Wednesday

The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens — wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. (v. 4)

Isaiah 50:1-9 Wednesday 10 April 2019

Psalm: Psalm 55

Background

The brief passage that falls between yesterday’s reading and today’s (Isaiah 49:19-26) continues to develop the theme of transformation and reversal which we met yesterday; God is the God who will save.

The first three verses of chapter 50 conjure up a scenario in which God is the husband, and, it seems, Israel is both the bride/mother (as previously seen, eg 49:18) and also the child of that marriage. The historic disgrace (‘divorce’) of the nation of Israel is not at the hand of God, her husband, but is the consequence of the sin of the current nation. The imagery comes from another era to our own and may sound harsh. (Readers of Thomas Hardy may recall the opening of The Mayor of Casterbridge where Michael Henchard sells his wife and baby daughter at a fair.) Perhaps, however, we can find meaning for today in these verses by comparing them to the tendency found in most generations to blame those who have gone before for the calamities of the current time?

The question of who is responsible for things going wrong is both an ancient and a modern question that can be found in much of Hebrew scripture. Sometimes, as here and in other prophetic passages, the responsibility of Israel’s unhappy history seems to be laid at their own feet; but in other parts of the Old Testament (eg some Psalms and Lamentations) the feeling is expressed that they had been unjustly treated through no fault of their own.

With verse 4, another Servant Song opens (and continues to the end of this passage; the title ‘Servant’ is not used until verse 10). Something of the ambiguous role of the Servant responds to and tries to provide a theological answer to those tensions. The Servant is innocent yet takes upon himself both the consequent suffering of the people (vs. 5-6) and the responsibility to learn and be nourished by the word of God (v. 4). By implication Israel, in accepting the servant nature of her calling, might also demonstrate obedience in the face of ill treatment and in this will be aided by God (vs 7-9).

 

To Ponder:

  • How do you respond to the legal language and the courtroom scenario of the first few verses?
  • Verse 4 uses the phrase "sustain the weary with a word". How have you experienced the words of Scripture as having a sustaining role in your own life?
  • The disgrace and humiliation described in verse 6 might be seen as ‘the cost of redemption’. Who do you understand as having borne this cost? Is there still a role in this for the church today?
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