Tuesday 22 March 2016

Bible Book:

Isaiah 49:1-7 Tuesday 22 March 2016

Psalm: Psalm 71


As ever with the Old Testament prophetic writings, we tend tosee two tiers of meaning here - the meaning for then and themeaning for all time. Isaiah was writing to a people living inexile, whose fates were at the whim of the ruling powers. They wereconquered by the Babylonians, who exiled the religious andpolitical leaders, and those with power and influence in society.And then the Persians conquered the Babylonian Empire, and theirmethod of rule was very different. They allowed their subjectpeoples to live according to their own traditions, in their ownlands, albeit under imperial rule.

Isaiah had a message of partial comfort for the people of Israel- not that they would be free or independent, but that they wouldat least be allowed to go home and rebuild their ruined cities andtemple. We might imagine the Israelites hearing his words, hearingthe promise that Israel will once again claim her land and heritagefrom the "peoples from far away" (v. 1), but still feeling that the"victory" is somewhat hollow, and that her strength is spent fornothing.

Would they also have heard their own glory proclaimed in thesecond half of the passage? The servant referred to there, who willbring Jacob (or Israel) back, could be Israel. She has beendespised and humiliated, but will one day be great again. Or itcould refer to the Emperor of Persia, Darius, who continued thepolicy of allowing the exiles to return. He came from comparativelyhumble origins, but became the most powerful ruler in the region,so would fit the description in verse 7.

As 21st-century Christians, however, we read it with differenteyes. This is Holy Week, and we are turning our attention more andmore to the cross - the place of Christ's humiliation and victory.We see him despised and yet a Redeemer. We see him dying not justto restore Israel, but to be a light to all the nations, so thathis salvation might reach to the end of the earth.

To Ponder

  • Isaiah sees the political events of his day as part of God'sactions. Kings and emperors defeat or liberate Israel, but it isGod who is in control. To what extent is it possible to hold such aperspective as we look at the world in which we live?
  • Where do you see God active in world events? To whom (ifanyone) does God say, "I will give you as a light to the nations"(v. 6)?
  • How might you and/or the Church help those displaced from theirhomelands today? What message of hope can we offer?
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