It’s too bad in a way that we can’t ignore the context of texts like Isaiah the way the literalists do. But we can’t. Not if we’re going to be true to our faith. I can understand how the ancient Israelites, scattered “to the four winds” in various exiles, would find comfort in a prophecy of being gathered together. I can even understand how they’d find considerable solace in the idea that the people of other countries would be traded for them as “ransom.”
And I can understand how the early organizers of Christianity would find it appealing to draw on that imagery in creating the idea of Jesus’ crucifixion as being a “ransom” for humanity.
But I can’t accept it as a modern metaphor for our relationship with Theos/God.
What I can accept is the understanding that Theos is always intertwined with us. That our inseverable relationship means that God will be with us whether we walk through fire or cross surging rivers, real or figurative.
We can draw on that relationship for the strength and determination to meet the challenges of a life that calls us to live less selfishly and more generously than we could ever otherwise manage.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, Isaiah 43:2-3