27 January 2012

Isaiah 50:1-9

"It is the Lord God who helps me; who will declare me guilty?" (v. 9)


The oracle - a prophetic poem - which these verses express picks up key themes of Isaiah 40-55:

  • The meaning of Israel's Exile (verses 1-3). The Israelites are not in exile because God has cast them off or because God is not powerful enough to save. Rather it is in order to learn from their failure and sins that they find themselves in this position.
  • The servant of God is active in God's new purpose(verses 4-9). Though we are never sure who this servant is, nevertheless it is clear that the prophet points to God's servant as an agent of redemption and renewal. Here the teaching of the servant is like that of a good teacher who is able to awaken and sustain. But there is more. The servant is acquainted with suffering and disgrace and yet is convinced that this too can be used in God's plan.
  • The people are called to trust in God. Those who trust can walk into darkness without fear, but those who make their light as kindlers of fire (ie trust in their own strength and autonomy) will find that this kind of artificial light does not help but may even destroy them.

There appears to be a link between recognising God at work in the past and the present, and learning to trust God for the future. 

Today is  Holocaust Memorial Day. The themes of suffering, meaning and trust are poignant subjects when we remember what happened to so many of the Jewish people in the Second World War. We need to be wary of making simple connections between this passage and the day, however. Perhaps we should remember that the writer of Isaiah 50 was an exile and could speak authentically from inside the experience. 


To Ponder

To what extent is it more difficult for you to see God in the past or the present?

Have you ever changed your understanding of the meaning of something in your experience? How and what prompted the change of view?

What are the hardest things for you to trust God over?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Roger Walton

Roger Walton is a Methodist minister and chair of the West Yorkshire Methodist District. From 1999-2010 he was the director of the Wesley Study Centre, Durham and before that was responsible for adult learning and training in the Methodist Church.