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.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;”
These words from Isaiah 43 were part of God’s message to us at our recent District Convention. There we considered them metaphorically. The rising rivers and flood waters were a picture of the overwhelming challenges we often face in our daily lives and in our church. Of course, now rising rivers and flood waters are a literal reality across many areas of Victoria, New South Wales, and Tasmania.
Our prayers are with all those people and communities whose lives and livelihoods are affected by the flooding, or who live in fear of further rising waters. Some of those people are our relatives or our brothers and sisters in Christ, or our colleagues.
It is timely then to remind ourselves of the comfort we received from God as we focussed on these words a few weeks ago, under the theme, ‘a new thing.’
We acknowledged that the ‘new things’ that come into our lives are not always exciting, but quite often are disruptive, painful, and threatening. It isn’t easy to see God’s gracious, loving rule when the rising rivers and flood waters threaten to ‘overwhelm’ us (Isaiah 43:2).
Yet, God reminds us that his commitment to us is constant. He says, “I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour” (Isaiah 43:3). That fact never changes. Nor does the fact that we are his created, redeemed, called, precious, honoured and loved children. He says, “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’” (Isaiah 43:1).
As his children, he has taken us through the waters of our baptism, in which we are “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). Even as the rising rivers and flood waters – literally or metaphorically – threaten to overwhelm us, we can hold onto the hope that he who rescued us and gave us new life in the waters of baptism, are never without his gracious rule in our lives – his loving, rescuing, transforming, renewing, and resurrecting grace.
It is my prayer that God will protect all who are facing or affected by the ‘overwhelming’ flood waters in these days and hold you in the knowledge of his gracious rule and care.
Fear not, He is with you, O be not dismayed;
For He is your God and will still give you aid;
He’ll strengthen you, help you, and cause you to stand
Upheld by His righteous, omnipotent hand.
When through the deep waters He calls you to go,
The rivers of woe shall not you overflow;
For He will be with you, your troubles to bless,
And turn to your good e’en your deepest distress.
LHS 392 v.2 – 3 (Ascribed to Richard Keen) 1787
Pastor Lester Priebbenow
District Bishop, Victoria and Tasmania