8 “When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord God, and you became mine. 9 Then I bathed you with water and washed off your blood from you and anointed you with oil. 10 I clothed you also with embroidered cloth and shod you with fine leather. I wrapped you in fine linen and covered you with silk.
What do we mean by baptism? I can think of no greater description than Yahweh’s in Ezekiel 16. The way God delivered and cared for his people, even amidst sin, is a model for how he deals with us individually from birth. God is a God who richly bestows favor on his people. And these favors begin from the earliest days of life if the biblical narrative is to be taken seriously. So what is God doing to this child at this ceremony we call baptism? We can be certain of at least three promises:
One, we can say that God shows love to this child. According to Ezekiel he is at “the age of love.” At this stage of life the world is a gigantic place filled with gigantic people. For the infant, the world is most like a fairy tale right now. Everything is out of proportion. They are completely dependent. They are ready to be loved. They are ready to trust. The Psalmist puts confidence in his God very early, according to Psalm 22: “Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother‘s breasts.” The infant is prepared to trust, be loved and nourished. And it is precisely at this stage that God acts on behalf of the child. The text says that Yahweh “spread the wing of his garments over the child and covered his nakedness.” God is acting here with motherly affection. As Ruth was protected by the covering of Boaz, the child is protected by the covering of Yahweh.
Second, in baptism we can say that God makes a vow toward his own, and enters into a covenant with his own. He declares, “You are mine.” Baptism is the marking of the child with the name of God. Baptism is the fulfillment of the third commandment. Wherever Rhett Hoffman goes, there he carries the Name of His God. And because God is his God, he should not take his name in vain. It was not Rhett who moved towards God, it was God who moved towards Rhett, because baptism is all by grace and grace alone.
Finally, God says, “Then I bathed you with water and washed off your blood from you and anointed you with oil.” The language here could be developed in a thousand sermons, but simply put, “baptism is the clothing of God put on the child.” The nakedness of Adam cannot be exposed. The Covenant covers. And with what does God cover his own? He covers them with embroidered cloth and fine linen. Is there a more glorious picture of baptism? The God of heaven and earth interferes into time and space to clothe this child this morning in holy baptism.
In baptism, new life is given; a new community is inherited; a new name is bestowed. Though the nations are thrown down, God is planting a new one this morning with a few drops of water.
Mike and Ashley, happy is the family whose trust is in God. You have trusted and continue to trust in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This morning I urge you to remind little Rhett daily of the God who claimed him as his own; when he sins remind him; the God who clothed him with royal clothing; when he sins remind him; the God who entered into covenant with him; when he sins remind me that he may walk in the ways of God, his father, Jesus his Savior, and the Spirit his comforter all his days. Amen.