18 December 2013

Isaiah 54:1-10

"My steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed." (v. 10)


Today's passage ends with a vivid extended metaphor, echoes of which can be heard throughout the Old Testament: the relationship between God and God's own beloved people seen as a marriage, with all its commitments, risks and joys. That relationship has been through some very hard times, but here is the prospect of peace, harmony and intimate fellowship.

The prophet begins this chapter with a stirring call to prepare ambitious plans for growth in territory, in numbers, in prosperity, or in community contentment. It is easy to overlook the subtleties here. Are we talking reality here, or is it imagery? Is this a real prediction of physical growth and abundance, or is this talk of expansionism itself a metaphor for something else?

It is at this point that the unifying role of these later chapters can be seen, in 'drawing together' the message of the entire book . The call of God is to proclaim to all the nations the message of blessing, even at the cost of suffering, ridicule and death.

Verse 7 begins with a reference to time. God's calculation of "a brief moment" suggests that our human sense of waiting owes its origin to the constraints of our human existence. Our sense of time is in sharp contrast to God's.

To Ponder

  • How do you react to the idea that Isaiah's announcement of prosperity might represent something other than worldly wealth?
  • When Isaiah talks of the call of God to 'proclaim' his blessing to all the nations. To what extent is this just a matter of words?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr John Ogden

John Ogden spent most of his life (he is now in his late 70s) teaching Computer Science in the universities of Glasgow and Reading. A local preacher since 1964, he served the Reading and Silchester Circuit as a circuit steward in the 1980s, then candidated for (non-stipendiary) ministry.