Last Sunday we (Cornerstone Church) had our first large Baptism Celebration event where about 35 people were baptized, including a whole group of young confirmands. To me at least, this was an incredible event in the life of this little church in Auburn. Baptism should be a celebration, a time of renewing and commitment to the Lord, but sometimes the Christian Church body makes this such a solemn, if not somber event in a believers life when it should be one of excitement and joy.
For some reason, that afternoon in my mind, the story of Phillip and the Eunuch kept coming to my mind. This story told in the book of Acts (Acts 8:26-40) has a tone of excitement and joy. The Eunuch was so excited to be baptized that he made Phillip baptize him in the first bit of water he saw. I can just see this Eunuch, reading the book of Isaiah one minute, and the next just jumping up and down pointing at the water pleading with Phillip to be baptized.
And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.
So, last Sunday, we as a church, baptized a group of people with two horse troughs side by side. Before they went under we all worshiped with the band leading, and afterwards we all ate hotdogs and hamburgers and had some time to just fellowship with one another. The photos below are a small representative of the evening. I will have some posted to the Flickr photo stream shortly, and will upload a set to the Church’s Facebook page or go to straight to the Baptism Celebration Album on Facebook. I love the expressions on their faces when they come up out of the water, proclaiming a new life in Christ.
I have been walking, and sometimes running, through the book of Isaiah over the last week or two. There are so many incredible passages in Isaiah, but this morning I came across something that made me stop, it was just one phrase, just four words, “not one is missing” (Isaiah 40.26.d). This passage, in context is Isaiah 40:25-26, is talking about the pagan worship practices, many of Isaiah’s contemporaries had failed to resist, which now surrounded the Israelites. They often worshipped astrological phenomena, but Isaiah here is saying that Israel’s God is the only thing worthy of worship, and he created the stars themselves.
Apparently astronomers say there were about 5,000 stars visible in ancient Israel, so saying that God created these stars would have been an awe-inspiring thing (and it reminded me of the star images above from last summer). What is always so awe-inspiring to me, in a time and culture where not many people worship the actual stars, astronomers now estimate there are more than 400 billion stars in our own Milky Way galaxy, there are 125 billion galaxies in the universe, making the total number of stars 1×1022, or about 10 billion trillions. If this isn’t mind boggling enough to contemplate, Isaiah says God knows all these stars by name! In His own strength He created, controls, and sustains millions upon millions of stars, each one of which He, amazingly, has named (cf. Ps. 147:4).
I’m not even sure I can fully understand what 10 billion trillion is in a numerical order. The only thing I could think to compare a number like that to is something huge, like our national debt which is around 15.6 trillion. Even something we are told is as huge as the national debt looks absolutely minuscule when compared to how many stars God has created. The point being of course, if God knows the name of every single star, such a God will surely never forget even one of his own people. After all, there are only about 7 billion of us for God to remember!
I am in the middle of reading three different reading plans from YouVersion (I rotate reading from one particular plan each day), and today in the Canonical Plan started the book of Isaiah. I put off starting the book for a week or two because of its depth and heaviness, but today was the day. This is one of my favorite Old Testament books, probably because it is one that I understand the least, but three verses really stuck with me, Isaiah 1:18, 19, and 20.
Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.
At first I just read that above and moved on. I love that “let us reason together,” but if we stop there we miss the point. There is a decision to be made for that statement to come to pass on our lives, and it’s from verse 18, “if you are willing and obedient,” and verse 19, “but if you refuse and rebel.”
The decision is for Christ, and without Christ, verse 18 will never come to pass. The word from the Lord is a simple, yet a profound, if-then statement. Our sins will be forgiven if we trust and obey. This of course is not a full and complete exegetical look at verse 18-20, but at the start of this Holy Week, the incredible fact of Isaiah and the rest of Scripture is it all points to the saving work of Christ, done on the cross, which we traditionally observe starting on Thursday with a Maundy Thursday prayer vigil (see last year) followed by Good Friday.