Thursday 17 December 2020

Bible Book:

They shall be called, 'The Holy People, The Redeemed of the Lord'; and you shall be called, 'Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken'. (v. 12)

Isaiah 62:1-12 Thursday 17 December 2020

Psalm 40:1-10


The reading today concerns audacious hope. And there’s more: the Old Testament prophet Isaiah said of the one who would save his people: 

…he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
 He was despised and rejected by others;
    a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;
and as one from whom others hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him of no account. (Isaiah 53: 2-3)

There does not seem to be a lot of hope there, and the contrast is necessary. The context then and now is important. The book of Isaiah is thought by scholars to have three distinct parts. Circumstances change. This part of Isaiah 53 speaks of how God brings hope. It is unexpected because the hope-bringer was not going to be born in auspicious circumstances. And then in Isaiah 62, we read how years later, when the people are nearing the end of their exile, they have their expectations raised: "They shall be called, 'The Holy People, The Redeemed of the Lord'" (Isaiah 62:12).

As we read this today we need to remember that it was written for its own time. It may not speak literally to us now. But Scriptures endure. They are inspired, in in the sense that they still say something to succeeding generations. What they say might now be different, but there is a thread or a theme which concerns our humanity and God’s nature which still matters, and perhaps will always matter.

 As I read the words of our text I am conscious of the inestimable value that God places on all of us, as the people in Old Testament times believed that they were of value even when they were slaves in exile. That offers 'audacious hope' (to use Barach Obama's phrase when he was elected US president). But there is a rider. That hope is embodied for us today in those around us, not in a brash leader, but in the humble, rejected and despised in whom we will meet both the baby placed in a cattle trough and the Christ, the embodiment of 'God in humanity'. The promise is of great hope. The balancing warning against human arrogance, I believe.

To Ponder: 

  • Who offers us hope in the world today?
  • How can we offer hope to people we meet in our day-to-day lives?
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