The Gospel in Isaiah

A mother looked out a window and saw Johnny playing church with their three kittens.  He had them lined up and was preaching to them. The mother turned around to do some work.

A while later she heard meowing and scratching on the door. She went to the window and saw Johnny baptizing the kittens. She opened the window and said, “Johnny, stop that! You’ll drown those kittens.”

Johnny looked at her and said with much conviction in his voice: “They should a’ had thought about that before they joined MY church.”

Isaiah 43:1-3, 7—The Gospel in Isaiah

1   But now thus says the Lord, 

He who created you, O Jacob, 

He who formed you, O Israel: 

“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. 

Fear not, for I am with you; 

I will bring your offspring from the east, 

and from the west I will gather you…

everyone who is called by My name

whom I created for My glory, 

whom I formed and made.

  “But now” in verse 1 marks a change from the previous chapter where the consequences of sin and God’s anger catch up with us.

  “created” the same verb used in Genesis 1:1 where God creates something out of nothing—something NEW.

  “formed” continues that thought…God has formed and shaped us to be who we are.

  “redeemed” God is our protector and defender and brings us back (saves) us from that which has harmed and hurt us.

  “called you by name” God knows us intimately and personally.  We matter.  We are significant and important.  Note in verse 7 God even calls us by His name, reminding us that we are created—shaped and formed—for His glory. In baptism we are marked as God’s children and called by His name!

  For that reason…God twice says “Do not fear” and even describes circumstances that we get caught in that terrify us, reminding us even then we are in God’s hands.  

  • getting caught in the flood, being swept away by a strong current… “you will not be drowned/overwhelmed”
  • walking through fire…remember Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3).  They were protected from the flames and did not even have the smell of smoke on them.  

 What overwhelms you today?  What circumstances seem to be burning you up?  Recognize—even now—God’s presence in, with and for you. No matter what!  

Girl Against a Blizzard

In Stephen Covey’s book, Everyday Greatness, there is a story by Helen Rezatto titled “Girl Against A Blizzard.” It is the harrowing story of fifteen‑year‑old Hazel Miner who lived on a farm near Center, North Dakota. In March, 1920, Hazel, her brother, Emmet, eleven, and her sister Myrdith, while returning home from school, were trapped in a monster snow storm ”A spring norther!” her mother called it. A massive search was soon underway, but the weather was far too severe for the searchers to go about their business with much success.

The powerful storm blew drifts above the fence posts obscuring all sense of direction and also making progress impossible for the children and their horse. Suddenly the sleigh tipped over on its side. In the howling darkness, fifteen‑year‑old Hazel realized it was up to her, the oldest to figure a way out.

In the dark of the capsized sled, Hazel found blankets and a robe. Despite her now crippled hands, she placed two blankets on the floor. Following her instructions, Emmet and Myrdith lay down and curled together tightly. The wind snarled through an opening in the sled’s canvas top, so Hazel tried to improvise a curtain. The snow fell incessantly. Hazel roused herself. “Emmet! Myrdith!” she shouted. “You mustn’t close your eyes. Punch each other! I’ll count to a hundred. Make your legs go up and down as though you’re running. Begin-one, two, three-” She could feel the small limbs moving underneath her. She tried to move her own; her brain instructed her legs, but she wasn’t sure what they did. Next Hazel ordered, “Open and close your fingers one hundred times inside your mittens.” Then they tried singing, “For purple mountains majesties above the fruited plain.” They sang all four verses.

“Let’s pray to God to help us,” suggested Myrdith. “Now I lay me down to sleep,” she began. Hazel interrupted, “No, not that one. Let’s say `Our Father’ instead.” Solemnly they chanted the prayer. On into the timeless night Hazel directed them in exercises, stories, songs, prayers. She said to the two children over and over that they mustn’t go to sleep. Meanwhile the wind became a sixty‑mile‑an‑hour gale, the temperature dropped to zero, the gray became utter blackness. And the maddening snow kept falling. The searchers had to give up until daylight.

“At two o’clock on Tuesday afternoon, twenty‑five hours from the time the Miner children had disappeared, searchers spotted something in a pasture two miles south of the school. It was an overturned sleigh . . .” The searchers found the dead, frozen body of a fifteen-year-old girl outstretched covering her younger brother and sister. They were dazed and partially frozen, but alive.

Today, on the courthouse grounds in the town of Center, these words are engraved on a granite monument: “In Memory of Hazel Miner . . . April 11, 1904-March 16, 1920 . . . To the dead a tribute . . . To the living a memory . . . To posterity an inspiration . . . The story of her life and of her tragic death is recorded in the Archives of Oliver County . . .”

Trusting God in all of life is not always easy.  However, trusting God even in difficulties helps us to seize the day, take the initiative, to do the right thing and care past ourselves.  Hazel did that.  God give us the grace, strength, and courage to live without fear, and with courage to live for God’s glory and the good of others.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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