Friday

20 January 2012

"Turn to me and be saved, all the end of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other." (v. 22)

Background

In the book of Isaiah, God has reiterated again and again to Israel the unique relationship they have with the Eternal One who has created them and sustains them, and the divine purpose of their freedom and salvation from exile through the leadership of Cyrus has been outlined. Now, though, the prophet explains more explicitly the full scope of God's purpose.

The special place the Lord holds for Israel is not to be an end in itself, but an illustration of the relationship that God longs for with all humanity, and the means by which this will be achieved. God is affirmed as creator of the heavens and the earth, with the purpose that it would be inhabited (verse 18). The invitation to freedom and salvation is offered universally to those that inhabit the earth (verse 20). But Israel's unique relationship with God is affirmed, since it is the acknowledgment of the nature of the Eternal One in the midst of idolatry that forms the basis for Israel's faithful witness to the world (verse 19). God's election of Israel is thus instrumental to the divine purpose for the salvation of the world: in a similar way that Cyrus is to be used by God for Israel's restoration, so Israel will be used for the offering of salvation to "all the ends of the earth". Whatever the reception of this offer of grace, there will be an ultimate recognition of the divine nature, when "every knee shall bow, [and] every tongue shall swear" (v. 23) and even those in opposition to God shall acknowledge that only in the Lord "are righteousness and strength" (v. 24) to be found. It is a reflection of the honour that God affords to the nation of Israel that its name now comes to signify all those "offspring" who triumph and glory in the Lord (verse 25).

To Ponder

Who are the people whom God has used as instruments for freedom and salvation in your life?

John Wesley described salvation as "the entire work of God, from the first dawning of grace in the soul, till it is consummated in glory" (Sermon 43: The scripture way of salvation). What words might you use to describe the idea of salvation to friends or family for whom the concept or the word is unfamiliar?

Bible notes author: The Revd Tim Woolley

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