Thursday 26 March 2015

Bible Book:

and rivers in the desert.” (vv. 18-19)

Isaiah 43:16-21 Thursday 26 March 2015

Psalm: Psalm 131


The book of Isaiah is among the most important Old Testamenttexts for Christians. Themes from different parts of Isaiah's 66books appear in the New Testament and have some part in thedevelopment of Christian understandings of Jesus' ministry andsuffering.

Chapter 43 is part of a longer section (chapters 38-55) whichdevelops the vision of Judah's fall to Babylon and the eventualrestoration of Zion. The theme of the servant is especiallyimportant through this section. The servant, likely a reference tothe people of Israel, is introduced in chapter 40. The divine calling of the servantto be a "light to the nations" is elucidated in chapter 42 (Isaiah42:6). In chapter 43, the crescendo toward the restorationbegins building. The promise of Babylon's fall and punishment,which includes the lament over their demise, comes in Isaiah43:14-15. A hint emerges in the following passages of thepeople's coming freedom. Isaiah's words act like a 'book ofremembrance' by reminding God's people of the Exodus, a definingmoment in their history. Verses 16-17 recall the path God madethrough the (Red) Sea (Exodus14). God's people passed through the waters unharmed, but thepursuing soldiers and chariots were covered over with water anddrowned. Thus, "they lie down, they cannot rise, they areextinguished, quenched like a wick..." (Isaiah43:17b).

Almost with a sense of irony, the words turn from recalling thepast to telling the people to 'remember not the former thing'. Godis about to do a new thing. The past events and behaviour that ledto the exile in Babylon are gone. The text gives way to a string ofseemingly impossible things brought by God's action - pathways inthe wilderness, streams in the desert, and wild beasts honouringthe Lord. These are indeed hopeful words to an exiled people.Although they have sinned and withheld from God their sacrificesand offerings, God is still in relationship with them. God willforgive and renew them.

To Ponder

  • Why is it important to remember what God has done in thepast?
  • In what sense does forgiving mean forgetting wrongs that we orother people have committed?
  • To what extent is the life, death, and resurrection of JesusChrist a 'new thing' that brings forgiveness and renewal?
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