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In January, a visitor to the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art fell onto a Pablo Picasso painting valued at over $100 million. When the woman fell, she dented and tore the canvas. What do you think happened at the time of the accident? Did museum curators simply chucked the painting. “Oh, that’s a pity. Well, we’ve got a few other Picasso’s in the back.” No, immediately museum curators whisked the painting away to be repaired, and they began forming a plan of restoration. Museum representatives later called this particular process of restoring the Picasso “painstaking.”
Last week, we looked at the Ideal Servant of Is. 42 – and how God is at work to deliver (save) His people through the Ideal Servant. But we also discovered that in our deliverance, God is at work through His Servant to restore us – to restore his creative design for all life and restore us as His servants.
But it begs the question, why does God go through all this trouble to restore his creation? Consider the process of restoring a painting. It can be difficult, tedious. Colors, shading, textures must all be matched perfectly. And consider if you were the original artist. Imagine the frustration you must feel knowing: (a) the original artwork over which you labored has been damaged and (b) knowing you created it perfectly the first time around. Wouldn’t it be much easier to just forget about the damaged painting, scrap it, and paint a completely new picture of a new subject?
Consider the trouble we are as God’s servants. God painted us perfectly the first go-round. We were created in his very image (Gen. 1:26), as his masterpiece (as it says in Eph. 2:10), but we fall into sin and do irreparable damage to ourselves. And because we are the creation (not the Creator), we are unable to repair the damage ourselves. Only the Artist who stands separate/outside of his art has the ability to conduct a repair.
So, Isaiah tells us in this Song of Redemption in Is. 43, that God has a plan of restoration. He doesn’t simply throw the artwork in the garbage and begin creating a new painting of a new subject. So, why didn’t the Artist just chuck us? Isaiah gives us the reason in Is. 43 – and once again, it is grounded in God’s nature – who he is.
Today, we will discover that reason behind God’s plan of restoration is His gracious love. God (the Artist) has bound himself to us (his masterpiece) in a relationship.
Read Is. 43:1-7
I. OUR RELATIONSHIP TO GOD (IS. 43:1-2)
a. We belong to him (43:1)
Verse 1 says: “But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel:” Why the “But now?” In the previous section (we didn’t study 42:18-25), God is highlighting the irreparable damage Israel has done to herself. She is supposed to be God’s shining masterpiece to the world (his servants,) but she’s blind. She can’t see the Light for herself much less direct others into God’s marvelous light.
This is the context – Israel is damaged and God (as the Artist and ‘Shaper’ in vs. 1) is the restorer. Despite Israel’s blindness due to sin, God says a restoration process is already under way. Read the rest of vs. 1: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine.” The process of restoration begins with redemption.
When we are redeemed, we are bought back. And this is the implication: Within the very act of redemption, there lies a central hope – no one is a slave to the misfortunes of life or consequences of sin. Because in the Mosaic Law, God made provisions by which a friend or a family member may pay back a debt, may secure deliverance, and may commute a sentence. Oswalt says it like this: “In God’s world fate does not have the last word.” When God says he has “redeemed them” he is saying “I’ve paid your debt for you, I’ve delivered you, I’ve commuted your sentence.”
But the restoration process includes more than just redemption (deliverance). It also involves being “called” by God it says in vs. 1. This is a reference to the Ancient Near Eastern custom of naming – if you ‘named’ someone you possessed authority over them. When God created the world, in Gen. 1, he immediately named everything he created – the day, the sky, the land. Then God delegated this authoritative role to Adam, who was commanded to “name” all of the animals (Gen. 2:19-20). Isaiah tells us in 40:26 that God calls each of the starry host by name.
But this sense of calling also indicates that God was forming the Israelites into a people for himself – he is setting them apart for himself. That’s why God can say “You are Mine.” He is saying, I’ve created you, I’ve redeemed you, I’ve called you, and as such, he is saying “you belong to me.”
The verb tenses of ‘redeemed’ and ‘called’ are in the perfect tense. So, they are written as having happened in the past, but they have continuing effects into the future. They are timeless facts that apply to us today.
In Is. 43 there is a principle from which you and I draw today. And the principle is this: you and I belong to God.
- We belong to him, because He created us.
- We belong to Him, because He redeemed us (saved/delivered us).
- We belong to Him, because He called us (named us).
God says to you, “You are Mine.”
I have this silly thing I tell Jonathan. Instead of saying, “I love you,” I sometimes will say “I’m glad you are mine.” I have no clue why I started saying that, but I like saying it because I feel it conveys something more than just ‘love’ conveys. He belongs to me – he is mine (not in a possessive “hands-off” sense, but in the sense that we are bound together). And I want him to know that I like being bound to him. I genuinely like him. He’s a keeper.
And so, I think that’s one reason why I love this verse so much. God is saying to you, “I’m glad you’re mine.” God is saying: “I’m not bound to you out of duty to uphold my name or duty as the Creator (while those are true statements). But I’m bound to you because ‘I love you.’ And proof of my love is my redemptive activity in our relationship.” We belong to him.
b. We are preserved through him (43:2)
But our relationship to God involves much more than identity – it involves what God’s activity as well. Verse 2 says: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you.”
In verse 2, we see that God preserves us in the midst of trials. This is the implication of “belonging to God” – when trials come our way, we have no reason to fear because He is with us, He says in this verse. But notice the language. God says “When you pass through the waters” and “When you walk through the fire…” The idea is God doesn’t promise us a life free of troubles or worry. He is saying you can count on the fact that trials will come. But just as sure as the coming of those trials, is the fact that I will be with you.
And this is the key to the people’s preservation – the presence of God! The key is not simply that God preserved his people from sure disaster (from drowning or getting crispy) but rather, that God’s people were preserved by His presence.
Our relationship to God is based on God’s gracious love toward us – not the other way around. Thankfully, our relationship to God is based NOT on how much we demonstrate our love to God. Thankfully, our relationship to God is based NOT on our own personal worth before our restoration. Thankfully, our relationship to God is based NOT on our own loveliness. But rather:
- Our relationship to God means that we belong to Him, because He has created us, redeemed us and called us His!
- Our relationship to God means that we are preserved in Him, because He draws us into His presence.
What a relief to know your relationship to God is based on God alone – his activity in your life. What a comfort to know that despite our raging sin and our failure at being his servants, that God’s people can still enjoy the hope of a relationship with God!
II. GOD’S RELATIONSHIP TO US (IS. 43:3-4)
But God goes one step further to express his gracious love toward his people. Verses 3-4 reveal that the reason God redeems us and preserves us is because God has bound himself to us. God doesn’t just save us from a far, but he gives himself to us, his creation. I’m not sure God’s love could get any clearer than these two verses.
a. He belongs to us (43:3)
Verse 3 says: “For I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior…” This verse begins with the causative “because/FOR.” Isaiah is making a point. All of the things that preceded us in the passage (the fact that we belong to God and are preserved through God) occur because of God’s nature – who he is. And because we know God’s nature never changes, we can have confidence that our hope, our faith in Him is secure.
So to describe ‘who’ He is (his nature), God uses four different names to describe himself:
- יהוה (I am the Lord) Yahweh – this is the covenant name of God. God revealed himself to Moses at Mt. Sinai as the “I AM” when he began the process of redeeming/ransoming his people from slavery in Egypt.
- · אלהים (Your God) ‘elohiym – this is the name of God the Creator.
- · קדוש (the Holy One of Israel) qadowsh – this is the name of God the Holy One. We talked about this in Isaiah 40 and how God’s holiness is his personal name. He doesn’t just act holy, he IS holy. And part of that encompasses his transcendent nature in that he is set apart in his holiness.
- ישע (Your Savior) yasha` – And it is in the book of Isaiah that we see this name soar in its prominence.
But consider the implication of verse 3. God doesn’t just redeem and preserve His people because of His nature. But rather, God redeems and preserves his people because it is God’s nature to share himself with his people.
Twice in verse 3, God qualifies his names with the personal pronoun “your.” I am “your God.” I am “your Savior.” So not only do we belong to him, but he belongs to us. The Divine shares himself with you. I want you to marvel in that for a moment:
- The Great ‘I AM’ has given himself to you – you who should really be called the ‘I am not’.
- The Creator has given himself to you – the creation.
- The Holy One has given himself to you – the unholy one.
- The Savior has given himself to you – the one who needs salvation, yet cannot save herself.
Ours is not a one-sided relationship with God. We do not worship a King who sits on a throne as if he is distant, unconcerned, uninvolved in our daily lives, in our destinies. Is. 43 tells us that our relationship to God is governed by reciprocity. That means we don’t just belong to God in the way a piece of artwork would belong to the artist; our relationship is reciprocal. We belong to God and God belongs to us, because He has given himself to us. The Artist has inconceivably given himself to a torn, ripped, irreparably damaged painting. How is that even possible? How can such a mighty, transcendent, holy God give himself to us? Isaiah tells us in the next few verses – God ransoms us.
b. He ransoms us (43:3b-4)
The rest of verse 3 and 4 state: “I gave Egypt for your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in your place. 4 Since you were precious in My sight, You have been honored, And I have loved you; Therefore I will give men for you, And people for your life.”
We know that ultimately God gives himself as the ransom for our sin. The restoration process is costly, and He pays that cost out of himself – with his own body, with his own blood. Scripture tells us that God sent his Servant to give his very own life “as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28).
Consider Heb. 9:15 (NIV): “For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.”
And the result is we’ve been bought back from the slavery of sin that surely leads to death, just as Hosea says in 13:14: “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O Death, I will be your plagues! O Grave, I will be your destruction!”
Our relationship with God means he has given himself to us. And, verse 3 reveals HOW the holy, transcendent Creator can give himself to us – as a ransom. But look at verse 4, because it reveals WHY such an exalted God would do such a thing: “Since you were precious in My sight, You have been honored, And I have loved you; Therefore I will give men for you, And people for your life.” God ransoms you, because he loves you.
Our relationship to God is governed by his love – He has given himself to ransom you, to buy you back from sin. There was no price too high for your redemption.
John Oswalt says that verse 4 subtly hints to bridal language in the words a groom might share with his bride. He says: “Just as a groom finds his bride precious and worthy and lovable when others fail to see those qualities in her at all, God sees these things in us and is willing to pay any price to redeem his bride from her captors.” God is under no allusions. He knows His bride isn’t that spotless. He knows we bear some stains and smudges. He knows our canvas is ripped and torn. Yet, our hope is secure in him, because we belong to Him. He (inexplicably) has given himself to us. Our relationship to God is governed by his great love for us.
III. IMPLICATIONS OF THE DIVINE-HUMAN RELATIONSHIP (IS. 43:5-7)
In verses 5-7, Isaiah presents the reader with some major implications of the divine-human relationship. Isaiah says that God has a purpose in forming a relationship with you. Isaiah says God doesn’t initiate and sustain a relationship with you solely for you to enjoy God’s greatness or indulge in your redemption. The purpose for the divine-human relationship goes much deeper – it is about God showcasing and, then, sharing his glory.
a. Deliverance from Babylon (Is. 43:5-6 – physical exile)
Look at verses 5-6. In these verses, God promises to show his glory in delivering the people from exile. “Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your descendants from the east, And gather you from the west; 6 I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ And to the south, ‘Do not keep them back!’ Bring My sons from afar, And My daughters from the ends of the earth”
God tells his people not to fear! And why are they not to put aside fear? Verse 5 tells us – “for I am with you.” God’s presence is the key again. God’s presence will once again return to his people. And using the beautiful imagery of a sweeping world compass, God declares he will gather his scattered people back from the corners of the world back to himself.
Now, at this point, I think a dose of historical reality might enlighten us regarding this verse. Isaiah prophesied that the people’s sin would cause them to be exiled from the presence of God in Babylon (chs. 1-39). Then, Isaiah writes this middle section of his book (chs. 40-48 or 40-55) for the people to read while they are in the midst of the hopelessness of exile (or at least after they have returned). And in these chapters, God reminds the people, saying: ‘Do not fear. I have not forgotten about you. I have bound myself to you and will gather you up from the corners of the world and restore you back to myself.’
A little later in this chapter, God’s promises grow in specificity; he promises that one day Israel’s captors will fall. He says in Is. 43:14: “Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, The Holy One of Israel: “For your sake I will send to Babylon, And bring them all down as fugitives—“
We know from history that God did indeed raise up one man to deliver the people of Israel from the grip of Babylon. Is. 41:25 tells us of this individual: “I have raised up one from the north, And he shall come; From the rising of the sun he shall call on My name; And he shall come against princes as though mortar, As the potter treads clay.” We know this leader as Cyrus, King of Persia, who defeated the Babylonians in 538 B.C. These prophecies tells us that because God loves his people and has bound himself to them, he is going to deliver them from exile – in a very specific and physical way. And, then, he is going to restore them to himself. He is going to draw them back into His presence.
b. Deliverance from sin (Is. 43:7 – spiritual exile)
But there is a secondary sense in which God delivers his people in this passage. Because all of the four corners of the globe are mentioned here, many scholars believe Isaiah has in mind a return of God’s people in the end times. And because Babylon wasn’t geographically situated south or west, many believe Isaiah is pointing to a time in the future when God gathers His redeemed – those who are called by his Name – from all the corners of globe.
If that’s true, then, Isaiah is saying: God delivers his people from much more than simply PHYSICAL exile; God delivers his people from SPIRITUAL exile as well. God is going to deliver his people from sin.
There is a very important truth, then, to be drawn from the text. Mainly, that Isaiah is intentionally speaking to a wider audience than merely the believing Jews of the exile. If this is true, Is. 43 can be applied to the lives of both believing Jews and believers among the nations.
Now, at this point, it is wise to explain our method of interpretation. In our studies of Isaiah, we always want to search out the author’s intended meaning. Because the Holy Spirit inspired Isaiah to write a specific message, there is a specific divine truth we to be discerned. However, we must be equally clear, that we do not want to spiritualize the text. That means we do not want to read something INTO the text that isn’t there.
Rather, when we read Is. 43, we want to let the author speak for himself. We want to discern his intended meaning. And if you were to fast forward one chapter to Is. 44:1-5, you would see that the author does, in fact, have something very interesting to say about the nature of God’s people – something very interesting to say regarding a future deliverance from a spiritual exile.
Read Isaiah 44:1-5
The image here is one of renewal – water being poured out on dry land. Notice the emphasis on the Spirit – God pours out his Spirit on Israel. Isaiah is sketching out a vision of God’s people, as God’s servants, bearing God’s Spirit. From this verse, we know that God intends to deliver his people from more than merely physical bondage. He intends to spiritually renew them and help them become his servants. How? By giving them His Spirit.
This is not the first time we’ve seen the promise of the Holy Spirit appear in the book of Isaiah. Last week we learned that the Ideal Servant would arrive with bearing the Spirit of God. But now, Isaiah is saying the Spirit will be given to Israel and to all of Israel’s offspring.
And as such, the promise of spiritual deliverance is promised not just to Isaiah’s immediate audience, but TO ALL PROSPECTIVE audience members who BEAR THE NAME OF GOD, who have been shaped, redeemed, and called by God FOR HIS GLORY. This includes you and me. We aren’t spiritualizing the text. We aren’t reading the NT back into the OT. We are discerning the author’s intended meaning. And because the author is speaking of a future sense of renewal (probably occurring in his mind in the last days), then we can say with confidence that he is envisioning a future people of God.
Isaiah is speaking of all those whom God gathers unto himself. As sons and daughters of Israel (having been grafted into this special people), we are loved by God and promised help to become His servants.
The point is this: Isaiah is not restricting deliverance to the physical realm alone. Isaiah is telling us deliverance does include a spiritual deliverance. And because of this Isaiah is not restricting the fulfillment of these prophesies to the nation of Israel alone – it includes both believing Jews and Gentiles. /
Now, turn back to our main passage to Is. 43:7. God says he is going to gather “all who are called by my name, those whom I created, whom I shaped, yes, whom I made, for my glory.”
All those who are ‘called’ will be fully restored back to God. God saying we have been shaped, redeemed, and called not just for ourselves, but for a larger purpose– as a demonstration of God’s glory to a watching world.
And so, that is why I believe, today, you and I can glean from this beautiful passage just as much as Israel can. God promises to love and preserve and restore “all” His people. And Scripture is clear, that at the Servant came to bring justice to Israel, to the Gentiles, to the coastlands – to all nations. When we place our faith in the Servant, this is the result: We belong to Him, and He belongs to us. His Name is on us!
Our relationship to God is governed by his Name – because you were created for a purpose, God’s Name is on you. And your rescue (your deliverance) is a matter of God upholding the glory of his Name.
Think about it in terms of the world of art. Often a piece of artwork will be known according to the artist’s identity. “Oh, that’s a Rembrandt. That’s an O’Keefe.” The artwork is typically tied to the name of the Artist. Even if we forget the artist’s name, a painting or piece of artistry that comes from the hands of well-known artists is never severed from the shadow of its Creator. Its value lies not only in its beauty or composition, but in whose name is printed on the canvas. This is why a torn and dented Picasso painting can fetch upwards of $100 million at auction, but thousands of lesser known artists have difficulty giving their artwork away. The name is key.
If you have a relationship with God, His name is written on you. You are a piece of artistry painted and signed by the Creator of the Universe, the Ultimate Artist. And for the sake of his glory, he must restore you.
The restoration process is often painstaking, often lengthy, and always, always, always, expensive. But, God has already paid the price of restoring you back to Him. He has paid the ransom price.
This is why I love Is. 43. Because it tells us the why and how of our ransom – our deliverance from sin.
- WHY does God ransom you? Because of His great love for you – he has bound himself to you. He belongs to you just as you belong to Him.
- HOW does God ransom you? Because he has given a ransom for you – through His Servant as we’ll discover in just a few chapters. God has already paid the price of your release.
So, what is the result from your ransom, your redemption, your restoration, your relationship? You are bound to God, and God is bound to you. And you, in your daily life, are to be testament to his glory.
Paul explains this in Eph. 2. He says:
1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Paul tells us that we were once irreparably damaged (2:1-3) just like that torn Pablo Picasso painting in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. And yet, despite our unloveliness, God restored us as his workmanship (2:10). The word “workmanship” in the Greek is poiema – literally it means masterpiece. Our transformation takes us from children of wrath (2:3) to a masterpiece of God (2:10).
And we are restored not solely that we might look ‘purty’ and function like a painting hung on a wall where other might admire us. But, we are restored so that we might reflect God’s nature as “goodness.” Our lives are purposed to point others to God – hence we are called to walk in a lifestyle of good works). The good works come about as a result of God’s Work of salvation in our lives. And these pre-planned “deeds” are intended to pointing others – not to ourselves – but to God. It is always about the glory of God’s name. This is the reason why Israel was created to be a nation of servants and a light to the world – not solely so she might do some good deeds – but so that her good deeds would draw others to the glory of the Name of the Lord.
Ladies, we are the Lord’s Work – we are His masterpiece. That means, as Is. 43 tells us:
- Our relationship to God is governed by RECIPROCITY – Not only do we belong to God in the sense of an artist owning his masterpiece, but God belongs to us – he has given himself to us. Imagine, the Artist of the Universe giving himself to YOU.
- Our relationship to God is governed by HIS LOVE – God has given himself, through the Servant, to ransom you – to buy you back from sin. What is the most God’ is willing to pay for your ransom? How much are you worth? You are priceless. Because as we’ll find out in the coming weeks, Isaiah tells us God paid for your release with his own life. No price was too high for your redemption.
- Our relationship to God is governed by HIS NAME – Your redemption is a matter of God upholding the glory of his Name. So, we can be sure of our redemption, our relationship with him, because it all hinges on the glory of his Name, not ours.
Ladies, if you want to read ahead – Next week we’ll be studying Isaiah 49:1-13.
 Charles Brand, ed., The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, (Nashville: Holman Reference, 2003), 1370-1371.
 Oswalt, 138.
 Oswalt, 138.
 Oswalt, 138.
 Ex. 3:14; 6:3.
 Lev. 11:44-45.
 Bible Dictionary, 1365.
 Oswalt, 140.
 This type of prophecy regarding the deliverance of the people from Babylon can be seen in other passages (Is. 44:21-28 and Is. 45:1-8).
 And it is clear from passages such as Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:4-8; 2:16,38 that Jesus Christ believed Isaiah was referencing a spiritual deliverance.
 In the final section of Isaiah, the prophet argues that sonship in Israel is not enough to be considered a Servant of God. See Is. 56:1-8 in which the prophet says that sonship in Israel is no longer based on physical descent, but rather obedience. Beginning in v. 4: “For thus says the LORD: “To the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths, And choose what pleases Me, And hold fast My covenant, 5 Even to them I will give in My house And within My walls a place and a name Better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them[a] an everlasting name That shall not be cut off. 6 “ Also the sons of the foreigner Who join themselves to the LORD, to serve Him, And to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants— Everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, And holds fast My covenant— 7 Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices Will be accepted on My altar; For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” 8 The Lord GOD, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, says, “Yet I will gather to him Others besides those who are gathered to him.”
 Consider Galatians 3:7-9: “Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.”
 Rom. 3:29 says: “Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also…” See also Rom. 4:16-18; 23-25. This doesn’t mean we replace Israel. See Eph. 2:18-19.
 But many times prophets will speak to a historical event but have a future event in mind. This doesn’t mean the text has two separate meanings, it just means prophets will often combine meanings and events in their mind – called forshortening. Oswalt explains this best with the analogy of painting with watercolors. In communicating this vision of deliverance, Isaiah is allowing his colors to intermingle, overlap. He isn’t creating a painting with two different meanings, but rather, he is allowing the colors to blend together” (Oswalt, 141).
 And so although Isaiah is most assuredly referring to the future deliverance of God’s people in their exile to Babylon, there is a sense in which the future encompasses more than one historical event – where for the last 2,700 years of human history God has been gathering His people (widened to include you and me through the Servant) to Himself.
 The point is this. We have no reason to fear, because God delivers His people from both physical and spiritual exile. He delivered Israel from exile and still seeks to deliver them today (Rom. 11). And if you have a relationship with him, then Scripture tells you, you are considered by God, a daughter of Abraham and Sarah. You are a reflection of the promises made so long ago to the Israelites because you were shaped, redeemed, and called for purpose of bringing glory to God’s name. See Eph 2:19-22: “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”