Lectionary: Isaiah 43:1-7; Psalm 29; Acts 8:14-17; Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
You may have noticed that our posts have been few and far between recently. I’m really, really, really, really, really, sorry. It’s not because we are laying on a warm beach (..sigh..) and no, we haven’t had a fight and no, I don’t have writer’s block.
Cheryl and I have been very sick since Christmas Day with a frightening cocktail of bacterial and viral infections. Symptoms have included: aches, fever, plugged sinuses, strep throat, gut wrenching cough, broken ribs, pneumonia and a severe resistance to all our efforts to fight back.
I do have some pre-written blog posts but it didn’t feel like the right time for them so I just decided to take some sick days. I literally have not been able to concentrate or spend time on a computer until briefly today.
There have been times during the last weeks when I wondered when/if I was going to get better again but I remained hopeful that it would happen some how, some way.
Today’s reading is from the second part of the book of Isaiah and it was written to encourage people during a time of discouragement, captivity and hopelessness.
But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you.
O Israel, the one who formed you says,
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
you will not be burned up;
the flames will not consume you.
For I am the Lord, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I gave Egypt as a ransom for your freedom;
I gave Ethiopia and Seba in your place.
Others were given in exchange for you.
I traded their lives for yours
because you are precious to me.
You are honored, and I love you.
“Do not be afraid, for I am with you.
I will gather you and your children from east and west.
I will say to the north and south,
‘Bring my sons and daughters back to Israel
from the distant corners of the earth.
Bring all who claim me as their God,
for I have made them for my glory.
It was I who created them.’”
Prophecy has a bad reputation, particularly here in North America. It has come to be synonymous with predicting future political events and doweling it into something to do with the second coming of Jesus. I’ll likely blog about that some time in the future (is that a prophecy?) but I suggest that this idea of prophecy is not good use of your time. (By the way, I love this cartoon from the Naked Pastor.)
For clarity, the biblical idea of prophecy is not some sort of magic trick where a special someone is gifted to see into the future but rather it is a reasoned warning that things don’t go well for those who ignore God. Prophecies aren’t specific threats, they’re general warnings.
Early readings in the book of Isaiah are his warnings that there will be a price to pay for ignoring God but the second part of the book is written after his prophecy has come true and they have been placed in captivity.
In this poem from Isaiah he reminds his people that, although things are bleak right now and hope has gone, nevertheless the outrageous truth is that they are loved by God and He will care for them.
Be your own prophet (go ahead, it’s free) – what activity or attitude in your life is destined to distance you from God or bring you trouble?
Are you now in a time of discouragement, fear, hopelessness or uncertainty?
Read Isaiah’s poem again slowly and prayerfully until a word or phrase begins to stand out to you.
Let it soak in to your mind and soul.
Read again slowly and prayerfully until another word or phrase begins to stand out to you.
Let it soak in to your mind and soul.
I rest in your strength and love.
Help me to see the dangers and to heed the warnings.
Help me know that I am precious to you and you will care for me.
Help me more and more to put my trust in you.
Help me to make you my hope.