Illustration: We sat in captain chairs on the dock and watched the water. It moved steadily in the canals. 500 miles of canals in the city; that was one of the city’s claims to fame. I remember bringing some of my family to Venice, Italy some years back when I was stationed several hours north of there in Bavaria, and I thought Venice had a lot of canals. Well, it does, but not as many as where we were in Florida. Beautiful boats glided by. Many of them trailed U.S. flags from their sterns. I still get emotional inside when I see our flag. It encouraged me to see almost all of the boats—huge vessels, pontoons, sailboats, speed boats, etc.—fly Old Glory. It manifested something about Americans’ unity amidst their diversity. Some folks sailed; some folks fished; some folks skied; some folks just cruised. But the nation’s colors flew high above the sea. It is an image that I keep with me. When we sat on the dock some evenings, the setting sun played upon the water and cast colors of tangerine, bronze, and flame across surfaces. The fronds of the palms waved as if by invisible hands. And narrow silver fish would burst from the canals’ water so suddenly, your heart would race for an instant. There is something about being on the water, something that speaks to one’s soul. I don’t mean in a pantheistic sort of way, of course, only that the water, to me, often serves as a metaphor for renewal and remembrance.
Segue: In Isaiah, set in the 700s B.C., we see God speaking through the prophet Isaiah to a nation about God’s own glory, about the nation’s sin, about God’s judgment of that sin, and of how the same covenant-keeping God will nonetheless redeem particular people for his new creation. Isaiah’s book is a God-saturated book of cosmic proportions wherein the Creator of all judges sin and yet redeems particular sinners. New is brought out of the old. Clean is brought from the defiled. Justice is brought out of injustice and corruption. All things are made new for those in the Lord. The word through pervades the book of Isaiah.
“Fear not, 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 Savior.” (Isaiah 43:2-3a).
Isaiah brought God’s message to a recalcitrant people: God was with his people to bring them through the valley of the shadow of death. The question they faced is the same all of us face as individual people: are you and I in Christ? Are we God’s people? Or are we like the masses who go their own way and reap the whirlwind of God’s judgment?
Encouragement: For mature Christians who know Scripture well, this may sound elementary, because you already know God’s revealed truth. But for the many people who will likely never pick up a Bible and read it, they likely don’t know, or they have errant views of what Scripture teaches. So here is the bottom line of Isaiah and the bottom line of the Bible: God is good, perfectly good. We sinners are not. Therefore, because God is holy, perfectly righteous and good, he must judge our sin. We either bear the penalty of that sin ourselves, or one must intercede on our behalf who is sufficient and efficient to satisfy the holiness of God. Jesus Christ, the God-man, 100% God and 100% man, was born of the virgin Mary, thereby breaking the sin bloodline, lived a perfect life, was crucified, buried, and rose again as proof of his divinity and triumph over the grave. For those who flee to Christ alone in repentance and faith, he will redeem them. Their sin is imputed to Christ as the one and only acceptable sacrifice, and Jesus’s righteousness is imputed to us sinners. In our place, condemned he (Jesus) stood. As Jesus himself put it,
“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:37-40)
That is good news, folks. It is unimaginably good news for all those who are in Christ. It means that we are new creations because of God who walked through the valley, conquered through the grave, and will bring his people through to their appointed end.