May 19, 2022

God Is with Us 09-01-2022

9th January 2022 (Baptism of Jesus)

Title: God Is with Us
(Scripture Reading: Isaiah 43:1–7 & Luke 3:15-17, 21-22)

                                                                                   By Heeyoung Lim

Isaiah indicates promises of redemption for Israel in a creative way. Today’s words are God’s words of salvation for people who were in exile. The passage begins with a reference to creation and immediately moves to language of redemption. 

Although we often associate God the creator with power, sovereignty, and providence, and God the saviour with love, grace, and mercy. On the other hand, creation is a deeply loving act of God, redemption is an event of great sovereign power as well. The creating and saving acts of God are intimately linked in God’s relationship with creation. God recreates the world that is apart from God and restores the broken harmony that results from sin. Creation and redemption flow from the gracious essence of God. 

The God who had created Israel would redeem her from captivity. What is captivating us? What are we captive to? God listed the most dangerous barriers they would face on their journey and promised to overcome them. One of these was walking through fire without being burned. In accordance with today’s words, even passing through water and fire cannot hurt the people, rather, these elements were used by God to purify people and their powers in those times. Verse 2 tells us, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you” Even living in exile, Israel had no reason to be afraid. God was ready to do whatever was necessary to bring all His people from their places of exile. Even powerful nations of the day serve God’s redemptive purpose. 

God had placed His name on them because they were His sons and daughters. Isaiah assures that no matter what – fire or flood, wind or storm, relationship distress or broken heart, war or famine, COVID-19 or omicron, illness or difficulties, depression or frustration – God is with us.

Israel could count on the LORD, their Saviour who had delivered Israel from Egypt. As in Isaiah 43:4, God said to His people “You are mine; you are precious in my sight and honoured and I love you” God plans to redeem and protect them because He loves them. We are God’s Precious children because God loves us. We have no reasons for fear because God is with us and will be with us forever. 

It is easy to feel alone and fear in life’s inevitable difficult times, but we have no reason to be afraid because God is with us. God created, formed, and rescued us, and today’s words are given to people who face difficulties. God will recreate and restore us as He created and restored people for His glory. May we all live for the glory of God and experience the restoration God provides. 

Where do we belong to? What makes us worthy? God’s gracious love. We often look for the answers in the wrong places. However, God speaks to us, “I am the LORD your God, your Saviour, do not be afraid, and you are mine.” We are God’s precious being. In verse 7, He continues to speak to us, “Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” All creation and all people are the result of God’s love. God’s saving acts are meant for all people. May we all sit at a table in the kingdom of God. Today’s text has words of comfort and hope. God’s words of comfort and restoration are greater than people’s situations. May we find answers, comfort, and hope from God’s words. 

This passage is paired with Luke’s description of Jesus’ baptism in terms of becoming God’s children. In Luke 3, John the Baptist knew his role and baptized with water, seeking repentance and cleansing from sin. He knew that he was weak and insignificant in face of the coming One, Messiah who was mightier and more powerful. One greater than John is coming with the baptism of the Spirit and fire to bring judgment and salvation to the world. Christ’s ministry was to bring salvation and the Holy Spirit to people who believe in Jesus and to bring judgment on those who refused to repent and believe in Him.

In the waters of baptism, God seals God’s love for us, no matter what we might have done and what might happen. In the waters of our baptism, God gives evidence of what God says to Jesus in Luke 3:22. The voice from heaven blesses “You are my child, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” In Jesus’ baptism through John the Baptist, God draws near and rejoices in him. The beginning of Jesus’ ministry is marked by his baptism. As in verse 21, when all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. At the place where Jesus was baptized, the voice of God was heard, and the Holy Spirit was with Him. Today’s readings remind us to listen for God in words of hope and encouragement, and in the Holy Spirit’s work in our communities. May each individual and our faith community please God through abiding in our Lord, in God’s word, and in the Holy Spirit in 2022.

Where do we hear God’s voice in our life? In the Holy Spirit, God’s voice speaks to us in prayer, in worship, and in loving actions, and in all who thirst for justice. The Holy Spirit dwells in us and renews us. The comforting and hopeful words of Isaiah 43 are a passage we need to return to over and over, just as we need to be reminded of our baptisms. God’s words and the love of Christ take time to be believed and absorbed. 

May we trust and hope in the God who is with us and will protect us, even in the midst of the floods of chaos caused by our mistakes and irresponsibility as both individuals and communities. We are God’s children, listening and responding in the light of God’s grace. We are those who belong to God, baptized by water and by fire. We are a family who are in the glow of God’s glory. 

Luke carefully notes that Jesus prays after he is baptized. For Luke the act of prayer will be the most important feature of the baptism and will clearly indicate the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of Jesus and the believer. May we pray for an awareness and experience of the Holy Spirit guiding our life. Our prayers are significant ministries for our church and the kingdom of God. A church that prays and a church that doesn’t pray are completely different. I pray that 2022 will be a year in which the ministry of prayer blossoms from every single church member. May we serve for the Lord and carry out our ministries including the act of prayer by seeking what God has called us to be and do.

Faithfulness in ministry is so precious, but it does not protect us from earthly hurt, suffering, and injustice. However, to depend upon God in prayer for the strength to live and to love, and to hear God’s words as the source of our calling and purpose in life are joys of life. These are the blessings of our life together in Christ as the church. May you encounter God who restores us amongst prayer, life, and service and become those who glorify God.

God speaks to us today, “You are my son, my daughter.” “You are Beloved.” “I am well pleased with you.” We are all still having some kinds of difficulties, but we have no reason to be afraid because God is with us. 

Thanks be to God! Amen.
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)