“This people have I formed for myself; they shall skew forth my praise.”
Not easy is it to find another text in Scripture as this one where every word is laden with such rich content!
You can lay emphasis on each word, and it speaks forth a world of divine wonders which lead us to the unfathomable thoughts of God!
This people! That is, this people in distinction from all others. This people alone and no one else.
Have I formed! God alone is the Creator of that people. He did not happen to find them, as they were scattered among many other peoples, and thus claimed them for Himself. No, He created them that before were no people. He did it alone, and there was no one with Him when He did it. And since they were formed, their formation is a completed act. It need not yet be accomplished.
Formed for Myself! Not for themselves did He form them! Apart from Him they have no significance orpurpose. But He formed them for His own purpose and glory.
They shall shew forth My praise! This people was formed only for that purpose, namely, to narrate, to recount Jehovah’s praises. They alone shall do it. They SHALL do it. There is nothing that shall hinder them, or cause them to fail.
Seen in this light, the text reveals to us the whole scheme and counsel of God concerning redemption. Here is a people chosen of God in His counsel of election. Here is a people that is formed according to that counsel, and by the Word and Spirit of God’s Son Who is their appointed Redeemer and Saviour. And unto all eternity they shall utter the praise and adoration of God. As the mouthpiece of the whole creation, this people shall utter His praise and glorify Him as the only true God.
A particular people!
Characterized, first of all, by their unity!
O, indeed, in all God’s work there is unity, because God Himself is One! Creation is not a vast multitude of distinct creatures without connection, but it is a complete unity. Not, as we shall see more perfectly in a moment, a monotonous unity of sameness, and likeness. But a unity that reveals itself in rich distinctions, speaking to us of the manifold wisdom of God.
No different is it in recreation! The Lord forms one people, characterized by unity. One they are in their origin. One they are in their Head. One life pulsates through their spiritual veins; they are one in love, faith, and hope. They are one in walk, confession, and purpose. They all seek the same city, the one which has foundations.
As the body, which is composed of many members, yet all united in the head, and from which you cannot subtract or to which you cannot add any members without marring the whole. Or, as a building, which is well-designed, where there are doors and windows, rooms, closets, and compartments, all so wisely constructed that each part is different from the others, yet all fitted together and reflecting the wisdom of the designer.
Such also is the language of Scripture when it describes the unity of the people that is formed for God’s praise. “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” I Cor. 12:27. “The church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all:” Eph. 1:22, 23. “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; that in all things he might have the pre-eminence.” Col. 1:18. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” I Cor. 3:16. “Ye also, as living stones are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” I Pet. 2:5.
Indeed, a beautiful unity!
Yet, not a stark uniformity, but pluriformity!
Not pluriformity in the sense that the final gathering of this people will be from all denominations of religious beliefs, as some would have. Accordingly, it is not important what you believe, so long as you do believe. Though it cannot be denied that God may have His people in many ecclesiastical denominations, yet the above understanding of pluriformity comes close to the possible formation of the antichristian rather than the Christian church and people of God. Such a conception does not conform to the teachings of the Word of God.
The pluriformity of this people is their unity displayed in rich distinction! As in a body, the whole is not a hand or a foot or an eye, but each distinct part with its own function contributes to the life and wellbeing of the whole body. So it is with respect to this one people. They are richly distinguished. They are not all of one nation and tongue, but of all nations, tribes, and tongues. Likewise, they are not all of one color and language, but of all colors and languages. As in a great chorus, there are altos, sopranos, tenors, and basses, yet all sing the same song, and constitute an harmonious unity revealed in great variation, so is the people which is formed by God for His praise.
To be sure, we do not always see this unity in rich distinction perfectly revealed in this world. There is much that appears to disrupt this unity; such as, lack of understanding of doctrine, language barriers, sin, etc. Yet, in spite of what we see, there is such a people that is spiritually one, created by one God, united to one Christ, with one life principle—the Holy Spirit of Christ, and designated in the expression of our faith as the church, which is both holy and catholic. And when the realization of this people shall have been completed, their unity in rich distinction will be revealed in all its heavenly perfection in glory.
A divine formation!
A formation which lies in the wonder of grace!
Eternally God forms this people in His counsel. He ordained them and formed them in His omniscient mind, and sovereign will which is unchangeable: In that counsel He has chosen them in Christ and gave them to Christ. In that counsel He engraved them in the palms of His hands. In that counsel He determined the way and the means to form them in time.
Historically, what He formed in His mind and will in His counsel eternally becomes objective reality. Not as though this people was not such a reality in His counsel, for that they were. That people was eternally before His face, and engraven in His hands. But what was eternally real in the counsel became also real in time. From the day of the fall unto the day of Christ, the last day, this people is in the process of formation.
Typically as it were out of the deadness of Sarah’s womb there sprang forth a people as many as the sands of the seashore, and as the stars of the heavens for multitude. In this process Jacob becomes Israel, Lo-Ammi becomes Ammi, that is, what was not His people is now become the people of the living God.
Spiritually He forms them through His incarnated Son, Who delivers them from sin and death by His own death, and justifies them through His perfect sacrifice, which justification is attested to in His glorious resurrection and ascension at God’s right hand. And by the Spirit of Pentecost, through the Word of the Gospel, this people. is recreated and formed, yea, transformed into the image and likeness of God.
A divine work from beginning to end!
The Former of Israel—is Jehovah alone!
Never is this formation a work of man, or of man in cooperation with God! How God-dishonoring is that conception and that presentation which would insist that the formation and salvation is dependent on the will and the cooperation of man!
Listen to the Lord Himself declare through the prophet throughout the entire preceding context how He alone works in the formation and redemption of His people: “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.” (Is. 43:1). “Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honorable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life.” (Is. 43:4). “Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; I will say to the north, Give up; and the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from afar, and my daughters from the ends of the earth. Even everyone that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.” (Is. 43:5-7). “Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no Saviour.” (Is. 43:10, 11). “I am the Lord, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King.” (Is. 43:15).
Jehovah says so, and that is enough for faith!
He alone is the Former of His people!
For the display of His grace!
In that display of His grace He justifies the ungodly, and call the things that are not as though they were. From darkness unto light, from death unto life, He calls them. Sinners, dead in trespasses and sins, He forms into children of light. They, who were enemies of God, He humbles into the dust and makes His covenant servants. Children who were of their father, the devil, He forms into saints of the Most High. O, indeed, each elect child in particular He forms, but always so that each has his own specific place in the midst of that people. And all display, each according to his own capacity, the glorious grace of our God.
And they shall show forth My praise!
God’s glory is the radiation of His virtues. In all His work God displays His virtues. And the people of God, whom He has formed for Himself, recount, narrate, number, speak out these virtues. This is His praise!
They shall praise!
Not simply tell the story of their conversion, not merely rejoice because they are saved; but the praises of their God they shall speak.
And not simply in that better land, where there is no night, and where every tear shall be wiped away from their eyes. O, yes, they shall praise Him then, too, in heavenly perfection forever.
But also right now, as they still abide in the valley of these tears, and while they are in the midst of the battle of faith: yea, in every department of life, according to the time and place, and according to the capacity which He creates in them—they shall extol His virtues. Beholding His wisdom manifested in all His work, but especially in their formation, they declare it. Tasting His love and mercy and grace, they count and recount their blessings. Understanding and embracing His Word, they rejoice in it. Laying hold on His unchangeable promises, they cease not to extol His Name. When the devil, the world, and their own sinful flesh tempt them to deny, they confess: Thou, Jehovah, Who art our King, our Lord and Saviour, Thy Name we will praise.
Unique, and praise-worthy God!