13 January 2012

Isaiah 42:10-17

"Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the end of the earth!" (v. 10)


Verses 10-13 are a hymn of praise that reads like one of the psalms, particularly Psalms 96 and 98, both of which start with the same introduction and use similar images of the roaring sea and all on the land joining in the praise of God. The passage conjures up a powerful picture of exciting noisy joyfulness. God is doing new things, the current dark days will soon be a thing of the past (verse 9), and so everything that God has created, across the length and breadth of the known world, offers its thanks and praise.

The song of joy and praise contrasts sharply with the image of God crying out in childbirth (verse 14). It is a vivid picture of God gasping and panting and is one of the few examples of feminine imagery used to describe God in the Bible. It is a reminder of the creation story, when the spirit of God swept over the face of the waters as part of a creative act (Genesis 1:2), as well as Paul's reference to the whole of creation groaning in labour pains as it waits for a new freedom to be brought through Jesus Christ (Romans 8:22).

It is also clear that this event cannot be held back, no matter how painful it might feel at the time. Where once "I have held my peace" (v. 14), now the will of God will not be restrained. Where once the exiles may have felt they could no longer hear God and that they had been abandoned, now there will be no doubt about God's work amongst them and for them. They may have been blind to God's presence, but even in their blindness God will guide them to a better place. They will need to put their trust in God as they travel a way that is unfamiliar, but it will be worthwhile as their current darkness will be turned in to the light of a return to their homeland (verse 16).

To Ponder

Many people find that listening to or taking part in music can bring them closer to God. What music helps you? Try to find time today to listen to music that helps you to sing a song of praise.

How aware are you of your use of masculine or feminine imagery?

What barriers do we place in the way of people with disabilities taking a full part in the life of the Church?

Bible notes author

Dr Richard Vautrey

Richard Vautrey is a local preacher and church steward in Leeds, and a former vice-president of the Methodist Conference. He works as a GP, is an elected member of both the BMA council and Royal College of GPs council as well as being the deputy chair of the BMA's GP committee.