Restoration and Protection Promised
But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
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 shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my sight,
and honoured, and I love you,
I give people in return for you,
nations in exchange for your life.
Do not fear, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you;
I will say to the north, “Give them up,”
and to the south, “Do not withhold;
bring my sons from far away
and my daughters from the end of the earth—
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.”
This passage of promise and hope from the Prophet Isaiah has been drawn upon for strength and comfort for centuries. Through the prophet, God says to the people: “I have called you by name, and you are mine.” “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you . . .” “Do not fear, for I am with you . . .” In an earlier day, the idea of God as a strengthening and protecting presence came more easily than it does today. Especially for those who do not think of God as a personality or as a being with a consciousness, what does it mean to hear God say “I am with you . . .?” How may we speak meaningfully today about the “presence” of God or about God’s “providence” in view of tragedies like the one at Newtown, Conn.? William Sloane Coffin was in the habit of saying that God provides “minimum protection and maximum support.” Does this square with your idea of God?