Saturday 03 March 2018

Bible Book:

you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.” (v 13)

Isaiah 66:10-13 Saturday 3 March 2018

Psalm: Psalm 29


The tender and beautiful imagery we encountered in yesterday’s passage continues today (though we have again skipped forward a little in Isaiah). Now the prophet is speaking of the rebirth of the nation of Israel. Zion, the hill upon which the city of David (ancient Jerusalem) was built is personified as a mother in labour, with God as her midwife, promising a safe delivery for her children, the people of Israel.

When these words were written, childbirth was not just painful and difficult, as it often is for women in the West today – it was downright dangerous for both mother and child. Sadly, this is still the case today for many women who live in developing nations. So, the assurance of safety in the process of (re)birth offers an especially powerful and joyful image. Israel’s rebirth as a people returning from exile and slavery in a foreign land, the re-creation of their identity and prospects is certain to be no easy feat, but God promises that all will be well: God as the midwife in this image knows what she’s doing – mother and children are in safe hands.

I think it’s especially interesting that the mother portrayed in the first half of this reading is ‘Zion’, the holy mountain. This metaphor expresses very clearly the importance – no, the centrality - of this physical place for Israel’s identity as a people. Their identity cannot be divorced from this place, and their future prosperity depends upon it. It is Zion’s resources from which they will “drink deeply with delight” and be satisfied (v. 11). And yet, Zion is not to be confused with God – and the shift in verse 13 from Zion as mother and comforter to God as mother and comforter is highly significant. The land will rebirth and sustain God’s people, but God is the ultimate provider, sustainer and parent of Israel.

To Ponder

  • God has traditionally been portrayed as male by Christian writers and preachers – how do you feel about the image of God as a mother?
  • Is there a physical place – or a type of place - that you feel is strongly linked to your identity and wellbeing? Does having to share that place lessen or enhance the sense of identity you draw from it?
  • Do you experience God as a kind of divine ‘parent’? How does that influence your relationships with others?
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