Near the end of Israel’s exile in Babylon, God promises to bring the people home. They need no longer be afraid, because the one who formed, created, and called them by name now redeems them from all their enemies. God declares them precious and honored, and God loves them.
1But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
2When 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.
3For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you.
4Because you are precious in my sight,
and honored, and I love you,
I give people in return for you,
nations in exchange for your life.
5Do not fear, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you;
6I will say to the north, “Give them up,”
and to the south, “Do not withhold;
bring my sons from far away
and my daughters from the end of the earth—
7everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.”
Dear God’s Beloved,
Listen above to how God so loves God’s people. “I have called you by name, you are mine.” Amidst events threatening our very livelihood, “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.” God will do whatever it takes to free God’s people. Perhaps the most astonishing news about how God values us that we have been created, formed and made for God’s glory. I suspect it rarely crosses our minds that we exist for God to shine God’s glory. This coming Sunday we will look to Jesus’ baptism in Luke’s account. Again, Jesus and God’s people share in hearing God’s value placed on Jesus and all the baptized. Luke says it this way: Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Whatever you are going through right now, or whatever you will go through sometime in the future, God values you so much that you bring God glory, and God promises to be with you all the way.
We pray: God of Glory, it is hard for us to see ourselves as you see us. Help us to take hold of the value you give us. Impart such awareness of your value as we reflect on being your baptized children. Together with God’s people, may we sense your divine smile on us, even in the inevitable wayward ways we choose and the external events that make it hard to see your divine pleasure in us. Amen.