8 February 2012

Isaiah 59:15-21

"This is my covenant with them, says the Lord; my spirit is upon you, and my words that I put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth ... from now on and forever." (v. 21)


In the middle of this dark passage, God seems to be entirely absent to God's people. There is a lack of justice, and God's people have been shown to be hypocritical in their worship and their repentence. We are told that into this situation, God looked and was displeased (verse 15). 

In the topsy-turveyiness of the kingdom, however, we should not be surprised that the apparent absence of God is actually the very point of the discovery of God. When there is no-one else left to make the difference - when God appears to have lost hope even in God's own people - God girds himself, and enters into the situation.

God does not leave the people alone and in distress, but instead gives the people what they need. God will bring forth a redeemer who will bring about a kingdom of justice, and who will demonstrate what it is to live in a grace-filled way. The light will dawn in the darkness, and the shadows will have nowhere to hide their power over people and places any longer. 

God offers a promise to the people - a promise that God will move into the neighbourhood, and will transform the difficulties of life. And as that happens, God's people will be offered the chance to respond afresh to this act of compassion. The laments of previous chapters will no longer be hollow hymns of sanctimony, but instead will be heartfelt declarations of repentence. 

All of this will come to pass because of the Spirit of God (in Hebrew 'the ruach') that has been spoken here by Isaiah, and to which the Israelites had experienced themselves. This is the promise, the story and the hope that will continue to transform every generation. This is because God is not an absent God, but a God of great compassion, grace, mercy, love and justice. This will come about through the Spirit of God, as God's people continue to be transformed into God's likeness - people who are full of grace and truth. 

To Ponder

How have you experienced the topsy-turvyiness of God's kingdom?

Do you agree that it is often in the absence of God that God is to be found? Why/why not?

How are you helping others to be transformed into Jesus' likeness today?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Joanne Cox-Darling (1)

Joanne Cox-Darling is a Methodist presbyter currently serving in the Wolverhampton Circuit, where most recently she participated in a harvest festival in a farmyard, surrounded by a 'small' dairy herd of nearly 200 cattle. Joanne is the chair of the Christian Enquiries Agency ( - described by the Archbishop of York as the "possibly the easiest form of evangelism you will ever do".