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Baptisms and Baptisms: Reflections on Isaiah 43:1-7 and the Baptism of the Lord

Perhaps it is no surprise that this word, go'el, is 2 Isaiah's favorite word for God, because God is all those things for the hopeless exiles of Babylon, most especially redeemer and vindicator in the most positive of senses. Though Job, Isaiah's almost certain exilic contemporary, has twisted the great word into a portrait of some mighty being who could avenge Job against God, Isaiah uses the word no fewer than seven times to describe a YHWH who is in full divine manifestation, active in behalf of God's exilic people. It is that God that my wife heard in that hospital, the God who created her, redeemed her, and was in the process of vindicating her on her bed of affliction.

"When you pass through waters, I will be with you…

"When you walk through fire, the flame will not consume you" (Is. 43:2)

Of course, any mention of waters activates in a Bible reader memories of the waters at the creation of the world in Genesis, the waters of the Sea of Reeds when the terrified people were saved by YHWH in Exodus, and the waters of the Jordan which gathered up in heaps to allow the Israelites to pass through into the land of promise in Joshua. Wherever waters threaten, YHWH is present. And whenever a devouring fire threatens to consume the land, as a mighty fire had consumed Jerusalem, forcing the exiles to trudge east for their lives, it will not have the final word, a word of destruction. YHWH will not allow any fire to consume the people ultimately, finally, forever. As Diana heard these words, and as she said them herself, she knew that the water and fire of this surgery would not have for her the last word.

The surgery worked! No, Diana is not pain free, but she can now manage her pain, even at times allowing her to dance and to teach others to dance, something she loves doing and does with consummate skill. The words of this passage became for her quite literally life-giving, life-restoring, as the ancient prophet intended them to be for exiled Israel. On this Baptism of the Lord Sunday, may our own life's baptisms, those that are pleasant and those not so pleasant, be occasions of an affirmation of the presence of God in our lives, the God who simply never forsakes us. Just ask Diana; she can tell you.

1/7/2016 5:00:00 AM