Saturday

6 March 2021

Isaiah 66:10–13

As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem. (v. 13)

Psalm 99

Background

In this final chapter of the book of Isaiah we are given insight into the heavenly court, in not a dissimilar way to the first and sixth chapters of the book, which describe a vision of God.

In this vision, Zion is vindicated and her enemies face divine retribution. Imagery of labour and childbirth are used to describe the travail that the people of God suffered in exile, but Zion is now poised give birth to a new land.

The instruction to rejoice with Jerusalem further develops that metaphor, instructing those who mourn over Jerusalem to rejoice with her as with a mother that has given birth to a son. Mourning is neither appropriate nor necessary, for the travails of the city, though traumatic, are now to be understood as labour pains, terrible at the time, but leading to a desirable outcome.

The childbirth imagery then shifts to that of a nursing mother breastfeeding her child. Readers are invited to be nursed by Jerusalem.

Ultimately the imagery shifts once more so that it is no longer Jerusalem portrayed as a nursing mother but God herself: "As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem." (v. 13)

The background to the book of Isaiah is one of exile and trauma. This chapter looks to the imminent blessing and comfort from the God who will comfort as a mother comforts her child.

To Ponder:

  • The idea that the trauma of exile might be viewed as labour pains is a fascinating one. It’s a reminder that, although labour is for most women extremely painful, it is more often than not approached with a different mindset compared to pain resulting from illness or injury. At the risk of oversimplification, that latter pain is an indication that something is badly wrong. The former, in contrast, is an indication that things are taking their natural course.
  • Invitation to view one’s pain through a different lens, is not an attempt to minimise or to deny very real trauma, but an attempt to put it into proper context. How far is this helpful?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Calvin T Samuel

The Revd Dr Calvin T Samuel is minister for the Essex towns of Hockley, Rochford and Rayleigh. His previous roles include Principal of London School of Theology and Academic Dean of St John’s College at the University of Durham. He is the author of More Distinct: Reclaiming Holiness for the World Today (2018) and Preparing for Marriage (2018). He is actively engaged in broadcasting on BBC Radio 4 and Premier Radio, and developed and hosted Season 1 of Real World Theology, which was broadcast globally via TBN UK in 2019. He can be found on Twitter and YouTube.

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