When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you…
It is surprising to note how the facts of this people's history have impressed themselves upon the language and thought of Christendom.
I. THAT SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE IS THE SAME IN ALL AGES. These words were written by the prophet of the Exile, who could speak of himself and his comrades as passing through the waters. He shows in this way that he realises that the exiles are one in experience with their ancestors who passed through the waters of the Red Sea and the Jordan. Though their circumstances were different, the variation in outward detail was insignificant. The same parts of their nature were tested, and the same virtues were disciplined. Thus this prophet becomes the link between us, who are the disciples of Christ, and the Israelites who crossed the Jordan.
II. THAT IN EVERY LIFE THERE ARE A FEW BRIEF BUT INTENSE TRIALS. There was the long and weary strain of desert life to be constantly borne. The passage of the sea and the river came but twice, and then lasted but a few hours, though the agony for the time was intense. They entered the sea in a night of awful storm, because the terror of their enemies was upon them. They entered the river in broad daylight in utter trust of God, knowing that only thus could the enjoyment of Canaan's goodly land be theirs. One was a struggle of fear, the other the yielding of all to God in simple faith. In the Christian life peace only comes after this second struggle.
III. THAT LIFE BEFORE AND AFTER SUCH A CRISIS IS WHOLLY DIFFERENT. The Red Sea was the boundary line between bondage and freedom; the Jordan between wandering and rest, between hope and possession. It seems as though such struggles were the birth-throes of a new life. To pass on to a higher plane such struggle must be encountered. It was such a trial as God called upon Job to pass through.
IV. THAT ONE SUCH CRISIS IS DEATH. In the life of Christ it would appear that the temptation connected with His baptism was His Red Sea, just as St. Paul tells us that the sea was Israel's baptism: "They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea." We know that this temptation was one of the crises of our Saviour's life. Then the devil leaveth Him for a season, not to return with like power until he meets Him again at Gethsemane. This was Christ's Jordan. Not until this was passed was His sorrow vanquished or His labour "finished." When Christian reached this river he was dazed and despondent, and began to look this way and that to see if he could not escape the river. Truly, death is the last and not the least enemy.
V. THAT HUMAN FRIENDSHIP CAN AVAIL BUT LITTLE HERE. Friends may say, "I am with you" in sympathy; but they can render no help. Viewing the struggle, they may long to share it, but here they must leave their friends in the hands of God.
VI. THAT GOD IS WITH US IN ALL SUCH CRISIS MOMENTS. Hopeful's comforting words did Christian little good. But he heard a voice say, "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee." Indeed, that is His name, Immanuel, God with us. And Christ has said, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end." If God has brought us through the sea, if He has commenced the good work within us, He will bring us through the Jordan, and thus complete what He has begun. In virtue of such a precious promise we need have no fear.
(R. C. Ford, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.