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 43:2 ESV
“Cookie cutter Bible verses” can be dangerous. Imagine someone pulling this verse out of context and walking into a raging river or a raging fire of their own will and being surprised when their foolishness brings them to harm’s doorstep.
Let’s please not be so eager to use “whatever we read” and “however we read it” as some systematic approach of dictating or demanding how God “must fulfill” His promises.
I do realize how in times of great need or dispair or suffering, that we may need to stand upon the promises of God and cry out to Him for help. But it seems there is a huge chasm between the two, because the first has us demanding God submit to our will and purposes — while the second has us submitting to God’s will and trusting Him for protection.
Is our focus on the part of the verse that says “I will be with you” (speaking of us and God together) — or did we skip over that to the parts that only mention us and the circumstances (“they shall not overwhelm you”, “you shall not be burned”, and “shall not consume you”).
Sadly, how often do we make what should be about Him, into something about ourselves?
God is not in the business of building up superheroes and celebrities so that people revere other people. He is revealing Himself as the Lord and Savior for His glory and honor — because He is worthy.
In this train of thought, you will see repeatedly in the Bible how “important people” (even the recognizable names of people close to God) are humbled by their own shortcomings. Whether it is wise Solomon’s foolish pursuit of women, or bold Peter’s thrice denial of knowing Christ Jesus — all are not revealed as superheroes — but as flawed people who need a perfect, holy God Savior.
And when we see religious celebrities fall hard and far in very public ways, or those around us in ministry fall by the wayside — we cannot leave cold, hard stony hearts unrevived by the measure of grace and forgiveness meant for the day to say foolishly dangerous things like, “He cast them out because they aren’t His.” What a horrible precedent to set for ourselves and others — to measure one another by the shortcomings of each other rather than by the power of the life giving blood of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.
Imagine if your validation, your assurance, your proof of God’s love had to be proven to your physical eyes because you didn’t have spiritual eyes to see, or to your physical ears because you didn’t have spiritual ears to hear, or to your physical hands because you had not been spiritually touched by God in those deep, innermost places of your very being. Verse 8 brings this to mind:
Bring out the people who are blind, yet have eyes, who are deaf, yet have ears!
Isaiah 43:8 ESV
Remember doubting Thomas?
Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
John 20:24-29 ESV
Do not fret if you have doubted.
Do not fret if you have foolishly demanded from the Word of God that God protect you in the way that He protected Israel and His beloved. Like an envious child seeing what his brother or sister received, I have done the same, beloved. And our God is so merciful and mighty that even in those moments, He bid me thrust my fingers into His wounds to prove my doubts unfounded. But I was not nearly as overjoyed at my protection afterwards as I was humbled by my doubt. He loves, restores, and greatly uses men and women like Solomon, Peter, Thomas, You and I — not because of our worthiness, but because of His.
Pride would have us fearing things that bring humility and favoring things that bring us honor. Pride would have us seeking to be the unbreakable hero. But pride is the enemy.
Lord, the humble and faithful pass through the waters and the fires with you — to display you, not themselves. Even the righteous man falls for your glory and honor. Help us to praise you and glorify you alone, because you alone are worthy. Amen.