But as my wife and I cross the bridge over this bucolic stream, we know the havoc it can bring.
This creek runs along the edge of the property where her school sits. Most of the time, the current poses no threat. But a few years ago, heavy rains transformed this little waterway into a raging flood, overrunning its banks, sweeping across the field and inundating not only the school, but also the sewage treatment plant built (without much foresight) next door. The school had to close for a couple of years for the cleaning.
Tonight, in the golden evening light, the stream is only a latent threat. But it brings to mind what I’ve been reading in Isaiah:
1But 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.
2 When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you. Isaiah 43:1-2
It’s a powerful promise. It becomes even more striking when you factor in what precedes the “But now…” (also translated, “Now then.”) My commentary compiles a summary list:
“Israel has been revealed as blind (42:19), inattentive (42:20), falling short of the Lord’s plan (42:21), defeated (42:2), sinfully disobedient (42:24), spiritually uncomprehending and insensitive (42:25). ‘Now then’ is enough to make us quake in our shoes!” J. Alec Motyer
And yet, what we read in the verses above is not the LORD’s judgment, but his renewed love song. Of his own volition, he called us into being (created) and hand-crafted us for his purposes like a potter (formed). He redeemed us. He called us. He claims us as his very own.
God so identifies with his people, he plans to be in the river with them. This is not a God who phones in his love, sending a “Praying for you!” text from a high, dry mountain. He gets down and drippy. Literally. Jesus, stood in the Jordan river, having been baptized by his cousin, water running down his hair, beard and robes – fully empathizing with the human experience, though without sin.
Jesus walks in the rivers with us even now.
Today, my wife returns to teaching. The situation, as is true for all schools returning to in-person classes in this season of Covid, is tenuous. There is serious risk involved.
But as I pass the pressure valves along the bank of the levy, I know that God is in control. He not merely a friend in the stream with us, but the Sovereign Lord. He brings more than just companionship. He guides with a plan.
For, ultimately, our comfort and strength come from the fact that no matter what we face – natural disasters, microscopic enemies, our own fears and unfaithfulness – God always has a “but now.”
And while he resets our course toward his purposes, he walks alongside us.
Lord, you are the Sovereign King. And the God of grace. And the Savior who walks through the river with us. Be with all those who are returning to school in these weeks – protect them, walk with them, point them back to your ultimate purposes.
Reader: What river have you literally or figuratively crossed recently?