Saturday

15 September 2012

Isaiah 35:1-10

"And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." (v. 10)


Background

This prophecy in Isaiah may be later than much of First Isaiah and may have come from the time of the Babylonian exile, with a vision of the end of exile, the return to Zion, and the redemption of God's people. Its central theme is that the natural order will be dramatically transformed and that the "ransomed of the Lord" will come with joy into Israel. The signs of redemption are linked with earlier prophecy in Isaiah, especially with the restoration of Lebanon in Isaiah 29:17-18, where the blind see and the deaf here, motifs that are echoed in Mark's story of healing that we read earlier this week.

The basic concern of this passage is for restoration and wholeness, whether for human beings or for the natural world. The chapter as a whole, particularly verses 5-7, is used in the Gospels as signs of God's redemption of Israel through the ministry of Jesus (eg Luke 4:16-21). In the context of Isaiah, though, it is important to remember that the blind and the deaf are the whole community, the people of God, who are restored to full humanity by the gracious redemption of God.

The biblical use of the words "redeem" and "ransom" (in verses 9-10) tend to be heard by modern readers in religious terms. In the Old Testament however, the terms also have political and economic meaning. In the exodus tradition (when the Israelites were freed from servitude in Egypt, documented in the book of Exodus), these terms mean actual release from physical slavery.

Isaiah 35 proclaims the good news of God's care for the people of God. Those who experience their lives as exiles, those who pass through a wilderness, those who are weak or disadvantaged may indeed shout for joy, for God will transform all things. The very proclamation of these things has the power to transform ordinary lives and the realities of this world.


To Ponder

  • Isaiah promises the end of suffering and a transformation of human life. What signs do you see around you that this prophecy might be coming true?
  • Isaiah suggests that the people of God are restored to full humanity by God's redemption. How have you experienced this restoration in your own life?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Susan Graham

As the training officer and development enabler in the Bristol District, Susan's work has focused recently on developing new ways to train local preachers, which enables her to combine her love of teaching and her passion for excellence in theological education. She is a New Testament scholar who specialises in historical Jesus study, and she has just published her first (and probably only!) book on the subject.