28 November 2013

Isaiah 41:8-20

"I will put in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle and the olive; I set in the desert the cypress, the plane and the pine together, so that all may see and know, all may consider and understand, that the hand of the LORD has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it." (vv. 19-20)


Chapter 41 of Isaiah's prophecy is set within a trial of the nations. Today's passage however, is a moment of refreshment in the midst of the condemnation of Israel. It offers assurance, grounded in past testimony, of God's provision. God's rearrangement of creation will take place, not just to supply Israel's need, but to testify to God's lordship over creation - "so that all may see and know".

The prophet's message was not just for then, but forever. There is promise of an end to God's judgement and the sending forth of a new agent for a new time is central to the testimony. It is the point of the whole message - guarding God's sovereignty; the freedom to open stopped ears and the ability to send alongside agents of judgement agents of grace and favour.

It is good to try and remember this when we find ourselves in places of darkness or doubt. Like the proverbial hunting dog that must return to where it lost the scent, God will return us to the place where the divine plan was revealed and will show us how God means to make good on promises. God may be about to do a new and strange thing in commissioning something we simply could not have imagined when we were first shown the way.

The prophet reasserts that all things and all times are in God's hands. We are not to welcome times of hardship and judgement, nor are we to search them out. But God will use them to make us cling to God as our source of life, strength and hope. It is up to us, therefore, to press our case before God. Suffering and disregard are never simply relieved, but they are redeemed and pressed into service for the glory of God.

To Ponder

  • How does, or should, the Church help to announce the presence of God in times of hardship and darkness?
  • What situations in the life of the world must we address with our message of hope?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Adrian Burdon

The Revd Dr Adrian Burdon is superintendent minister at Oxford Place Centre (part of the Leeds Methodist Mission), former mission partner to Tonga and founding member of the Leeds 'Street Chaplains' scheme..