Thursday 20 September 2012

Bible Book:

"Now I will cry out like a woman in labour." (v. 14)

Isaiah 42:10-16 Thursday 20 September 2012


Until quite recently, I would say that the most distress that Ihad seen a person in was when people who I'd been playing footballagainst had broken bones. They might hear or feel the break intheir leg or ankle and howl out in pain and anxiety. It was hard tosee people who were beside themselves with that kind of pain, butwhen I was there while my son was born, and things got more andmore complicated, then all of those times on the football pitchseemed completely trivial by comparison. My wife was amazingthroughout the whole 48 hours, but there was no getting away fromthe fact that this was the hardest thing that she had ever done inher life. The metaphor that Isaiah uses in verse 14 ("now I willcry out like a woman in labour") has previously passed me by, butsince Freddie was born, I can start to understand what thatmetaphor properly means.

This passage is entitled 'a hymn of praise' in my Bible, and thewriter clearly wishes to express their admiration for the changesthat God implements, and how awesome these acts will be. The imageof God in labour works in this instance in particular becauselabour is a time of transition for a family, for an individual andfor the whole world also; perhaps we might even be able to describeit as one of the most instant transformations that can take place.Isaiah does not shy away from using female images for God, andshows that those who wish God to be masculine miss huge and vitalswathes of ways of thinking about our God. The passage continues,and states that huge changes will take place, now that God hasceased to hold God's own peace. The landscape will change, thedarkness will dissipate, and those who have turned away will turnback to God (verses 14-16).

One aspect of God's character that I struggle to grasp fully isGod's own restorative powers. It's not that I believe God cannotchange everything, but simply that I cannot grasp how that willtake place, and how it is able to be so complete a change. We knowthis future as "new creation", when creation remains, but thatwhich reduces creation's perfection fades away. The theologian Jurgen Moltmann insists that the hope of thisfuture is central to our faith. It is hope that comesoverwhelmingly from this passage in Isaiah, hope that God is withus, that God lives amongst us, that God works towards this futurewhen all will be free from hopelessness, and full of hopefulness.Christ's death and subsequent resurrection are the model for allthat will change, and just how incredibly that change will be.

To Ponder

  • How does the metaphor of labour help your understanding ofGod's work?
  • What does God's restoration mean to you?

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