Thursday

19 January 2012

"Thus says the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker: Will you question me about my children, or command me concerning the work of my hands?" (v. 11)

Background

God has revealed the plan to Israel to use Cyrus as the agent of restoration to home, city and temple (Isaiah 44:26-28). However dissent seems to be the response to the idea to use a foreigner and a Gentile (non-Jew) to end the period of exile. There is fear that the homecoming will be as subjects of a pagan king, with the holy city of Jerusalem and the temple rebuilt under his direction. God's response is to underline that there is no 'plan B' and that both creation and salvation are only possible by the hand of the Lord.

By means of two pictures (verses 9-10), God underlines that as a nation of created beings, Israel is entirely dependent upon the creator. Clay is powerless to mould itself, but only becomes formed through the hands of the potter, and a child is unable to choose a father during conception, nor a mother during birth. Both the pot and the baby are dependent entirely upon a power beyond themselves for their existence. Like a rebellious child, Israel is now questioning God's purpose for their future, suggesting they are forgetful of the divine grace of the past. Through Cyrus, God is proposing to offer Israel freedom and salvation from exile, but the exiles seem to have become choosy as to how they wish to be freed and saved.

God however will not be deflected from the divine purpose, and that purpose includes raising Cyrus for the task (verse 13) every bit as much as it involves the freedom and restoration of Israel. There are alternatives on offer: the path of idolatry can be taken which leads to shame and confusion (verse 16) but to remain faithfully within the divine purpose is retain a unique identification with God. There is no conflict, ultimately, between Israel's identity, the instrument who has been chosen to restore its fortunes and the divine nature of the Eternal One "who is with you alone, and there is no other" (v. 14).

To Ponder

In what ways are you creative? When have you created something and "it was very good" (Genesis 1:31)? How did you feel?

Which of the images offered in Isaiah (the pot, the baby) do you find most helpful in reflecting on the relationship between creator and creation? Why? What other images of your own do you find more insightful?

Bible notes author: The Revd Tim Woolley

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