25 October 2007

Isaiah 54:11-17

"O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted, I am about to set your stones in antimony, and lay your foundations with sapphires ..." (v.11)


Prophets, such as Isaiah, had warned the people of Israel that if they didn't mend their ways, then God would punish them by using other nations nearby to conquer them and take them away from their own land. The first hearers of these words were experiencing the consequences promised - they were in exile in Babylon.

The prophets also offered hope - God had not forgotten his people and would take them back to their own land. Future problems would not be caused by God. Eventually the people would prosper - this is what they can look forward to.

Verses 11-13 are about the glories and beauties that will be seen in Jerusalem when it has been rebuilt. Verses 14-17 reassure the people that they will know peace and security.

Antimony can mean black mineral powder used by women to give more brilliance to their eyes - the eye liner of the day if you like. Or it can be the finest mortar. Is the word used to indicate beauty rather than strength?

The description of the heavenly Jerusalem in the book of Revelation owes something to the verses here describing the new earthly Jerusalem (Revelation 21:18-21).

'The heritage of the servants and their vindication' - what is Isaiah saying here? God's people, those who live in his way, will inherit peace. They will know God's love and care. Whatever the storms tossing the people, it will not always remain that way. There is hope and peace to come.

To Ponder

That opening line recognises a painful reality for many people, perhaps for you too?

Who are the storm-tossed ones to whom you can offer comfort, or who need including in your prayers?

Bible notes author

Revd Helen White

Helen White is a Methodist minister, currently serving in the Wantage and Abingdon circuit in south Oxfordshire. She has particular responsibility for Blewbury, Didcot, Milton and Upton Methodist churches, as well as sharing in the work of other churches across the circuit.