13 December 2013

Isaiah 47:1-15

“Our Redeemer – the Lord of hosts is his name – is the Holy One of Israel” (v. 4)


The business of Christmas is in full swing: tills are ringing, cards are being written, joy and goodwill are wished to all and sundry. We are preparing to celebrate the coming of the Christ-child born as a helpless, defenceless baby in a Bethlehem cowshed.

And now in the middle of December we read this passage! The verses can shock us and being us up short. What has this got to do with Advent and Christmas?

But Advent is as much about preparing for the coming of Jesus as a baby as it is about the second coming of Jesus as the ruler and judge (although the second tends to be overlooked). Yet today's passage is a reminder of that latter aspect.

The Jewish people has been conquered and taken into exile in Babylon. But now is the time for Babylon to face the consequences ... The mighty city will be reduced from being likened to a beautiful queen (verse 5) to comparisons with a servant girl or prostitute (verse 8). It will be reduced to menial tasks ("take millstones and grin corn" (v. 2)) and may even be exiled itself, as suggested by the need to "lift up your skirts, bare your legs and wade through the streams" (v. 2) in an undignified journey.

All these words are heartening for the Jewish exiles as they hear the fate of their oppressors, but they are not excluded. In a reference in verse 6 they are reminds of the reason for their exile too - "I was angry with my people and desecrated my inheritance". The laying of a heavy yoke upon the aged (verse 6) could easily be the fulfilment of Moses' curse for disobeying the covenant (Deuteronomy 28:49-50).

In all that is happening, God is in control (whether we like it or not)!

To Ponder

  • How do you react to uncomfortable passages in the Bible like this one? What part does it play in your relationship with God?
  • When in your life have you felt God in control? What did it feel like?
  • How do you relate to the idea of God as judge?

Bible notes author

Ken Kingston

Ken Kingston preaches in the High Wycombe Circuit. He has worked for the Connexional Team since 1992 in a variety of roles and has been involved in 'Called by Name' and 'Time to Talk of God' amongst others.