“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 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.” (Isaiah 43:1b-2, ESV)

As we enter into another year of pandemic uncertainty and restrictions, we have to admit that we all need help. That is hard for most people to admit. In this crisis, many have trusted the government and the medical professionals to resolve the situation. Others rely on their own feelings, resources, and judgment. And yet, as time progresses these all seem to fail or at least display inadequacies. So people panic and cannot find peace or satisfaction. 

These all need to come to faith in Jesus in order to find relief and comfort. Amid the chaos and doubt, we Christians can be comforted by the knowledge that the Lord God is with us. He will carry us through. We can rely on the promises of God as expressed here in the words penned by the prophet Isaiah. Though these words were directed to the people of ancient Judah, since they are God’s promises, they apply to us as well.

Throughout her history the people of Israel and Judah were a poor witness for the glory of the Lord. They were rebellious, disobedient and idolatrous. Nevertheless, the Lord used the nation and worked through her to proclaim and demonstrate His sovereignty, love and greatness. He performed mighty acts of deliverance for His chosen such as those Isaiah describes in terms that evoke the deliverance out of Egypt under Moses. The descriptions of walking through the fire and wading through the deep waters refer also to the future obstacles the Jews would face when they were sent off to exile in Babylon and when they returned. The Lord promised to always care for those He has chosen and redeemed. 

The waters also remind us of the waters of baptism. We, who by faith, are baptized, are redeemed from sin and its consequences by water and the Word of God which promises us that our sins are washed away. And yet, like the people of ancient Israel, we are far from perfect. We are often rebellious, self-centered, unjust, and idolatrous. And yet the Lord loves us and calls us His redeemed. He has redeemed us for His own sake, for His own glory. We benefit from His promises, protection, forgiveness, and strength. The grace that He grants us magnifies His glory for it shows how loving and kind He is. He forgives us our sins and forgets them through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.