In our passage we are paddling out over some deep and mysterious currents created by two seemingly opposing ideas. One is that man is an agent of free will, determining his fate, one choice at a time. The other is that God has written a script and that man is just playing his part. We should know something about these waters because what’s below is going to effect us.
Isaiah refers to fires and floods that Israel will encounter. Fear producing possibilities are crouching along our paths as well. Perhaps we will have some kind of Indiana Jones or John Eldridge kind of life, but it is as likely that our part will be to simply live life alongside others, who like ourselves are being challenged by our vocations, our relationships, our health, and, sadly, (as we are reminded in this election cycle) even our government.
Most people have an awareness that, beyond our consciousness, there are powerful forces—like tectonic plates which, with only a modest shift, any one of them might produce a tsunami capable of swamping our little canoes. Even a near-sighted prophet could predict the potential of an economic tsunami. When it comes, no one will be exempt from the potential of fear. Who will save us then? Will it be our government? Our guns and our gold? Our prepping?
From verse 25 we see that it is possible that some who were on fire and burned were not even aware of it! They had somehow become accustomed to the heat. (I wish this did not remind me of the church in western culture.) This phenomena reminds me of those who subscribe to a scripted cosmology where a loving God, who desires that none should perish, stands idly by, watching them do so. Those subscribers, like the God they have imagined, are indifferent to the consequences of the high waters and the fires: “Oh well, Thy will be done.” (Big time sarcasm intended.)
It is wise to acknowledge that God does not exempt His chosen ones from threatening circumstances. They are inevitable. If our theology removes or insulates us from the potential of earthquakes and tsunamis, we have not read our Bibles. Instead, we have only placed our trust in some sick spiritualized version of the American dream. In other words: an idol. (The father of lies, who doth work us woe, is the architect of this myth.) The value of fire and flood is that they will reveal whether In God We Trust or in the American economic engine.
Satan, who is waging a cosmic war from his platform of deception, further darkens the waters. Deep currents swirl in the interplay of wills—God’s, Satan’s, and our own. The tension between these three would-be sovereigns is the origin of earth’s cultural-spiritual weather patterns.
We do not have the luxury of exhaustive revelation. We cannot rest in the certainty of a comprehensive light. However, the scriptures and the Spirit within us, provide sufficient revelation by which to navigate. There are vast mysteries below, but we paddle on by faith, trusting in His prevailing goodness and power.
A mighty fortress is our God, who is our helper in the midst of the flood of prevailing mortal illness. God is our fortress against Satan—our ancient foe, who is armed with cruel hatred. Even though this world is filled with devils, who threaten to undo us, we will not fear, for God has willed that His Truth should triumph through us. We can endure Satan’s rage, for his doom is certain. In fact, one brief Word shall fell him—Christ Jesus is this Word and He must win the battle. This Word—“Jesus,” is above all earthly powers!
Clearly, that last paragraph was constructed from the hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” by Martin Luther. Luther concludes the song by describing our part in the contest: “Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; the body they may kill; God’s Truth abideth still; His kingdom is forever!”
In His kindness, God often uses modest little waves. He allows them to hit our boat so that we can become better oarsmen and to promote course corrections. High water and fires have led many a soul to repentance. It often takes a trial for us to reconsider our hurtful ways. Repentance is simply a God-prompted change of thought and redirection of our will.
God will ultimately be the prevailing power in the water below and the air above. We must not fear for He has won the battle. He has not only given Egypt as ransom for the chosen nation of Israel; He has given his Son as the ransom for us—His beloved children. We do not need to fear the coming tsunamis. Where they appear, grace will abound all the more. Regardless of what waves hit our boats, they are all driven by a persistent love designed to awaken us from our indifference, our delusion, and our hardness of heart. God tells us:
Do not fear, 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 will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you.
For I am the Lord your God…(from Isaiah 43:1-2)
Lord, you have told us that momentary trials are sometimes necessary. When they are, teach us to give thanks for them and the redemption within. Help us to harvest the revelation of Yourself within each wave. May the ongoing story of Your goodness and love be revealed to those whom You love, yet who remain asleep. May we respond to our trials and, in them, turn to You as our Savior, our Refuge and, as our Life. Amen.