Thursday

05 January 2012

"Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion, for great in yuor midst is the Holy One of Israel." (v. 6)

Background

This short chapter from the prophet Isaiah needs to be read alongside chapter 11 (often read during Advent), where the Messiah is foretold, bringing with him a peaceful kingdom where "the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord" (Isaiah 11:9). From out of Israel comes a promise of universal proportions, and chapter 12 tells of the thanksgiving and praise that will result. God's anger has turned to comfort as people will turn towards God for strength and salvation, and this will lead to thanksgiving and joy. There are echoes here of the joyful songs of Moses and Miriam after the crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 15). God is bringing about a second exodus: a rescue that will reach the ends of the earth: "Make known his deeds among the nations!" (v. 4) "Let this be known in all the earth" (v. 5).

The end of chapter 12 brings a little break in Isaiah, and so the curtain for the interval brings with it a rousing song and a tantalising revelation: the one who will come, the one who will save, is none other than the "Holy One of Israel" - the Lord, God, Yahweh. Of course God is great, God saves and delivers as God always has, God is righteous and holy, but is coming 'in their midst', among them. Perhaps where they would least expect him.

At Christmas we think about the Messiah coming to earth as Jesus, born in Bethlehem, and the focus of this passage is often read as being about the Messiah's second coming. Although Christ has come, the full completion of his work is yet to be seen. But perhaps, in Christ, the two events cannot be separated: he who will come is the one who came and remains 'in our midst'. The name Isaiah means 'Yahweh is salvation', and this is the same as Joshua, who completed the first exodus, and Jesus, who brings about the final act of God's saving love.

To Ponder

Read John 1:10-14. What does it mean to you that Jesus "lived among us" (v. 14)?

Can you think of times when you have felt God's anger turn to comfort and joy? What happened?

When have you encountered something of God 'in your midst' recently? Or where has God been made known to you unexpectedly? What was the result?

Bible notes author: The Revd Andrew Murphy

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