and to the south, Do not withhold;
bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the end of the earth,
[7] everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.”
[8] Bring out the people who are blind, yet have eyes,
who are deaf, yet have ears!
[9] All the nations gather together,
and the peoples assemble.
Who among them can declare this,
and show us the former things?
Let them bring their witnesses to prove them right,
and let them hear and say, It is true.
[10] “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD,
“and my servant whom I have chosen,
that you may know and believe me
and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
nor shall there be any after me.
[11] I, I am the LORD,
and besides me there is no savior.
[12] I declared and saved and proclaimed,
when there was no strange god among you;
and you are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and I am God.
[13] Also henceforth I am he;
there is none who can deliver from my hand;
I work, and who can turn it back?”
[14] Thus says the LORD,
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“For your sake I send to Babylon
and bring them all down as fugitives,
even the Chaldeans, in the ships in which they rejoice.
[15] I am the LORD, your Holy One,
the Creator of Israel, your King.”
[16] Thus says the LORD,
who makes a way in the sea,
a path in the mighty waters,
[17] who brings forth chariot and horse,
army and warrior;
they lie down, they cannot rise,
they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:
[18] “Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
[19] Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
[20] The wild beasts will honor me,
the jackals and the ostriches,
for I give water in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
[21] the people whom I formed for myself
that they might declare my praise.
[22] “Yet you did not call upon me, O Jacob;
but you have been weary of me, O Israel!
[23] You have not brought me your sheep for burnt offerings,
or honored me with your sacrifices.
I have not burdened you with offerings,
or wearied you with frankincense.
[24] You have not bought me sweet cane with money,
or satisfied me with the fat of your sacrifices.
But you have burdened me with your sins;
you have wearied me with your iniquities.
[25] “I, I am he
who blots out your transgressions for my own sake,
and I will not remember your sins.
[26] Put me in remembrance; let us argue together;
set forth your case, that you may be proved right.
[27] Your first father sinned,
and your mediators transgressed against me.
[28] Therefore I will profane the princes of the sanctuary,
and deliver Jacob to utter destruction
and Israel to reviling.
(Isaiah 43 ESV)

There is a lot going on in this chapter, but remember there are 42 chapters leading up to it!  Instead of going into this chapter verse by verse, I would ask that you read it again and emphasize in your mind all the underlined parts. Notice, it is God who saves. Motyer writes, “Within the Lord’s covenant with his people there is wrath as well as grace, the curses of the covenant as well as the blessings, but above all there is the faithful Lord who will never go back on what he promised (Leviticus 26)” (330). The people can do nothing, in fact all they do is sin (verse 24) and they can do nothing but sin. But God is good, and He saves, not because of anything the people have done, not because this person is better than that person, but He saves for the glory of His name (verses 7 and 21). This is a hard thing to accept: God chooses to save some people and chooses not to save others, for His glory.

I titled this post “You Can’t Do Anything,  But You Have To Do Something,” I hope you can see that salvation is not a work of man, but of God. There is not a single thing you can do to earn it, because it is a gift, therefore, you can’t do anything. So, why do I also say, “But you have to do something”? I say this because the gift is available. God has done the work, He has redemption in His hand and is willing to offer it. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the sins of those who believe in him have been blotted out to be forgotten (verse 25).

Listen to these words of Paul as he argued with intellectual elite of ancient world in Athens.

[30] The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, [31] because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
(Acts 17:30-31 ESV)

Friends, family, random blog readers, the time of ignorance is over. God’s wrath has been satisfied if, and only if, you come under the shadow of the cross. The “man” Paul is speaking of is Jesus, and Jesus’s death and resurrection have ushered in a new age, an age where all people must either repent, believe in his work, and live like it, or suffer everlasting separation from God and loved ones.

Harsh, right? Maybe…but I don’t think so. You know what would be harsh? If no one ever took the time to tell you that without Christ in your life the only thing you have to look forward to is hell. That is harsh. You know what is loving, when someone tells you that there is salvation and it is free for you, because it was infinitely costly for Him.

You can’t do anything, but I beg you to do something.



  1. Amen sonshine!!!

  2. […] relation to my last post, You Can’t Do Anything, But You Have To Do Something, I thought I should follow up on those thoughts with a bit more follow through. It is sometimes the […]

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