”Do not be afraid, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
“But 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. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze” (Isaiah 43:1-2).
A spark of hope
Through prayer, we open ourselves to God’s power at work within us. Through prayer, God changes us and shapes us to be the people God wants us to be. Through prayer, we invite God’s action in and around us for healing, renewal and hope. Through prayer, we grow in trust and confidence in God.
This passage speaks to God’s people held in exile in Babylon during their captivity. They are people to whom the worst has happened – their country has been defeated; their city, Jerusalem, has fallen; and they have been taken to work as forced labour in a distant nation. All their fears have come true. They would seem to have nothing to look forward to and no one to trust in. Yet, into their situation, God speaks a message of love and assurance and gives to the people a promise of redemption and return. God’s message sets within them a spark of hope, a hope that is fulfilled as they return to Israel, enabled to live afresh as God’s people in dignity, compassion and truth.
Stories from Scripture and in our own histories remind us that, over the centuries, people have faced many crises, including disasters and pandemics. We hear stories of disease epidemics in the Bible. In our own times, millions have suffered from malaria, from HIV/AIDS and many other diseases. The promise which God makes to his people in Isaiah 43:1-2 is that God is always with us when we pass through these crises. It is a promise that we will not be overcome. In Isaiah 41:10 God tells us: ”Do not be afraid, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you and help you.” *
Questions for discussion
Read Isaiah 41: 10 and 43: 1-2
- What gives each of us hope in this passage?
- Our world has experienced pandemics, hunger and other devastating crises before. How have we known God’s faithfulness during difficult times in our lives, both personally and as peoples?
- In Christ Jesus we have God who is with us in our time of distress, bearing our griefs and carrying our sorrows as he suffered on the cross. And in his resurrection, Jesus brings us hope in new life. How can we show people affected by COVID-19 that they are precious, honoured and loved by God?
- What do you think the loving presence of God might mean in the time of a pandemic such as now?
- What is the good news, the hope of the gospel at this time? How can we respond?
God of compassion,
help us to know that you are with us. Help us to know that each is loved by you. Help us to see that you will strengthen us. Help us to claim your gospel hope.
For this good news, dear Lord, we give you thanks, in the name of Christ. Amen