5 January 2017

Isaiah 49:1-13

“Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing!” (v. 13)

Psalm: Psalm 97


Prophesy is sometimes characterised as a prediction about the future … this is what will happen one day. However, like many prophesies, these words offer hope in a crisis that already exists.

Prediction narrows the future down to something. 'You will meet a tall dark handsome stranger!' No matter what you do to avoid such a frightening prospect, the prediction comes true and you see that your every action was a step in that direction!

Prophesy does the opposite. Prophesy opens the future from a despairing certainty to new possibilities.

Promise is not prediction because promises turn our eyes away from the dreadful prospects of tomorrow to a time where "they will not hunger or thirst" (v. 10). Promise creates hope because of the one who promises, and so Isaiah's words are from the Lord, "the Redeemer of Israel" (v. 7). This God has a track record and God's reliability as the redeemer is the basis on which the present crisis can be faced.

What makes these passages in Isaiah stand out even more is the way that the message is given to those that feel so utterly despised and rejected (verse 7). Prophesy speaks into darkness and sadness with a promise that is trustworthy only because of the one who makes it. This isn't positive thinking: Looking on the bright side. Hope is different from optimism. Optimism sees a glass empty and declares it half full. Hope, on the other hand, notices the half empty glass, and hears the word of God that speaks of one 'full to the top and running over'. The response to such promise is thus joy, "sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth".

To Ponder

  • Where are the hungry and thirsty places for you now?
  • Where are we sometimes despised?
  • What promises of God fill you with joy because of your trust in God?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Mark Wakelin

Born in Africa to missionary parents, Mark Wakelin is a Methodist minister, He was the President of the Methodist Conference 2012/2013, and before that worked for the Connexional Team, as the secretary for internal relationships. He is now the minster at Epsom Methodist Chuch.