First Sunday After Epiphany 2019 – Baptism of the Lord: The Old Testament Passage – Naming who is called, protected and favored by the Lord God the Divine

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.” (Isaiah 43:1 – 2)

Mid December things got a little more complicated for me. Since October I have been dealing with a growing health concern, and started treatment a few weeks ago. My doctor, an oncologist, is optimistic about the treatment outcome. But the treatments themselves have a great potential to become more difficult and tasking as they continue. The portion of verse two, “when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you” is quite appropriate for radiation treatment. Although the tumor does need to be “burned” and consumed. And yes, I am a little depressed about the whole thing.

“For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, 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.” (Verses 3 – 7)

During this time I am grateful for the expression of God’s love for me. And for the support I receive from family and friends. But I have to tell you, beloved reader, the writer of Isaiah is going a little over the top (in my opinion) in describing Yahweh’s rescue attempts for the called and chosen people. I understand the reason for this; those who had been taken captive and taken to foreign lands were in desperate need of reassurance that the Lord God had not forsaken them, nor planned to leave them away from the promised lands. And that they meant more to the Lord God than their captors and oppressors.

The Divine does not pit one group of people against another; to the Divine all are called and worthy of high regard. I rail and protest against Old Testament scripture being bent and morphed to fit the event of Jesus’ coming and ministry. I also rail and protest that the Divine would sacrifice one nation for the sake of another. The politics that humanity creates and then set to rule over itself consumes itself – especially the helpless, marginalized, and innocent. Against many of the competing nations Israel and Judah were helpless and taken over. But that does not make the other nations enemies of the Divine. Jesus’ example and life argues against that notion, and Epiphany which we just got done celebrating argues against it too.

The over arching theme for this week is the Baptism of the Lord, so the scripture passage for today more likely highlights the water and river aspect; although the baptism of the Holy Spirit is also included in this which we will see as the week unfurls. And, note also that when it came right down to it, it was not any of the human earthly nations that paid the price of redemption. It was the Lord Jesus Christ, which ought to put to rest any disharmony within all humanity. We all have in one way or another missed the benchmark that Christ established; and we all have been forgiven. What Christ extend to us, should be extended to our brothers and sisters. Selah!

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