“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you (Isaiah 43:2a).’”
The twelve boys, aged 11-16, and their coach decided to explore a cave in the Chiang Rai province of Thailand after a soccer match. Their fun day of spelunking soon turned deadly serious when heavy rains flooded the cave and there they remained trapped for more than two weeks. (1) Oxygen levels in the cave began to deteriorate making a risky, complex rescue necessary. One volunteer, a former Thai Navy SEAL, died in his efforts to aid in the rescue and his death serves as a testament to how dangerous this operation was. In order to be saved, each of these boys had to go through the waters, and through tight narrow passages to escape from their deep earth imprisonment.
There are several historical examples that the Bible records to demonstrate this truth that the only path to salvation is through water. The Israelites found themselves trapped against the Sea and threatened by the Egyptian army (Exodus 14:9). It appeared that they had no escape from death, until God provided a passage of escape for them through the sea (vv.21-22, 1 Corinthians 10:1-2). Naaman was the commander of the Syrian army but received the awful report that he had leprosy, a death sentence in those days. Although he couldn’t understand the directions for his path of recovery he followed them, dipping seven times in the Jordan River (2 Kings 5:14). After emerging from the stream, he was healed. The clearest demonstration of this principle of course is the epic flood in Noah’s days as all of mankind was facing a grim fate (Genesis 6:5-7). No one could not avoid the total engulfment of the earth and certain death, except those who had followed the only plan of deliverance through the Ark (Genesis 6:13-14). Peter tells us that it was through this desperate plan that only eight souls were saved from the deadly deluge (1 Peter 3:20-21).
Such is the fate of all mankind. Each of us have walked this world, and because of our own sin have become trapped, unable to save ourselves and escape our deadly confinement. Our only way to be delivered is through the water. Jesus said that our only rescue from this world and into the kingdom of God is to be born again, of water and the Spirit (John 3:3-5). Paul, in His letter to the Romans, reminded those Christians that they had been baptized into Christ (Romans 6:3-11). Although sin will certainly bring death (Romans 6:23), since they had already been buried with Christ in the watery grave of baptism, they had also been raised to life with Him. He communicated this same sentiment to the Christians in Colossae, that they had been raised to life having emerged through the waters of baptism (Colossians 2:11-14).
For a few days, these youths in Thailand were buried in the earth and their odds of rescue were diminishing. But thank God, they have been raised and now have the promise of life. In short, they provide us with a picture of the resurrection to come (John 5:28-29). Just as Noah and his family were “saved through water”, the inspired Apostle promises that baptism does now save YOU (1 Peter 3:20-21). There’s nothing special about the water itself, but baptism, in the New Covenant, involves a proper response of obedience to the commandments of God. The reaction of some to this direction of the Bible is as Naaman’s initial response of skepticism. But like Naaman, the Israelites at the Red Sea, Noah’s family, and these young soccer players in Thailand – the path to life requires all to go through the water.
“For it is not a futile thing for you, because it is your life, and by this word you shall prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to possess (Deuteronomy 32:47).”