But now, Leah and Rachel and Jacob,
hear the word of YHWH –
the One who created you,
the One who fashioned you, Israel:
Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the seas, I will be with you;
When you pass over the rivers, you will not drown.
Walk through fire, and you will not be singed;
Walk through flames and you will not be burned.
I am YHWH, your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your deliverer.Isaiah 43:1-3a, The Inclusive Bible
God’s but is bigger than anyone else’s. I mean this in a good way.
In most translations, Isaiah 43:1 starts with the words, “But now…” That big But plops itself smack into the middle of a miserable situation. The people of God are far from home. Their exile, the author of Isaiah 42 tells us, is the direct result of not following the ways of God. And so, the author says, God poured out blazing anger in the form of violent war. “It enveloped them in flames, yet they did not understand; it consumed them, and still they didn’t take it seriously!”
War, flood, fire, exile! The absolute worst has happened to these people!!
Yet no one is turning back to God!!! Can you imagine?
What a tough spot for everyone, God included.
Well, heck, God said, if THEIR hearts will not be changed, then I will change mine.
And God did. “But now,” God said with this changed heart, “since you have not turned back to me, I will just have to come to you. For you are mine, and I will not let myself be apart from you anymore. I will be with you through it all, no matter what.”
And so, it came to be one day that God’s “But now…” became flesh and dwelt among us, spreading the good news of God’s love and forgiveness to all peoples. Jesus is God’s “But NOW” promise fulfilled. That’s why Emmanuel is one of the names for Jesus. It means God-With-Us.
When I forget whose I am,
because I do –
When I am overwhelmed by miserable situations and so, so, so afraid of what will happen next,
because that happens a lot of late too –
I play this song to remind me of God’s big BUT: You Are Mine by David Haas.
It reminds me that God’s big “But NOW…” promise still holds.
It has accompanied me, and all my hopes and fears, through long dark nights.
I hope it will be a good traveling companion for your journey, too.
But now – right now – whether you know it or not, take it seriously or not –
But NOW – even as our own failings and the sins of the world push us farther apart –
But NOW and EVERMORE – God is with us. God chooses to plop that big “But NOW…” smack into the middle of our miserable situations and, if you can make room in yourself for that big but (which actually was able to fit into a tiny manger once), God will cover up everything – everything – that has you feeling so alone and afraid.
God, you know exactly where I need your “But now…” in my life today. Be present – be Emmanuel – in the middle of my mess, my fearfulness, my long dark nights. Yes, I feel alone. Yes, I am afraid. But NOW… Amen.
Sheri Brown lives in Dewey, AZ
I am an avid DIY-er, walking enthusiast, and recovering overachiever.