Isaiah 43 - The Valleys, The Narrows, The Heights
*All scripture read from NKJV unless otherwise noted
I will be honest, that for months I have rabbit trailed different studies and scriptures, Yet I keep coming back to this passage of scripture. Once again I find myself not only diving deep into its precious words but also living in the very midst of them.
“But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you.”
These are just the first two verses of Isaiah 43. I have oftentimes paralleled these verses with those found in Psalms 23 verse 4
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
Can you imagine for a moment being one of the Hebrews coming out of Egypt and walking in the middle of the Red Sea? How high the waters must have been around you. The same waters that will soon come crashing down on one of the most powerful armies in the world, bringing Pharaoh and his chariots death and destruction.
Or picture standing in the midst of the river Jordan it’s fast rushing waters hold up all around you towering so high you stand in the shadows as it rises above the sun.
Can you place yourself in the shoes of three righteously defiant Israelites as they jump into the very center of King Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace? The flames, which are so hot the heat alone had consumed the guards holding you, those flames are soaring all around you?
My family and I went to this amazing place called Fritz’s Adventure. It’s pretty much a playground that a 5-year-old boy would design if you asked him to build his dream playground. It’s got underground tunnels, vert ramps, slides, climbing walls, shipping containers with secret passages. So we walk in and my 6-year-old daughter sees the crown jewel of this marvelous place, The Sky Trail. It’s a three story tall ropes course.
“I wanna do that daddy, can we go, can we go?” she says
Oh, beloved are we not like that with our Father? We read the stories of faith in these precious pages of scripture and we say “I wanna do that, I wanna do that!”
So I go with her and we standing under this massive structure and getting our harnesses on, her eyes starting getting big and she’s getting a little quiet. Reality is setting in.
We see this awesome adventure from afar and we say I want to do that but then as we get closer to stepping out in faith reality sets in and we start thinking to ourselves the same thing my daughter was thinking… What have I gotten myself into?
She gets clipped into the safety lanyard and the same girl who had previously run at top speed to get to the sky trail is now walking a half step at a time up the stairs towards the first level. She’s clutching the safety lanyard and her other hand has a death grip on the stair railing. As the lanyard’s pulley slides a little making some noise she jumps. We get to the first level which is about 15ft off the ground. She just kind of looks around in a daze like a deer in headlights.
So many times we start to walk this walk of faith and suddenly our doubts, our insecurities, our fears make some noises in our head, we start to feel a little trepidatious, we don’t know what to do or where to go… even though the trail is right in front of us.
I say to her
“Come on lets’ go this way.“
And we start of this suspension bridge. it’s not a hard obstacle it may bounce up and down a little but it’s closed in on both sides with a safety net and rope handrails. it doesn’t rock side to side or tilt. but’s there is a little wobble and uncertainty. She hasn’t done this before. We slowly make it across and we start the next crossing, it’s a little more unstable, a little harder. She starts to panic just a little and says
“Daddy I wanna go back.”
“Ok sweetheart let’s go”
We descend down the stairs back to the floor and are waiting to get unhooked from the safety tether and she starts to cry.
“What’s wrong baby girl?”
“I’m so sorry daddy, I wanted to stay longer for you. I tried to stay longer but I was so scared.”
Maybe that’s you, you tried to step out in faith, you got a little scared. You feel like Peter, stepping out of the boat, you feel scared, starting to feel unstable, starting to sink you cry out. “Lord save me!”
“I’m done, I can’t do this. I tried, but I can’t I just can’t.”
You feel ashamed, you feel like you let your Father down.
I looked at her and I said “Sweetie it’s ok, you did awesome. Look at the adults in this room who wouldn’t even try this… you did awesome even trying”
Today God is saying the same thing to you. The same words he said to Peter. “Oh, thou of little faith.”
That’s not a condemnation. He’s saying…Look at you, look at what you did with a little faith. There are 11 others who didn’t step out. You did so much with just a little faith.
The day goes on, the kids play hard. We are getting ready to leave and my daughter comes to me and says
“I wanna try the sky trail again… can we please.”
“Yes baby girl we can”
Isaiah 43 verse 1
“… Fear not, for I have redeemed you”
You may feel like you failed, you gave into fear, doubt, insecurity. but your Father says “fear no more, we can do this again”
I took her by the hand just like your Father will for you and we headed back to that valley.
We start to get our harnesses on again and I ask her.
“You sure you wanna do this, you don’t have to do it for me”
She looks at me with a look that could conquer the nations over and says
“I want to, I need to beat my fear”
You see that’s what Faith is about. It’s not about offering your faith as some kind of painful bloodletting sacrifice. Jesus already shed His blood so you don’t have to. Your Master wants your faith to show you what you’re worth. That you plus God with just a little faith can turn the tides of history, can scatter the darkness of fear to its rightful place in hell. He beckons you to step out to show you that you are His. a son, a daughter through Jesus Christ. (Galatians 3:26)
She gets hooked to her lanyard and starts up the steps and I’m already plotting in my head how to help her with the obstacles… but wait… she’s zooming past level one and up the starts to level 2. I follow behind her and we pass level 2 and she ascends all the way to level 3. We are now 45-50 feet off the surface. But you see it’s not just the height that changes, The higher it goes obstacles get harder. The ropes are more unstable and the paths more narrow.
“What now baby girl?” I ask
“I want to go this way, daddy.”
“Yes, baby girl?”
Will you go first? and can you take my hand for the first few steps?”
“You bet baby girl.”
“Fear not for I am with you”
Deuteronomy 31:8 says
“And the LORD, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.”
So this first obstacle is slightly similar to the suspension bridge but it’s individual footpads with a single cord through the center of each one so now they not only bounce but can twist around. And now it’s not closed in with a net type railing, only a thin rope on each side to grab on to.
We start across, Every step she takes I can see she’s scared so I just keep talking to her.
“You got this baby girl, just keep looking ahead towards the end. Look where you wanna finish.”
We get across that and start the next one this time is a single tight rope with a small rope overhead that she can barely reach. She starts breathing faster so I ask
“You ok sweetie you wanna stop?
“No, this is scary yet so exciting”
“Baby girl that’s what following Jesus is like.
That’s why it’s called a walk of faith. It’s scary but so exciting.”
“But Jesus is with us right”
“Yes He is, just keep your eyes on Him like you’re keeping your eyes on the next platform.” (Philippians 3:14)
By this time we are on the third section and it’s the hardest one. It’s a balance beam. Well, it’s actually a pipe that is super narrow and can spin around and there is nothing to hang onto except your own safety lanyard.
As we are crossing it I say to her
“You know the bible talks about what you’re doing right now.”
“Yeah, straight and narrow is the path..”
“The path to Jesus?”
“Yes, the path of faith is narrow.” (Matthew 7:14)
We get off that section and we are standing on a platform waiting to step onto the next section and I ask her.
“Baby girl which is easier. Walking on the floor down there or crossing that beam”
“Walking on the floor”
“But does the floor get this magnificent view?”
And right behind her is this panoramic window with a view of the whole city. She turns and looks out and excitingly shouts
“It’s like I can see the whole world”
You see the path of a valley is narrow lying between two mountains. And as you start to ascend the mountain the path will never get broader only more narrow as we get closer to the summit.
We finish the last two sections and I ask my daughter
“I think I’m done.” she says
So we head back down the stairs we pass by level 2 which has a zip line as part of the course. We go down to the bottom. We get unhooked and as we start to leave and she hangs her head.
“What's wrong baby girl?” I ask
“I’m sorry daddy.”
“I didn’t do the zip line with you, that was a lot for me and I just got tired. I wanted to stay and do it but That was a lot for me.”
Do you feel like that ever beloved? You did something amazing through faith but you had your joy stolen because you think God was hoping to ride a zip line with you?
My 6-year-old daughter just conquered a three-story obstacle course. We were the only ones up there by the way. Everyone else does level 2 with the zip line. She not only beat her fear but the hardest path available. How could I be anything but proud?
Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God.
Most of us have heard that passage in some shape or form, but I want you to think about the inverse of that.
With any faith... even just a little... God starts to burst at the seams with pride for you.
How can He be anything but proud?
“Baby girl I’m so proud of you! Look at what you conquered.” I say pointing to the top level.
Maybe that’s you today. You stepped out in faith, you not only conquer your fear but you did it all by yourself, Just you and Jesus. You didn’t follow the crowd. But you compare your ministry to another church… “I’m sorry God I didn’t have thousands on a weekend.”
You compare your finances to whatever some finance guru preacher is saying you should have in your savings… “I’m sorry I don’t have a bigger bank account to give from Father.”
Stop comparing your walk to others… If you find yourself alone it probably means your right where you need to be.
Look against the words in Isaiah 43 verse 2
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you.”
It says He will be with you. Not hundreds of others with you on the same path, not even a few. When you walk through the trials you are destined for, the valleys that God has prepared for you. It will be you and Him.
Psalm 62:5-6 says
“My soul, wait silently for God alone, For my expectation is from Him.
He only is my rock and my salvation…”
You see when the Israelites passed through the Red Sea it wasn’t all the nations of the world with them… it was just the Hebrews and God.
And when they went through the Jordan it wasn’t even all the entire nation that had come out of Egypt… God had let them wander in the wilderness for 40 years to remove the doubting and unbelieving generation. It was only the ones who believed God’s promise.
When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stood in the midst of the fire there wasn’t even a fraction of the nation of Israel there…. just those three and the other in the fire!
And when Jesus hung on that cursed tree for you and I everyone even the disciple who swore he would fight to death had abandoned Him. He hung there alone.
But here is the good news, here is the Gospel. Romans 8:17
“and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”
Christ suffered alone so that when our trials come we will never be alone.
“I have called you by your name; You are Mine.”
You may be about to approach the waters, you may be taking that first step into the river, or maybe you’re already in the very midst of the fire.
God is calling your name, He’s talking to you, He’s with you.
This is the walk of faith just you and Jesus, it’s scary but so exciting!