”Do not be afraid, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

“But now, this is what the Lord says—he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze” (Isaiah 43:1-2).

Karen is not the most comfortable in the water and for many years was not keen on going out of her depth in the sea or a swimming pool. Years ago before we were married with visited thermal pools in Turkey. Most incredible heated pools ever but to get to the best part you had to swim out of your death. It took me a long time to persuade Karen that she could do it. I had to go ahead so she knew how amazing it was if she could trust herself to swim the short distance. Eventually, she did it and it was so worth it.

I know Karen can relate to the second passage today about feeling swept away by water. For many of us that can be a big fear actually, it is often what fear does to us. It floors us by sweeping us away. These verses assure that God is with us and we will not be overwhelmed

A spark of hope.

Through prayer, we open ourselves to God’s power at work within us. Through prayer, God changes us and shapes us to be the people God wants us to be. Through prayer, we invite God’s action in and around us for healing, renewal and hope. Through prayer, we grow in trust and confidence in God.

This passage speaks to God’s people held in exile in Babylon during their captivity. They are people to whom the worst has happened – their country has been defeated; their city, Jerusalem, has fallen; and they have been taken to work as forced labour in a distant nation. All their fears have come true. They would seem to have nothing to look forward to and no one to trust in. Yet, into their situation, God speaks a message of love and assurance and gives to the people a promise of redemption and return.

God’s message sets within them a spark of hope, a hope that is fulfilled as they return to Israel, enabled to live afresh as God’s people in dignity, compassion and truth. Stories from Scripture and in our own histories remind us that, over the centuries, people have faced many crises, including disasters and pandemics. We hear stories of disease epidemics in the Bible.

In our own times, millions have suffered from malaria, from HIV/AIDS and many other diseases. The promise which God makes to his people in Isaiah 43:1-2 is that God is always with us when we pass through these crises. It is a promise that we will not be overcome. In Isaiah 41:10 God tells us:” Do not be afraid, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you and help you.”

God of compassion help us to know that you are with us. Help us to know that each is loved by you. Help us to see that you will strengthen us. Help us to claim your gospel hope. For this good news, dear Lord, we give you thanks, in the name of Christ. Amen.

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