15 December 2016

Isaiah 29:17-24

“The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord, and the neediest people shall exult in the Holy One of Israel. For the tyrant shall be no more, and the scoffer shall cease to be; all those alert to do evil shall be cut off.” (vv. 19-20)

Psalm: Psalm 73:1-14


This selection of verses comes as a message of prophetic hope immediately after a darker part of Isaiah (Isaiah 29:1-16). Following a judgement in the form of a siege of Jerusalem we have this message of hope. It begins with fertility and transformation of the land and then moves to transformation for people.

One common feature of these messages of hope in Isaiah is that hope is for the people who need it most. Isaiah doesn't prophesy that the rich will pay lower taxes or that those enjoying great privilege will be blessed. Instead this is a hope that the people who need lifting the most will be blessed the most. Some of the examples are common in Scripture for instance that the deaf will hear and the blind see (Luke 4:16-20, where Jesus quotes Isaiah, and Jesus' various healing miracles). Others are less so, such as the meek obtaining fresh joy and the neediest exulting.

In contrast to these hopes the hymn sees the end for tyrants, for scoffers, those "alert to do evil" and those who deny justice.

So "hope for the future" is both a building up and a tearing down. Perhaps this vision from stands in contrast to the rhetoric in the UK today, where we might expect to see tabloid headlines about scroungers being treated better than hard-working families, and of people not getting what they deserve.

Instead of 21st-century tabloid values Isaiah is laying out hope in terms of kingdom values. In God's kingdom nobody gets left behind, nobody is left disadvantaged, nobody is ignored and all are celebrated. In our world this can be twisted by the rich and powerful to make them appear as victims themselves.

Whereas in God's kingdom, we can experience life, freedom, joy at new higher levels because those who are currently suffering also get that life, freedom and joy. Isaiah challenges the view prevalent today that we can't be happy unless it is at the expense of others. The beauty of God's kingdom is that the joy of others makes our joy complete.

To Ponder

  • Where have you found joy when others have been lifted up?
  • Where in the world today do you see the greatest need for the hope that Isaiah offers?
  • Imagine a world where tyrants are no more. What might that look like for you?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dave Warnock

Dave Warnock is a Methodist minister in the Leicester North Circuit based in Syston, Leicester. He is passionate about lots of things (including Scripture, discipleship, gender/sexual equality, pacifism and cycling) and loves being part of the Methodist people.