July 2014

\"\'When you pass through deep waters I am with you\'\"
[Isa iah 43.2 GNB]

The beginning of Isaiah 43 contains many Dominical Sayings. Between the opening of the chapter and the end, we hear the language of encouragement. Many of the verses contain the I AM words, central to our contemplative prayer. Through the prophet, God assures the people of his quiet presence among them: that he is there with them, in flood, fire and tempest. In this gentle assurance some of the phrases are poetical, loving , compassionate: words of comfort and continuing reassurance for a wrong-doer: I AM with you. Implicit in this phrase are God\'s love, care, forgiveness, redemption: things that a chastened nation and the individuals within it long to hear.

These words are offered to the nation at t he end of the Babylonian captivity. God is preparing a highway for his people to return across the desert wastes. Here is the Good News of a promised retur n, under the leadership of a Shepherd God who cares for his people because he created them. Have no fear, for I AM with you . . . even through the \"deep waters\" of exile, through the heat and dust of desert places ... I AM with you.

The Psalmists also use the image of deep water s and rescue: I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me (69.2) .. . Out of the deep have I called unto thee (130.1) . . . Stretch out your hand from on high and rescue me from the mighty waters (144.7). Our relationship with the Father God is to look up and be taken by the hand to safety, as a child looks to its parent. The restraining hand, the guiding arm, the parent echoes God\'s protective words, I AM with you.

Th e rain earlier in this year brought devastating floods to many parts of the UK and misery for hundreds. Instinctively one felt for them, and the words of t his Saying became such an appropriate intercession at the time. They remain relevant for any person or group who may be, metaphorically speaking, \"in de ep water\", through mishap, grief, or as a result of others\' intolerance or oppression. And for each of us, when our stubbornness or sinfulness lead u s away from God and into deep waters.